Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Several days after, traders at the Satana Market, along Sapele Road, in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, are still counting their losses.
A devastating inferno recently paid an unpleasant visit to traders at the popular market, causing death and throwing the traders into confusion, pain and anguish.
One of the traders simply identified as Biggy, reportedly slumped and died on seeing the charred remains of his shop.
Obviously, the devil chose to strike a deadly blow in the midnight of Saturday, October 19 and threw the traders into mourning on Sunday morning, a holy day when Christians should be in their places of worship.
What followed the midnight inferno, whose cause is yet to be ascertained, was uncontrolled wailing Sunday morning by traders whose sources of livelihood were wiped off.
Over 50 shops were razed, as the NNPC fire service was said to have arrived the market late.
The incident created a gridlock on the busy Sapele Road, and traffic officials had a hectic time trying to restore sanity to the road.
Days after the arrival of the unwanted visitor, traders in the Santana market are still licking their wounds. Thoughts of where to start from and how to pay up their debts to the financial institutions they borrowed money from have enveloped their minds.
During a visit by Daily Sun to the market days after the disaster, some of the affected traders who could muster courage to go to the market were seen gathered in clusters and bewildered, trying to fathom what might have led to the fire outbreak.
But while the affected traders are counting their loses and ruing what had happened to them, it was a different kettle of fish for scavengers who were seen busy picking up the metal left at the wake of the fire for sale.
One of the affected traders, Mrs. Grace Orume, 50, a widow with five children, said she did not know where to pick up her pieces of life from. She called on government and individuals to come to her aid.
“I sell foodstuff. I do not know where the fire came from but I was so surprised to have seen it burn all my goods. As I speak with you now, we are in pain. We do not know where to start our lives from and how to get money to start up my business again.
“I am a widow; I have no helper. My children have nothing. I am the only one catering for their needs. I am 50 years old and I have five children. I want the government to come to our rescue because I am not the only person affected by the incident.I borrowed money to start up my business and I do not know how I am going to pay back,” Orume said.
Another victim, Mrs. Glory Imafidon, 38, said she lost goods worth over N4 million to the fire incident, noting that her aged father’s birthday, which she was planning, had been aborted. She called on the government to come to her aid and others who were also affected.
“I sell rice and other foodstuff,” she said. “I borrowed money from LAPO and other sources to start up this business.The ugly incident happened on Saturday night. Shortly after 1am, Iwas called and told that Satana Market was burning. When I got to my store, Ii discovered that everything was burnt to ashes. I could not even open my store to pick up anything.
“Now, I do not know how to pay up my debts to my creditors and those who supplied me goods. Right now, I do not know who will come to my rescue. I want the government to come to my rescue so that I will be able to pay up my debt so I will not die.”
Imafidon said since the incident, she had not been able to eat or sleep very well. “I do not know how and who will help me because I am the breadwinner of my family.
“My father is over 90 years and he is expecting me to do his birthday for him but now, there is no money to do that. I have four children who are in school but I do not know how to cope now.”
She said government should render help to individual store owners, expressing fear that the money might not get to them if government chooses to channel any assistance through an individual.
On her part, Mrs. Evelyn Okundaye, said it had not been easy with her since she lost her goods to the fire.
Her words: “I sell bags of rice and other foodstuff. It has not been very easy coping after losing my goods to the fire incident.”
Her husband, IK Okundaye, who was also on ground, said his wife lost over N4 million to the fire.
“On that fateful Saturday, we just stocked the store with goods worth about N4 million, They called us about 12 midnight that the market was on fire and before we got here, everything had been burnt. The money used to buy the goods was borrowed and we do not know where we are going to start from again,” he lamented.
Also sharing in the grief of the traders, Mr. Abe Ogbebor, a sales representative from PZ, said he was pained by what happened to his customers at the market and that he had taken time off to come and sympathize with them.
“It is a painful thing to see that my customers have lost so much. What got burnt in Satana Market is close to N1 billion if you have to calculate it.
“It is a painful thing and if there is any way the government can assist them so that they can come back to their businesses, it will be a welcome development. The government and every good individual should come to their rescue. Like me, I am supposed to be at work today but because of what I feel for them, I had to stop work today to see what I could do for them. I just pray that God should help them,” Ogbebor said.
The Chairman of Ikpoba-Okha Local Government area, Dr. Eric Osayande, who visited the market to assess the extent of damage caused by the fire, assured the traders that government would investigate the cause of the incident. He said it was the first time such would be happening in the history of the market.
He promised that the local government would cry to the state government, explaining that the extent of damage was not something the council could solve alone.
Two months ago, a similar midnight fire burnt over 90 shops at the Motor Spare Parts Market at Uwelu in Egor Local Government Area of the state.