Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Traders at Johnson Street, near Main Market Onitsha, Anambra State have been counting their losses following an inferno that destroyed goods worth N50 million at the market.
The fire, which started at night, when activities at the market had closed and the traders had gone home for the day, consumed no fewer than 10 warehouses stocked with diapers, babies’ items, cosmetics and other goods.
The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained, but there are insinuations that it might be some spark from an electric outlet or from a generating set near the place.
It took the efforts of security men at the market, youths and water vendors to prevent the fire from spreading to the main market. That would, no doubt, have been a disaster.
A security man at the market gate, Mr. Clement Orakwe said that the fire started about 8pm when he sighted some smoke from the market line. He thereafter rushed to the scene and noticed that the building was on fire, he said, adding that he promptly raised the alarm.
“When I noticed the fire, I raised the alarm and other security men and some youths from nearby residential houses rushed out. So we immediately contacted the fire service that is stationed at the main market. The people came with one truck but said that they did not have enough water and they left after exhausting the little water that they came with.
“We were helpless because if the fire was allowed to spread to the next building, the entire main market would have been consumed. So, we started calling the owners of the shops on phone, and some of them came immediately. Thank God for the water vendors whom we mobilised. They were the ones that fetched the water that we used to put out the fire with the efforts of other youths,” Orakwe stated.
A victim of the fire, Mr. Chima Kenechukwu, who deals in cosmetics and babies products, said that he was called on phone by some people that his warehouse was on fire. he regretted that before he could arrive at the market, his entire stock, amounting to over N6 million, had been razed.
“My surprise is that there is no electricity in the warehouse and nobody lives there. So the question is, how did the fire come into this place? We suspect that our neighbour who uses big generating set did not change over to electricity and when they restored electric power, there was a power jam or surge that led to the spark which caused the inferno,” he stated.
Another victim, Mr. Ugochukwu Agwunobi, also known as Ugobest, who deals in sporting equipment, said that he offloaded goods worth N15 million into the warehouse two days before the incident. He regretted that all the goods were destroyed in the infernor.
“I lost over N15 million worth of goods to the fire,” he bemoaned. “When I got the information about the fire and rushed to the market, it was too late, and I could not remove anything. I don’t know the cause of the fire. We are calling on government, the state and national emergency management agencies and other kind-hearted individuals and groups to please come to our aid.
“All I have toiled for years was gone within some minutes. How will I feed my family and provide for their needs? Where will I get money to start all over again? How can I survive this? But I thank God that there is life, and I know that help will come my way. If no help comes my way, then I’m finished,” Agwunobi lamented.
Mr. Emeka Ugwumba, also known as Dada, who deals in diapers, said he lost over N8 million worth of goods to the fire.
“It was about 8pm. I had just got home when a security man called me on phone and told me that my shop was burning. I thought it was a joke because it was just about an hour after I left the place. I called another security man at the market who confirmed the incident.
“So, I had to rush back to the market, and lo and behold, by the time that I got there, all my goods that I had just stocked in the warehouse were on fire. You can imagine how diapers would burn. Nothing was saved from the place. It was the efforts of the water vendors that stopped the fire from spreading to the other shops, because they were the ones bringing water that was used to stop the fire from causing more havoc.
“The loss is too much. Where will I start? I need assistance from the government, corporate bodies and individuals. The situation in the country now is difficult. Things are very difficult. We are talking about feeding. It will not be easy to start again without getting some support. That is why we’re begging the government and kind-hearted Nigerians to help us,” he pleaded.
The caretaker of the burnt warehouse Chief Wilfred Ibe, who sympathized with the victims of the fire, said he travelled outside the state when he got the information about the fire incident. He said he quickly rushed back to notice that the shops were completely burnt.
“We are calling on government to come to their aid because the goods burnt here are worth about N50 million. We condemn the attitude of the fire fighting officials at the market who said they had no water when they were called. So what is the essence of the fact that these people were stationed at the market if they don’t always have water to put out fire?
“We commend the efforts of the Hausa youths who were bringing gallons of water with their pushing trucks that was used to put out the fire. I also commend the traders and youths who stormed the place in the night to fight the fire and put it out. But for their efforts, it would have been a total disaster for entire main market,” Ibe said.