Reports of fire outbreaks in some markets in the country are very worrisome. Year-in,year-out, fire outbreaks are reported in the nation’s markets. It is not just only markets located at the major cosmopolitan cities that are usually gutted by fire. Markets at less visible towns are also caught by this infamous inferno, sending several families backwards and even forcing some to go a borrowing thereafter.
It has also been reported that some shop owners who were affected in some fire disasters, either collapse and die, commit suicide or have been struck by one terrible ailment or the other afterwards. Some of these market fire victim shave even reportedly become mentally deranged.
A little pip on market fire outbreaks will provide some inkling into the level of disaster around our markets. On November 6, 2019, huge flames and black smoke had engulfed a top section of one of the buildings in the popular Balogun Market at the Lagos Island. According to reports, the fire appears to have emanated from the upper section of a five-storey complex containing a textile business along Martin Street.
Before then, that was sometime on July 21,2019, buildings which housed several shops where clothing materials and other goods were being sold were reportedly on fire at the Ojodu Berger market. Also,on January 12, 2018, no fewer than 100 shops, equipment and goods worth millions of naira were razed by fire outbreak at a section of the popular Sango Plank Market in Ibadan, Oyo State. The market had witnessed several of such disasters in the past, but this last one was reported to have engulfed over 300 shops. It was reported that the fire started at about 2 am in the night.
One of the most terrible fire outbreaks last was occurred at the vast Ochanja Market in Onitsha, Anambra State on October 17. The fire was ignited after a fuel laden petrol tanker fell into a gutter around Upper Iweka and spilled its contents which unfortunately caught fire and spread through the gutters up to the Ochanja market and beyond. Six buildings and shops were destroyed. About seven people, including a nursing mother and her baby, were killed in the fire. The next day, another fuel laden tanker fell at the MCC axis of Onitsha. Luckily however, the spillage did not catch fire,otherwise, the destruction could have been worse than the previous day’s incident.
There were also reported fire incidences at the Bridge Head Market and several motor spare parts markets in Onitsha,Ogidi and Nkpor, all near Onitsha. Even the what is regarded as the biggest market in West Africa, the Onitsha Mian Market, had witnessed tales of fire outbreaks.
In Enugu State, the popular Ogbete Main Market, also witnessed its dossier of fire disasters. With the exception of last year and earlier this year, when a smarting fire incident that was almost immediately put off occurred, the market had in the past witnessed total destruction by the spirit called ‘Market Fire’. Ditto with the Kenyetta Market,Industrial Market at Coal Camp as well as the Nsukka (Ahia Ogige), Enugu NewMarket, Mayor, Agbani Road and Abakpa Markets, which also had witnessed several fire outbreaks.
Recall that on November 19, 2018, over N10 million worth of goods was reported consumed by fire at the Nkwo Ngwa Market in Aba, Abia State. Eyewitnesses said the fire started at 3:29 pm, but could not be put off as expected until several shops had been engulfed in the fire.
In Kano State, several market fire disasters have been recorded. For instance, on February 6, 2019, fire destroyed about 70 shops in Yan’Katako Market in Rijayar Lemo area of Kano. Also on June 10, last year, fire incident reportedly gutted six shops in Kofar Ruwa Market (Kasuwar ‘Yan Rodi) in Kano. Similarly on April 14, 2019,the Kano State Fire Service said 35 temporary shops were destroyed by fire at Kurmin Yan-nama Market in the state. This was as on November 18, 2018, the spokesman of the Kano State Fire Service, Alhaji Saidu Mohammed, revealed that 77 shops were destroyed in Kano Market.
January 10,2020, at least one person was confirmed dead following a fire incident that gutted the Mgbuka Obosi SpareParts Market in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State. According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the deceased, who later died after he was rushed to the hospital after the incident, was the chairman of Zone 11 in the market, and was identified as G.O.D.
Several other markets in the east such as the Nnewi Spare Parts Market, Eke Awka, Ariara Market in Aba, Abia state, and several others had in the past suffered mysterious fire disasters that wrecked serious havoc. And those fire incidences occurring at night or reportedly in the wee hours of the morning is something that should be of concern to all of us.
And disturbed, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), had taken up the gauntlet to see that such incidences are drastically reduced if not completely wiped off. Speaking during an enlightenment exercise to find solutions to the incessant fire outbreaks which held inside the Eke Awka Market in Anambra State recently the South-East Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Mr. James Eze, explained that the event was aimed at strengthening preparedness, prevention, mitigation, and timely response in addressing fire outbreaks in markets in the state.
Speaking in tandem along the line of generally-held belief by discerning analysts, Eze said that “market fires are human- induced disasters that expose victims to risk of injury, death and destruction of property”, adding that “the simulation exercise is in line with NEMA’s preparedness and response strategies, also aimed to ensure that stakeholders, especially first responders are fit, ready and able to provide prompt professional services meant to reduce casualties during fire incidents”.
What then could human beings gain by igniting fire at markets, especially when traders had gone home? According to NEMA, it is human beings that often deliberately set markets on fire. And nothing can be further from the truth. Truth is that some unscrupulous businessmen in those markets either connive with security men to set the markets on fire after the close of business and at the dead of the night, or they carry out such nefarious act by themselves. This calls for the need to properly scrutinize the security men and women employed at the markets. There is also the need to emulate the Enugu State government which has made it mandatory for the setting up of Fire service offices at every major market in the country. Also, the recourse by traders to push out their wares and glug up access along the streets inside the markets must stop. Also, allowing people to sell along the streets or across gutters must be outlawed. All put together, incessant fire outbreaks in the markets could be put to a halt if we do the appropriate thing and stop shadow chasing which is what we do at the moment. We know the problems, let’s apply the solutions.