New Telegraph

Central Market: One inferno too many in Kwara

The unpleasant memories of an inferno that gulped the multi million naira Oro community’s Central Market in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State will for long linger in the minds of traders whose goods were consumed in the unfortunate, but avoidable, incident penultimate Monday. In the wake of the conflagration, which raged from Monday night till early Tuesday, no fewer than 30 shops in the market were laid to waste with the destruction of millions of naira worth of goods therein.

It was indeed a sad day for these traders who are still counting their losses and ruminating on where to start from again. New Telegraph learnt that the inferno was as a result of the careless burning of refuse by some unidentified people in the vicinity of the market. According to the operatives of the state’s Fire Service, who were on ground to battle the blaze: “The inferno was caused by careless refuse burning near the central market by some unknown people which incidentally affected one of the shops in the central market and later spread to many other shops in the market.”

The Director of the Fire Service, Prince Falade John Olumuyiwa, said: “The effect of the fire was huge. However, our firemen were able to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and in no time the ravaging inferno was totally extinguished. “Out of the 354 shops in the market, not less than 30 shops were consumed by the inferno, while the remaining ones were saved by our firemen. “According to our officers present at the scene, the inferno was due to careless refuse burning by one unknown person, and it affected one of the shops in the area, and later spread to some other shops in the central market.”

Prince Falade, who lamented incessant fire outbreaks in the state, charged members of the public on fire safety responsibility in order to nip fire outbreaks in the bud in the state. Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq, who was visibly touched by the sad occurrence, promptly visited the scene of the fire incident on Tuesday to assess the extent of destruction and to commiserate with the victims who had lost valuables in the dastardly incident.

AbdulRazaq, after inspecting the Central Market, directed the state’s Emergency Management Agency to collate the data of the victims and extent of damage and destruction to enable his administration determine its support to the affected people. He said: “We have set the State Emergency Management Agency in motion to take enumeration. We will mitigate the loss for the individuals who have lost properties.

“The incident is quite unfortunate and we stand by the victims at this trying period.” High Chief Taye Otunola, the Eesa of Oro, who spoke on behalf of the community’s monarch, said the community would remain grateful for the prompt response and intervention of Governor AbdulRazaq, less than 24 hours after the sad incident. “We are happy to receive you here today.

This visit again shows how committed you are to the plight of the poor and the state as a whole. Oro community is solidly behind your administration. We’ll continue to support you,” he said. Views and reactions of some of the victims of the fire incident, including the Iyaloja (the market women’s leader) of Oro, Hajia Mulikat Jimoh, were sought by our correspondent.

The Iyaloja, while commending Governor AbdulRazaq for his prompt visit to them, sought more support for the market men and women in the community. For the Iyaloja, how the fire started: “Is only known to God because we were not in the market that day. We used to have this market every five days and the Monday of the fire incident was not a market day. It was a day to the market day.

“The Chairman of the Transport Union was the one that called me that the market had been engulfed in fire. “When I came, I met several people trying to put out the fire, they were calling men of the Fire Service while my people went to the College of Education in the community to hire their water tanker because the water in the two tanks of the borehole sunk by the Federal Government in the market had been exhausted. The fire, however, could not be put out until the arrival of the Fire Service Operatives who were called from Ilorin (the capital) because there is no Fire Service in Oro.

“Goods destroyed in the inferno include farm tools like holes, cutlasses, locally made cooking stoves, yam tubers, yam flour, plastic bottles, while a food seller had all her materials, including mortars and pestles in her shop, and all were destroyed. It may interest you to note that prior to my installation as Iyaloja in 2015, I have been in the market selling yam tubers since my youthful days.

“There had been incidents of the market being on fire, it usually occurred during the dry season when they were burning the bush but the damage and destruction was not up to this magnitude. “I cannot quantify the estimate of goods destroyed in the inferno, but it is colossal.

“The Market Union has not done anything to assist the victims of the fire disaster. Since the governor has come, and promised that he would do something for the victims, we are looking forward to what the government would do because it is our belief that the fire incident would bring positive things to the market through the government, well heeled individuals and corporate bodies.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any Cooperative Union among the traders but when the governor came on sympathy visit five days ago, he assured us that the government would work out loans for the traders and that is what we are looking forward to. The visit of the governor made us to have a one on one interaction with him.

“The governor expressed surprise about the size of the market as he said that he didn’t know that the market was as big as this. We will be happy if the government can assist us to construct lock-up stores like what the Oro Community built in some parts of the market when it started.” Mrs Dorcas Jesutoki, one of the traders whose shops were engulfed in fire, said: “I sell yam flour in the market. I sell in bags, half bags and I also do retail. “I was in a programme in church when the incident happened because the day was not a market day.

They came to inform me that the market was on fire. The person informed me that it is our side in the market that was burning. When I reached there and saw the affected shops, I fainted and people tried to revive me. “I fainted because the money that I invested in the business was sourced from the Cooperative Society that we are doing in the church and I have not even repaid half of it. “I cannot, for now, give the actual estimates of goods destroyed in my shop, but we have to thank God that the day was not a market day.

If it has been a market day, people would have been in the shops and this is the period of the holiday when small children follow their parents to shops. I cannot give the actual estimates, but it runs to hundreds of thousand of naira that I lost.

“The day of the incident was a day before the beginning of Ramadan fasting, we had gone to restock but thank God that we did not move all the stock to the shops in the market. “Three of my shops were completely burnt down. Apart from selling yam flour, I also manufacture nylon for wrapping food items and I’m also a Gospel Singer. The machine that I used for cutting the nylon was also destroyed in the fire incident. “Besides, some traders also have their stocks in my care. “We only depend on loans from church Cooperative Societies, there is no other way. We don’t have access to bank loans. We are looking forward to the government if they can assist us with soft loans. I also want the government to assist us to rebuild the market. “The market was originally built by the Oro Community. What we are selling in the market was through borrowing from friends and the church.

There is no other source. “Yes, there was a fire incident in the market about three years ago which also affected my shops but it was not of this magnitude, this particular one is huge. “If the incident happened in the middle of the night, it would have affected more shops but immediately it started, people rose up and started to contain its spread before the Fire Service men arrived and finally put it out.”

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