Balogun Market fire: How human error wrecked billion Naira goods, properties

Fire, it is said is a good servant but a dangerous master, when fire is allowed to take charge of things it would wreck havoc and that exactly was the fate of Balogun market. Owners of shops at the popular market woke up on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, looking helplessly as their goods and properties worth billions of Naira were gutted by fire. CYRIACUS NNAJI writes.

Balogun Market in Lagos Island of Lagos State has made a name as one of the biggest markets not just in Nigeria but the whole of Africa.

Wares for which Balogun is known for include but not limited to clothing materials, shoes, suits, lace materials, corporate wears and many more. To state that billions of Naira worth of transactions are made daily at the market is not unfounded; thousands of traders plying their trades at the market are billionaires. Whatever you want to buy that is not anywhere in Lagos, you will get it in Balogun Market.

Last year 2019, before Christmas when the traders were getting set for the yuletide season, the market was engulfed in an inferno in which billions of naira worth of goods and property were destroyed. The true cause of the conflagration was till date unraveled.

Yet again as those affected by that fire were just getting to terms with the reality of what transpired, a more devastating fire on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, hit the market. A man was said to have just rented a shop in the market for 15 million for five years, not to mention the goods in the shop. Another bought an entire floor of one of the buildings that was affected in fire which according to report stocked corporate suits and none was sold less than N100, 000, but all have gone in a twinkling of an eye.

People simply watched their hard earned money went down the drain.

In this age of availability of lending facilities, many of these traders had borrowed from banks and micro finance banks to do business, but all are now gone living the victims at the mercies of their creditors.

The fire gathered courage and vented vehement violence on the market as major material were clothing items. It licked the goods like hot pepper soup while the owners watched helplessly as fire gut their entire livelihoods garnered over the years.

What magic could the fire service that arrived late do when the handshake had passed the elbow; many buildings were cut up in the inferno at the same time even as some of the building began to collapse in the face of the superior fire power of the inferno.

Recalled that all these are happening barely two months after a policeman and several goods valued at millions of Naira, went up in flames at Balogun market, a section of the popular market.

Earlier, the Lagos State Fire Service on Thursday had raised the alarm over the frequent fire outbreaks in the State and attributed same to high level of unconsciousness in the handling of fire and other flammable materials as major causes.

From available information gathered from people in the market, somebody was refueling his generator without putting it off first, and that resulted in an explosion. When this happened he flung the jerry can across the road and the fire also followed the inflammable material which made it possible for the fire to also affect other buildings at the same time. It became a rat race as the entire market was thrown into confusion.

The Acting Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau who made this known in his office at Alausa, Ikeja lamented that valuables worth millions and preventable lives were been lost daily to avoidable fire outbreaks.

The fire chief recalled that the directorate received nothing less than 17 fire emergencies weekly, which he said called for concern as a responsible and responsive government that placed safety of its citizenry at premium. According to him, 11 rescue calls and eight false calls were received accordingly.

The fire boss narrated that emergency activities of the Directorate commenced Thursday around 9:06am with a call to a burning car opposite Ikeja Shopping Mall and which was efficiently put out at exactly 9:18am.

“Another call was also received at our Sarri Iganmu Fire Station for a fire outbreak at Sun Flag Textile opposite First Bank, Iganmu, the team with the support of Ilupeju fire station arrived the scene at 9:12 am and was able to quell the Fire in due time. The Ilupeju Fire Station received another call from UAC building CMS, Lagos Island and responded the safety exercise was complemented by other emergency responders in the state.

Rasaki said that if not for the act of professionalism and tactics employed by the Firefighters at scenes of the incident across the State, the so call small fires would have escalated and become a disaster. The causes of the fires as at the time of filing this report are yet to be ascertained.

He noted that the fire officers as first responder to emergency and incident management had been empowered and equipped to tackle any form of natural and man-made incident across the State and further appeal to Lagosians to get familiar with the emergency toll free numbers 767/112.

Back to Balogun Market, some parts of the popular Balogun Market, the Lagos State Firefighters battled the inferno, which might result in the loss of goods and valuables at the location. In one of the videos of the fire outbreak, some individuals could be seen salvaging the situation by throwing some goods down the buildings.

The fire outbreak is reported to have started from Anambra Plaza on Martins street in the market and has spread to about six other structures.

It is also on record that this incident comes about a week after a similar inferno razed a timber market in the Mushin area of Lagos. Also, recall that when some buildings inside Balogun market were in November gutted by fire, they were eventually demolished after intervention by Lagos State government.

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