•Victims allege sabotage in fire
disaster, saying hoodlums
participated in looting shops
By Orji Sunday Sylvester
The traders were distraught and rightly so. They were victims of last Sunday’s fire disaster, which razed no fewer than 97 shops at the popular Yaba market in Lagos. The affected traders lost goods and cash worth millions of naira. And till this moment they cannot be comforted because all they laboured for in the past years simply went up in flame within a twinkle of the eyes.
Most of the affected traders still cannot come to terms with what happened. Every morning, they leave their homes for the arena that once housed their shops. Looking at the charred remains of the buildings consumed by the raging fires a few days ago fills their hearts with sadness and sorrow. It distresses them very deeply. But that is the reality for now.
Most of the traders who crowded around their shops lamented losing goods and cash worth several millions of naira. Some of them whose shops were not directly affected by the fire incident said their goods were looted even when some policemen from Sabo and Adekunle police stations said to have been deployed to the scene of the fire to prevent some criminal elements from looting the shops.
“We lost goods in the unaffected shops,” a distraught trader kept lamenting. “I came here to discover that even when the fire did not directly affect some shops, the bad boys seized the opportunity to loot our shops. Many of us can’t even locate our goods.”
Another victim, Chinedu Udoka, tearfully said: “We are not new to this type of disaster. I feel someone is just waiting for us to recover from our previous loss to bring us back to square one. I am just tired of this kind of rising and falling. We decided to crowd this place because the new shops were too expensive. Now, this problem has arisen, threatening to send us back to the village.”
Another victim said: “We were all affected. Most of us here are devastated and we cannot speak. This is not the right time to ask questions. It is very difficult to say a word. Perhaps, when we have found our words, you will hear from us.”
Alhaji Audu is also one of the traders at the market. Recalling what he knew about the incident, he said: “I was not here last Sunday when the fire started because I don’t come to the market on that day. But when I arrive here the next morning, what I saw distressed me. Almost all the shops here have been burnt. That shop (pointing at one of the charred spots) used to be full of shoes. You can see that everything has burnt to ashes. I think that somebody put the fire in the affected shops because there was no NEPA supply at the said hour when the incident started.”
Last Sunday’s incident was said to have started at 12.30am, destroying goods worth millions of naira and affecting more than 94 shops in Yaba Shopping Complex opposite the Presbyterian Church.
The fire was said to have started from one of the shops behind the shopping complex where wears, shoes and bags were stored. Soon it spread forcefully from one shop to another, resisting the efforts of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and other sympathisers, who reportedly arrived the scene of the event.
Confirming the incidence, the General Manager, of LASEMA, Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, said: “The agency received a distress call at about 12.45am, regarding a fire incident in one-storey building shopping complex opposite Presbyterian Church, Yaba.
“Investigation conducted by the agency’s Emergency Response Team at the scene revealed that the fire started from one of the shops at the back of the complex where wears, shoes, bags were burnt, leaving 94 shops out of 201 in the complex destroyed. A total number of 117 shops were salvaged by the emergency responders, including men from the Alausa and Ilupeju fire stations.”
When Daily Sun visited the area, many of the traders gathered in small groups still discuing the disaster. They wore long faces etched with pain, grief and loss.
According to an eye witness, the difficulty encountered in fighting the fire was because of poor access to the complex. He added that most of the shops were locked with iron bars and sometimes with numerous padlocks such that penetrating a single shop could prove very difficult. He said that people were waiting for the government to come to their rescue since most of the affected traders could not bear with the pain of their losses.
Daily Sun learnt that on December 20, 2007, traders in the same market suffered similar fate when their goods were burnt. The loss necessitated the Lagos State government under the watch of Mr. Babatunde Fashola to embark on the reconstruction of the new Tejuosho market, which was later commissioned. After the commissioning ceremony, many of the traders had allegedly complained that they could not afford the rent of the new shops. In their bid to survive, the traders were said to have resorted to making use of the available spaces in the affected shopping complex thus leading to overcrowding.
Fresh lifeline for ar tisans, disabled persons
At town hall meeting, Lagos residents seek end to flooding,
as Ambode assures on security, infrastructure
By Tope Adeboboye
For jobless youths, disabled persons and artisans in Lagos, there is a fresh lifeline. The state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, asserted that the empowerment programme initiated by his administration to assist indigent youths, artisans and the disabled to become self-reliant have finally matured. He assured that many of the youths would start benefitting from the initiatives before the end of the year.
