Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Three persons were feared dead in Oyo town of Oyo State, yesterday as fire razed more than 1,000 shops in the popular Akesan market and destroyed property worth millions of naira.
Daily Sun gathered that the market is the main commercial centre of the town that houses the palace of Alaafin of Oyo. All the shops in the market were destroyed by the inferno.
Three persons among the people that protested to the office of fire brigades in the vicinity of the market over failure of the fire service to contain the fire were allegedly shot dead by the police.
Office of the fire service, according to sources, is about 20 metres to the market.
Sources stated that the firefighters in Oyo office were helpless when the fire outbreak occurred as the equipment they were supposed to use to quench the fire did not function. But fire brigades were mobilised from Ibadan and Ogbomoso, and the fire service arrived the scene with functioning equipment after monumental havoc had been wreaked.
A source, from the secretariat of the state fire service in Ibadan, confirmed that the fire service office in Oyo town has been vandalised by the aggrieved residents while men of the Nigeria Army and their counterparts from the Nigeria Police Force have been mobilised to the area.
But the Police Public Relations Officer for Oyo State Command, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said police did not kill anybody as being speculated, saying: “Contrary to widely spread news on the fire incident at Akesan market in Oyo town, there was no single shot from the police personnel.
“Police were deployed immediately to the scene to prevent hoodlums from capitalising on the situation to loot shops and property in the area. Concerted efforts are being intensified to prevent breakdown of law and order.”
Those who have shops in the market were said to have rushed to the scene, but the fire was too much to the extent that they could not move closer to their shops and they could not salvage anything from the market.
Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, had visited the market, during which he appealed to traders and people of the town to remain calm. The monarch, who expressed sadness at the incident, said the damage was too huge for the people to bear. He noted that such fire disaster was unprecedented in Oyo town.
Secretary, Oyo Global Forum, Taiwo Adebayo, in his reaction, said: “We condemn this failure of government service. But of more concern is the disproportionate use of force in response to angry residents who were protesting at the gate of the fire service near Akesan in Oyo. We sympathise with our people, particularly men and women trading at the market. It is a sad way to start the year.
Meanwhile, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, in a tweet, wrote: “The news of the inferno that destroyed the popular Akesan market in Oyo just got to me. I am deeply saddened by this disaster so early in the year and extend my condolences to all those affected. I will visit shortly and work with the state government to bring relief.”
Also, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, consoled with Oba Adeyemi over the early morning inferno that razed the Akesan market, describing the incident as disastrous.
In the same vein, the state government has urged residents of the state to be cautious on ways and manners issue of fire is handled, especially during the harmattan season.
This call became necessary as a result of different fire incidents that occurred at Akesan market in Oyo, and some other parts of the state.
In a statement by Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Wasiu Olatunbosun, the state government expressed sympathy with victims of these fire disasters, while assuring them that the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde will do whatever it can to assist the victims.
He, however, admonished people to ensure they are not careless on ways and manners naked fire is handled, by ensuring they always put off electrical appliances, not pouring petrol while using their phones or when generating set is on, effective extinguishing of cigarettes sticks after smoking, as well as urging people that deal with naked fire to be mindful of the present dry season.