Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Just while Christians were preparing to celebrate Christmas in Makurdi, Benue State, a mysterious fire broke out and destroyed the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) village, sending waves of agony to the proprietors of the facility as well as its users.
The village, located around the Makurdi International Market, went up in flames at about 11pm. Before help could come, the inferno had destroyed about 19 large halls, a three-bedroom apartment as well as office block.
In recent times, fire outbreaks have been rampant in the state capital, with their attendant human and material losses. Not too long ago, millions of naria were lost to fire after 200lock -up shops were razed at the Makurdi Modern Market. The actual cause of the fire remained unknown to this date.
This happened a few months after shops at the grains section of the Wadata Market were destroyed by fire, an incident, which plunged many widows trading in the market into despair and debts A few weeks back, four members of a family of six were burnt to death in their room following a fire outbreak, which started from their apartment and spread to four other apartments on the same block.
On a visit to Heritage Village a day after the fire outbreak, it was observed that every building in the premises, except for the Chapel and one other building, was completely razed by the midnight fire. Most of the buildings had cracks of broken walls even as some church workers spotted clearing the wreckage in the premises.
An eyewitness, Daniel Gebe, said they noticed the fire at about 11pm and before they could do anything, it had spread to everywhere within the premises. Children, Sunday school workers who had rushed to the village following the news of the fire outbreak, were seen in groups, discussing the tragic incident in low tones.
Gebe who is Director, Child Evangelism Fellowship, disclosed that the fire spread so fast that not even the quick response of the state fire service could restrain it: “As we finished our devotion, around 9:30pm, we were in the palour. Suddenly around 11pm, the light went off and we thought innocently that it was the electricity provider that took the light.
“When we came out, we saw that everywhere within the premises was very bright. We were still asking what was going on when we suddenly saw a flame of fire engulf the office area and was traveling fast towards the mattress room.
“At this point, we tried to see if we could stop it from entering the mattress room and before we could do anything, it had entered through our own bedroom and we couldn’t enter into the room to salvage anything again.
“The fire moved so fast and before we could do anything, it had engulfed the whole premises. By the time the Fire Service came, which was just within 20 minutes, the fire had already done it worse, had consumed everything.”
Gebe disclosed that 19 large halls, a three-bedroom apartment as well as the office section were all razed by the inferno while almost 300 old and new mattresses, a photocopier, a printer, a projector as well as an unquantifiable volume of books and furniture were among the property lost to the fire.
Asked what could have caused the fire, Gebe said he could not say precisely but fathomed that it could be s a result of a sudden power surge, since there was light throughout the time of the incident:
“There was a time we had a very high current in this area. This had been happening more frequently in recent times. So, we are suspecting that the fire must have been caused by power surge.”
He lamented that the development would disrupt a lot of programs that had been lined up to hold at the facility during this Christmas1` season and early in 2020.
“We host between 500 and 700 children per program in this village. So, let’s say we host thousands of children and other Church leaders yearly in this place.
“In fact, some children were here yesterday for a program. Thank God that they finished early and left. It was not a camping program they came for. If not, they would have been here when the fire started.
“We usually host the Children Mission Conference (CMC) in which we gather children for a conference. And then, we have the children and teenager’s camps differently which comes up every August. Then the third one is called Day Out.
“This is aside other leadership programs that are held here yearly. Even the state government sometimes hosts pastors for a retreat in this facility”
Asked how they’ll host the children and teenagers’ camps in 2020, the Camp Director said despite the development, the camping programs will still hold.
“I was praying over there a while ago and I came to the conclusion that whether the devil likes it or not, we must host our next camping program here, even if it is going to be for one day.
“Even if we don’t get the children to sleep over, we must host the camp. They will come and leave in the evening of same day, come back the next day and leave in the evening. We will continue to do that pending when we are able to rebuild the camp by the grace of God.
He called on the state government, all Christians and international organizations, to come to the aid of the center and help rebuild it in the shortest possible time.