By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
RECENTLY, firefighters in Kano battled to put out rampaging inferno at the state’s major market, Abubakar Rimi Market, Sabon Gari. At the same time, similar fireballs were reported over the Birnin Kebbi major market. These incessant cases of fire outbreaks are the latest in a series of market and school infernos recorded in the past few months in Kano and elsewhere. The nature of it, the ravenous rage with which all these infernos have gulped billions of naira from Kano to Yola, have given many reasons for one to be suspicious.
Yes, fire outbreaks do happen. In the past, the same Sabon Gari market has had its share of ugly infernos so also are other markets such as the Kantin Kwari textile markets in Kano. Such outbreaks in the past were typically reported as mysterious fire incidents. But a little prodding would reveal that it all started either from an electricity spark or from little bonfires set by the local market security to counter the biting harmattan cold. The latter day outbreaks have more puzzling circumstances.
Appreciating the puzzle that these perennial infernos have come to be would warrant a reflection of the reported incidents within the past few months, at least. Between November last year and January this year, seven boarding secondary schools were affected by fire outbreak in Kano state. Seven students reportedly died and nine student hostels were destroyed by the incidents. This figure is high even at the peak of harmattan, the season most associated with fire disasters. But curiously, six out of the seven incidents happened at daytime, when students had left their dormitories for classes.
Last December, the furniture section of Sabon Gari market was gutted by fire. On the night of January 3, the old Yola township market lost its significant part to a mysterious inferno, causing losses amounting to several millions of naira. The same week, two other markets – Ngugore cattle market and the Numan market, in the same Adamawa state, were similarly affected. About 500 stalls were reportedly burnt by fire disaster at the Kaduna Railway market on January 26. A few days later, the oldest Kano market, Kurmi, had its share of the disaster. Also, on February 18, just about 40 days ago, Kano residents woke up to the catastrophic fire incident at the multibillion naira Singa provisions and food stuff market.
All these fire outbreaks happened within the space of three to four months. I have taken time to recount these incidents to refresh our memory and ask the question: Could all this be normal?
The important thing to consider is the timing, the climatic factors that are closely related with fire outbreaks. Every harmattan season, the fire service and the emergency services embark on mass mobilisation on how to avert fire disasters. They do so because the season is prone to fire outbreaks for a number of reasons. But this is not harmattan. No one would set bonfire now under the extreme heat of Yola or Kano to regulate the temperature. And when you have billows of fireballs from hostels at the time students were in class, what would happen?
It is high time the authorities concerned beam a strong searchlight on deeper roots of this disaster that is degenerating into a perennial occurrence. It is not enough to have a shabby and routine clichéd report after every incident; give out some little handouts to the traders who would now be left to their own devices to pick the pieces of their shattered lives, and wait for the next disaster to happen.
I have shared my personal fears on these incessant fire outbreaks privately. I feel it is time to share it publicly since the incidents are becoming more rampant.
I fear for economic terrorism. And I strongly suspect it. In the wake of Boko Haram’s onslaught in 2013, I took interest in researching about the terrorism in contemporary time. From an AQIM online magazine I read about the next phase of the war then, the advocacy for “lone jihad”. It was not only admonition, but also strategy complete with what to do and how to do it. These tactics range from, in the title of one article, “How to produce bomb in your mum’s kitchen”, to how to cause road accidents or ambush. The idea is, as the magazine repeats item after item, “Do what you can do wherever you are”.
When in April 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conspired with his brother Tamerlan to attack the Boston marathon in the USA; the inspiration was that of the lone jihad advocacy. The same pattern is being uncovered with the recent attack in Brussels.
This strategy is especially advocated by terrorists when they are under pressure. The objective is what the aggregate of individual little attacks can cause. With serious deflection in ranks, break in command chain and little resources, our own home grown terrorists can as well go the lone jihad way. After all, as sadists, terrorists delight is in causing harm in whatever way. This is however not to draw up conclusions but just an opening out of a possibility for investigators and security organs.
Sometime in January, a Facebook friend posted about ten pictures of cars burnt over the night within two days in different locations in metropolitan Kano. One common and very curious feature of all the attacks was that there was no break-in, no lifting of anything, only arson. Who could it be? Your guess is as good as mine.
.Abdulaziz writes from Kano via, on Twitter as @AbdulFagge