Oba Market, perhaps the biggest and most popular market in Benin City, Edo State capital went up in flames in the early hours of Monday with frantic efforts to put out the inferno yielding little result.
TELL gathered that the fire started some around 11 pm on Sunday but could not be put out until around 7 am on Monday due to late arrival of fire fighters.
The magazine learnt that the Edo State fire service which is located within the precinct of the market was unable to respond to distress calls by the traders because it had been comatose for many years. The Chief Security Officer, CSO to the governor, was however said to have alerted the Federal Fire Service in Asaba whose men fortunately were on ground in Benin to salvage the situation.
The Assistant Controller of the fire service, Karibo Samson, who spoke to journalists at the scene of the tragic fire, said the cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained as it needed to be thoroughly investigated. Samson confirmed that they received a call from the CSO around 12 am and mobilized immediately to the scene.
According to Samson, when they called him, he in turn reached out to the fire services of the Nigerian Air Force and the National Petroleum Development Company, NPDC for support. He said unfortunately NPDC did not come until around 6 am on Monday. The NPDC however countered Samson claiming their men were on ground by 12 am. Curiously, the Edo State Fire Service which was the nearest and could have been the first responder could not do anything because they are handicapped.
Market is on fire, as market owners have become victims of the Obaseki lead administration’s failure to strengthen the Edo State Fire Services, despite the many fire outbreaks that have occurred in the various markets within the last few months across Edo State.
The magazine observed that the market suffered massive destruction with goods, monies, and buildings in billions of naira reduced to rubbles. Distraught traders wailed as they watched their shops with all the stock being consumed by fire. It was a pathetic sight as some attempted to dash into the fire to salvage what they could but were restrained.
Some traders were however lucky to have gotten timely information about the outbreak of fire around after 11 pm and were able to evacuate their goods.
The latest fire outbreak is about the fifth in Benin City within the last 10 months. There was the August 13, 2019 Uwelu Spare Parts Market fire, the September 16, 2019 Lagos Street fire where 15 shops were razed, the October 19, 2019 Santana Market fire and the December 22, 2019 Osa Market fire. Concerned residents of Benin wondered why the government had not made overhauling the state fire service a priority in spite of the several fires in less than one year.
Recounting their losses, one of the traders who sells clothes, Edith Amayo said she couldn’t salvage any of her wares as her shop was completely burnt.
According to her, “They called me around 1amtoday that Oba market is on fire. Reaching here, we could not find any of our goods”. Amayo appealed to the government and well-meaning Nigerians to assist them to pick up again.
Another trader who deals on cosmetics, Habiba said she lost her goods worth millions of naira. Habiba explained that immediately they opened the market last week following the COVID-19 closure, “I decided to go to the market to stock my shops. Sadly, I have lost the only thing that I use to feed my family.
“The fire consumed all my wares. I do not have anything in my store and all commodities burnt”.
The state government was yet to make a statement on the latest fire. In the previous ones, the embattled governor of the state had blamed them on arson, accusing a faction of the All Progressives Congress, APC, under the aegis of the then Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, of being responsible.