By Louis Ibah
A fire outbreak which started at about 6am yesterday has destroyed goods worth over N450million at Erisco Foods Nigeria warehouse located inside the Eleganza House in Ikeja, Lagos. General Manager for Erisco Foods, Mr. Tokumbo Agbede, who briefed journalists said it took the timely intervention of officials of the Lagos Fire Service to put off the fire and to stop it from razing down the entire warehouse building. Some journalists were later conducted around the warehouse where it was discovered that the fire had razed down two sections of the warehouse containing stocks of dried tomatoes which serves as the major raw material used in the manufacturer of tomato paste. Erisco operates the first of its kind factory where fresh tomatoes bought from farmers are dried and later converted into tomato paste.
Some some workers who spoke to Daily Sun alleged possible sabotage, while others said the stockpiling of the dried tomatoes without adequate cooling systems could have made them to suffer from a combustion with the attendant inferno that destroyed the raw material.
Agbede said the Police and Lagos State Fire Service have begun investigations into the cause of the fire outbreak. Some staff who worked at the warehouse before and during the incident are being interrogated, he said.
“We lost raw materials and other goods worth over N450million to the inferno and it is really a sad day for all of us here,” said Agbede.
“Whether it is sabotage or not, we don’t know the cause yet, but we have to wait for the final report from the Police and Fire Service before we can be certain,” he added. A warehouse staff said it would be the first time in the company’s history that such volume of dried feedstock would be left to lie fallow for more than six months.
“We don’t usually keep raw materials for more than a month before taking them to the factory to process,” he said. Current stocks have been here for more than six months because we have not been processing again and I can tell you that they just caught fire on their own because of the heat we are having in Lagos these days and these materials are sometimes inflammable,” he added. Agbede admitted to journalists that the goods had over stayed but he heaped the blame on the CBN for not allocating the requisite forex to the company to import other raw materials that could have aided in the utilisation of the dried tomatoes for the manufacturer of tomato paste.
“Why would we keep feedstock or raw materials worth billions of naira in a warehouse instead of processing them if things were working as we planned?” he queried. “What has happened today even reinforces our resolve to relocate our manufacturing aspect of the business outside Nigeria. We just thank God that no live was lost,” he added.