“The funding for the N500 million Lagos State Persons Living with Disability Fund has been provided and beneficiaries will start getting support from this quarter. We’re rolling out all our empowerment programmes immediately to assist all our youth, artisans and the needy,” Ambode said.
The event was the fifth edition of the quarterly Town Hall Meeting between the governor and residents of the state. The Indoor Sports Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos was the venue of the meeting, which was the third of such meetings this year. Two were held last year at different senatorial districts in the state. Town hall meetings had earlier been held at Abesan Ipaja, Ikorodu, Lagos City Hall and the Muslim Prayer Ground in Badagry.
The event afforded interested residents the opportunity to talk to the governor directly and receive instant responses to their questions. Those who couldn’t find any space inside the premises were provided with a big screen outside where they observed and participated in the programme.
Governor Ambode told the crowd that his government was committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of Lagos residents. He pledged that his administration was working to recruit additional 5, 000 young men and women into the state Neighbourhood Watch scheme to boost community policing across the state. Recalling that he had signed the Neighbourhood Safety Agency Bill into law on August 15, this year, Ambode promised that each recruit would earn a N25, 000 basic salary with other allowances.
The governor noted that the state was in good standing financially, in spite of the economic recession plaguing the country. He said the state’s budget performance for January to September was 69 per cent as against 65 per cent for the same period last year. He also informed that N166.8 billion had been spent on capital projects in 2016. The figure, he noted, more than doubled the N53.6 billion spent for the same period last year.
“A total sum of N55 billion was expended on capital expenditure in the last quarter. The quarter also witnessed a lot of activities, from the delivery of massive road infrastructure across the local governments to the promulgation of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law aimed at making life easier for property owners and a boost in investment activities that will enhance the growth and development potential in the state,” he said.
Some of the residents at the meeting were able to get immediate answers to the questions bothering their minds.
A female coach, who requested for a coaching job with the state’s Ministry of Sports could not curtail her joy, as her request was granted immediately.
Another participant wanted to know when roads like Adetola Street and Brown Road, both in Aguda, Surulere as well as Olajuwon and Biney Streets in Yaba would be completed. In his response, Ambode assured that the roads would be commissioned before the end of the year.
Another resident, Chief Mrs. Bewaji Kuku, expressed concern over flooding at Dolphin Estate near Obalende. She also said the governor should award contracts to local contractors.
Ambode told her that his government had substantially curtailed flooding in the state. He said the Dolphin Estate flooding was mostly flash floods that would naturally disappear in hours.
He also spoke on indigenous contractors. His words: “In this quarter, we will concentrate more resources on capital projects. We will put money in the hands of our local contractors and through them stimulate and reflate the economy. Immediate payments will be made to contractors handling health sector and education sector projects within the next two weeks.”
Another request was from a group known as Association of Professional Women within the ruling party. Spokesperson for the group urged the governor to extend employment opportunities to its members.
Lagos monarch, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, in his remarks, regretted the suspension of a bill seeking special status for Lagos by the Senate. While praising the promoter of the bill, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the monarch expressed optimism that the bill would eventually become law. He urged Lagos lawmakers to return to the drawing board and re-present the bill.
An octogenarian and community leader in Lagos, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, also urged the Senators representing the state to re-present the bill, expressing hope that the bill would become law in the nearest future.
Governor Ambode, while commenting on the issue, praised Senator Tinubu for the courage to push the bill. He expressed belief that the bill would be reactivated and represented.
He said the government would soon award contracts for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of additional 114 roads across the local governments, noting that other projects that would turn Lagos to Africa’s industrial and tourism hub would be unveiled soon.
Some of the dignitaries at the event were Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule; members of the State Executive Council; traditional rulers, including Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Oniru of Iru Land, Oba Abiodun Oniru and Elegushi of Ikate Land, Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi; Senator Oluremi Tinubu; former Senator representing Lagos West, Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon; former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Abiodun Ogunleye; Majority Leader, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; former Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji; former Secretary to the State Government, Princess Adenrele Ogunsanya; member of the House of Representatives from Lagos, Hon. Jide Jimoh, member of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Desmond Elliot; renowned economist, Professor Pat Utomi; Managing Director of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe and top military chiefs and heads of security agencies, among many others.