Last week, about 600 shops in Bida Main Market, in Niger state, were gutted by fire. ADELOJE OJO, in this write up captures the agony of traders, as they count their losses
Barely 12 hours after the Etsu Musa Main Market Bida got burnt, the Niger state Deputy Governor, Ahmed Ketso, while on an assessment visit, stood transfixed for moments gazing at the rubbles, occasioned by the massive destruction of food and other wares by the inferno. He waved sympathetic hands to the wailing traders whose shops have been razed. Fighting agonizing tears, the victims welcomed the deputy governor to the burnt Market last Friday.
Blueprint learnt that over 600 shops were burnt and goods valued at billions of naira were lost to the inferno, while the cause of the fire was still wrapped in misery. However, the victims soon formed a circle round the deputy governor who brought the message of hope, that the market would come back alive again from his boss, Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello.
The state government’s palliative measures to cushion the hardship facing the victims of the inferno, according to Ketso, include a package of relief materials to be made available by the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), with immediate effect. Most cheering was the promise that the state and local governments will collaborate to rebuild the burnt market into a modern market of international standard.
Crowd of victims and sympathizers
However, as the huge crowd of victims and sympathizers took the deputy governor and through dumps of burnt items, it was obvious that the pains of the victims were far from being soothed by mere promises. This was clearly demonstrated by a trader, Musa Ndako, who had lost barns of yams to the inferno when he suddenly got gripped in emotions and busted into a loud cry. He pointed to the dumps of roasted yams still emitting smokes from the fire that has apparently refused to quench. He shouted:, “my shop, my yams and my money are gone. How do I recover them? From where will I get money to start fresh trade? I have lost millions of Naira, because I have just stocked my shop.” But these were rhetorical questions which answers are well known to the crowd but difficult for the deputy governor to answer.
Blueprint learnt from a reliable source, that from preliminary assessment, goods and properties worth over N1.5 billion were destroyed by the fire. It was therefore not too impressive when the deputy governor finally squished an answer that government will assist in compensating the victims.
Taking stock of losses
Like Ndako, many other victims were still taking stock of losses and trying to put together what was left of the wares when our correspondent visited at the weekend. From traders dealing in pepper to those involved in wholesale distribution of consumables, the victims are pleading for urgent government intervention in financial assistance to restart their businesses.
Awry mood, sympathizers throng royal father’s palace
The mood at the Wadata palace of the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, was the same with that of the market at the weekend, as sympathizers thronged to commiserate with the royal father over the loss of the market to the inferno.
Our correspondent gathered that the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun-Idris was among the first callers at the palace over the incident. Idris, a son and title holder of the Bida emirate council, was said to have ordered his commissioner in Niger state, Paul yakadi, to rush to the palace and convey his sympathy. The police boss regretted the devastation caused by the inferno and its effects on the victims. He said, “the monumental loss of property to the disaster was a huge setback to the traders, kin Nupe, the state and the country in general”.
The IGP urged the management of the market as well as the traders to always adhere to safety measures and avoid acts that could lead to fire outbreak in future. He also appealed to the state government to establish a fire station at the market to avert future occurrence of fire disaster.
Inventory of damage
In a similar visit to the Etsu Nupe, before proceeding to assess damage done at the market, the Niger state Deputy Governor Ketso, thanked the royal father for his prompt response to the plight of the victims explaining that government has initiated quick interventions to ameliorate the hardship of traders affected by the fire incident. He told the royal father that the Bida local government council has been directed to take inventory of damage with a view to compensate the victims and also take appropriate action to prevent reoccurrence of such unfortunate incident.
Large scale looting
Blueprint however learnt that large scale looting of wares at the market while the fire was on has become a major concern to Etsu Nupe who has not found enough words to express his feelings over such inhuman behavior since the incident occurred. While commending the police for quick intervention in minimizing the scale of looting, as well as restoration if law and order during the incident, the royal father has called on those that carted away properties and goods to return them with the fear of God.
However, the royal father has continued to appeal to public spirited individuals and government to come to assist the victims of the market with donations, describing the magnitude of loss as too difficult for the traders to bear alone.
The report that while traders and sympathizers were battling the inferno at the market, a chunk of hoodlums invaded and carted away several items, looting and running home with whatever they could seize has been given credence by the royal father.
Although such criminal tendency cannot be ruled out in this kind of burning market situation, it is however expedient to point out that the police need to drag its nets to fish out the perpetrators of the act and recover some of the stolen items.