From Fred Itua
Harmattan means different things to different folks. For some, it is the time of the year to take a break from incessant rainfall and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.
For others citizens, especially residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), harmattan births a temporal season to bid unbearable heat goodbye. For another set, it is a nightmare they seldom want to encounter- it comes with fury and fire. Any ignition can render years of investments worthless.
Yearly, furniture makers count their losses in Abuja. Beside the frequent theft and other miscellaneous issues they contend with, fire outbreak tops the list.
On Monday, January 13, 2020, an early morning fire destroyed 39 shops and furniture worth millions at a market in Abuja. Some of the affected furniture makers at the market in Kugbo said they were called at about 12:00am by the guards on duty and informed about the incident.
Chairman of the furniture market, Austin Onuh, who is also a victim, said the incident occurred late at night when all shop owners had closed for the day: “We are yet to determine the cause of the inferno but furniture worth over N 21 million naira have been burnt by the fire.
“Some of us here just returned from Christmas and New Year celebrations, and started work that our customers gave us, but this morning we only came to see ashes.”
Onuh appealed to FCT Administration, spirited individuals and corporate organisations to support them. He also called on the government to help the furniture makers provide measures that will prevent fire incident in the area.
Timothy Eze, one of the affected furniture makers, said he lost not less than N8 million worth of furniture in his shop: “Apart from the furniture, industrial machines, generators with several working equipment that worth millions were burnt.”
Another victim, Vincent Ngutsen, said over N7 million finished and unfinished furniture items were burnt in his shop: “Despite efforts by the people around the area and the fire fighters, they were not able to salvage the situation.”
Oche Joseph, an apprentice, said his boss was out of town when the incident happened, but was summoned to come to the market in the early hours of the sad day to take inventory of the level of damage:
“The biggest challenge was how to appease customers due to collect their works. Only God and the government can intervene to salvage the situation.
“Major shops were affected. This is what my oga and his family survive on. Some customers who were supposed to collect their furniture are already calling to know if their work was affected.
“Although this is a private business, we are calling on the government to see it can intervene to help us. The damage is too big for us to handle as furniture makers. We need to survive and we beg those in authority to help us.”