•Shops, goods worth millions of naira destroyed in Sabon-Gari inferno
From Desmond Mgboh
Sabon-Gari market, one of Kano’s biggest markets, was again devastated by fire on Saturday, March 26.
With unconcealed fury, the fire burned from midnight to the following midday, destroying about half of the entire market before it was controlled by fire-fighters. Burning across the night, the fire torched thousands of shops and burnt goods worth several millions of naira, leaving behind total devastation of the livelihood of many families.
Areas razed by the fire included structures, shops and makeshifts situated along D-Line, C- Line, M- Line and L- Line. Goods destroyed include drugs, shoes, cosmetics, fabrics, gold, ceramics, bicycles and provisions, among several others.
Some of the facilities within the market were not spared by the fire. These included a mosque – Abacha Mosque – and an old generation bank that had served the market community for years.
Indeed, as the fire charged angrily, many traders that rushed to the scene that early morning could not help themselves in any way. The midnight fire had left them with nothing to recover: Their goods had all been reduced to ashes. And shocked by what they saw, some of them fainted. They were revived later.
Indeed, everybody seemed to have lost something. There were those who left their money overnight only to discover that the fire had burnt them all. So also were those who took goods on credit and might not be able to pay back because they too had been wrecked by the inferno. At the burning market, several thieves laid hostage and stole from the shops with ease, picking whatever they liked and going away without any resistance.
Indeed the Sabon-Gari tragic fire was heart-breaking, subduing many in spirit. It was a pathetic sight to behold. An unnamed pregnant Igbo woman, who could not stand the shock of the fire rampaging her husband’s shop, slumped and fainted. So was a Hausa trader who had a huge amount of money that was burnt by the fire.
As dawn fell, the market was already filled with victims helplessly dashing to nowhere in particular. They all lamented their tragic fate. Most of them were in tears; the women among them were wailing and the religious recited prayers as the market burnt.
Fire trucks owned by the Kano State Fire Service, though late in showing up, fought all the way to the end. They were complimented by trucks from the Nigeria Air Force, 303 Brigade, Kano and some private organizations like W J Bush and Co.
Despite these efforts, the fight to quench the fire was not an easy one. So was the effort to evacuate goods and property that were trapped inside the market. Many traders were seen struggling through the tiny roads in the market, fighting hard to cart their goods away before the fire could spread to them.
Goods were moved using whatever means that was available at the time. Different vans and vehicles, including tricycles and motorbikes, were used in penetrating the innermost parts of market to bring out goods from the path of the fire. Sympathizers joined to offer whatever help they could give. Families came helping their affected relatives too, some carrying wares on their heads while others leaped behind with loads of goods on their shoulders.
The result was a gridlock. The traffic blocked the water tanker drivers who were fighting to manoeuvre their way to the fire point.
A shoe seller at the Sabon-Garri Market, Alhaji Magaji Yahaya said he got to know of the incident about 3.30 in the morning, woken from his sleep by his colleagues. He said the fire started from the C- Line, where shoes were sold, around midnight.
Another trader, Alhaji Kabiru Sani Bello disclosed that he was lucky to have evacuated his goods before the fire spread to his shop. But he expressed bitterness over the damage it did to the market.
Mr. Tochukwu Nnam, a medicine dealer from Nkanu in Enugu State, was not as lucky as some. Like many victims of the incident, he lost everything.
Speaking to Daily Sun, he placed his loss at about N45 million, adding that he was unable to take out any of his items before they were burnt to ashes.
He explained that by the time he arrived at his shop situated along the Line- D about 4 00am, the damage had been done.
He acknowledged that it would be difficult to start all over again as he had lost everything. But he stated that with God, all things were possible.
“It is only God that is my hope. Everything I have in this market is gone. Where am I to start? The children, their feeding, their school fees, so many things. But I am hoping on God.
“I am begging the state and federal government to come to our aid. We alone as traders in this market cannot overcome the burden that has been placed on us by the fire outbreak. It is so much on us. We want to beg our father, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, to please assist us” he stated.
Director, Kano State Fire Service, Alhaji Muhammed Mustapha Riwanu, told Daily Sun that the fire started in the middle of the night from the shoe section. From there, it spread to the rest of the market. He concurred that the fire affected a sizable portion of the market but added that it would take some time to give an accurate estimate of the loss.
Several possible theories have been constructed to explain the mystery surrounding the fire outbreak. According to the Kano State Fire Service boss, preliminary investigation indicated that the fire was caused by an electric spark.
Many traders in the market shared this view. They said recently, the Kano Electricity Distribution Company embarked on a reconnection exercise inside the market. The traders feared that the reconnection might have been poorly done.
One of such commentators alleged that about two weeks ago, a man was electrocuted in the market as a result of electrical problem and said that it would not be out of place to investigate the quality of connection done by the electricity body.
But there were other speculations as to the reason for the fire. A few others argued that it is high time the security agencies saw these repeated fire outbreaks in the state as something larger than mere accidents.
“The coincidences of these fire outbreaks, the timings of their occurrence and the nature of their victims speak volume and it is no longer unintelligent to look at them as mere accidents.
“Could it be that somebody with a motive had lit up these structures in the night? Can you imagine this same market catching fire twice in a matter of months?
“This also raises questions about the quality of managers in Nigeria. To imagine that this fire accident is happening almost on a monthly basis showed that those whose responsibility it is to take decisions on these are ineffective.
“How can there be fire in this market just a few months ago and again in nearby Singa market only a few weeks ago, yet nothing tangible, apart from promises, was put in place to check their recurrence,” he queried.
Ever since the tragedy occurred, many residents of Kano have been afraid. Everyone is certain that this would not be the last of fire tragedies in the state.
But the state government has reassured the people that such would not happen again. Indeed, the government said it was worried at the spate of fire accidents in the state.
Speaking during a sympathy visit in Abuja by some APC governors, Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, announced plans to set up a post-fire outbreak programme for victims of the market fire.
He explained that the programme would include resettling the victims to another location that would enable them go ahead with their day to day economic endeavours pending the reconstruction exercise to be carried out in the market.
He disclosed that he had directed KNUPDA and the metropolitan local government council chairmen to scout for a suitable site to relocate the affected traders in the interim to alleviate their plights.
The governor appealed to the federal Government as well as other well-meaning individuals and groups to support the victims of the fire incident.
While commiserating with the victim of the inferno, former Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau (Sarduanan Kano) also sought the cooperation of the public in helping to raise funds for them.
In his message, he appealed to the state government to ensure that justice was done when it came to the reallocation of shops after the market had been reconstructed.
The former minister, in a press statement on Monday, equally solicited for special prayers against the recurring fire incidents in the state and in the nation in general. He urged all Nigerians to pray for and also assist the victims to enable them come back to their normal businesses.