Judex Okoro, Calabar
Tragedy has struck Calabar community as fire has gutted the warehouse of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and destroyed relief materials worth several millions of naira.
Besides, hoodlums numbering over 20 carted away food and other materials meant for Internally Displaced Persons in the state.
The inferno, which started at about 9:00 pm razed several bags of rice, beans, gallons of vegetable oil and red oil, cartons of biscuits, noodles and some building materials kept in the warehouse awaiting distribution.
Narrating how the incident happened, a staff of the agency, who simply gave his name as Andem Asuquo, said it looked mysterious as the warehouse had no electricity supply for over four years and wondered how the fire outbreak came.
Asuquo said: “I cannot understand that because we don’t have electricity in this place; so how did fire gut the warehouse? It looks like a film to us working here because we have not had power supply for about four years.
“I suspect sabotage from some disgruntled elements that are out to make money and destroy the agency. I can tell you this must be from within.”
According to him, some of the items burnt were just supplied by NIMASA within the week and were expected to be distributed before the incident; so it gives one an idea of why they struck. He accused the hoodlums who invaded the warehouse and carted away some relief materials must have been behind the fire outbreak.
Assessing the extent of damage at the warehouse the Acting Director General of SEMA, Mr Princewill Ayim, said the fire outbreak occurred around 9pm on Saturday night.
According to Ayim, the items worth millions of Naira were donated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to alleviate the plight of the IDPs in the state, adding that the agency had already distributed a majority of the items to the IDPs in Bakassi and had informed the leaders of the camps in Ogojo and Biase local governments that the agency was coming to them with relief materials.
According to him, after a thorough investigation, it was revealed that some hoodlums broke into the warehouse through one of the air conditioner holes to get access to the materials, adding that it was not an electrical fault as the warehouse had been without electricity for over six years.
“Our investigation revealed that the hoodlums broke through one of the air conditions to enter the warehouse. They set up the wood holding the air conditioner on fire to allow them in but eventually, the fire overwhelmed them and escalated to the whole warehouse.
“You can see the destruction that emanated from the fire outbreak. We have lost mattresses, bags of rice, beans, groundnut and palm oil, cartons of noodles and other items including the roof of the warehouse.
“We thank God for the 112 toll free emergency line that the National Communications Commission had set up in the state in collaboration with SEMA. As soon as one of our staff saw the fire, he immediately called the line and the Fire Service responded promptly.
“We wish to appeal to the government and corporate organisations to assist in building a standard and well-secured warehouse for storage of relief materials for the IDPs,’’ he said.