How ‘mysterious’ fire destroyed 15,000 shops in Northeast’s biggest market
The biggest market in the Northeast known as the ‘Monday Market ‘ was gutted by fire recently. Over 15,000 official shops in the market were consumed by the inferno with residents suspecting it was the handiwork of arsonists. Northern Bureau Chief, MUHAMMAD SABIU, examines what may have caused the fire in this report:
On Saturday, February 25, residents of Maiduguri retired to their respective homes after casting their votes. However, their sleep was cut short by fire incident which razed 15,000 official shops in the popular Maiduguri market popularly known as ‘Monday Market’ located at the heart of the metropolis. The ‘mysterious’ fire destroyed billions naira of goods. The affected traders were not on the ground during the incident to rescue some of their valuables.
So the questions remain: how did the fire incident occur? Who was responsible? As at the time of filing the report, the cause of the fire incident remained unknown. Largely because the market is not connected to the national grid. Although some of the shops have solar power electricity, the authorities at the market do not allow any illegal electricity supply connection.
Established over three decades ago, the Maiduguri Monday market is key to the economy of the Northeast. It is used by traders from all the Northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Yobe and Bauchi. It was learnt that traders also come from as far as Chad, Cameroon, Niger Republic, to trade in the ancient city of Kanem Borno.
Hauwa Ibrahim, who lives across the road from the market recalls how they were forced to wake up when the fire started. She told the Nigerian Tribune that, “We saw fire at all the main entrance of the market spreading like bush fire. What came to my mind was who must have put this fire at the main entrance?”
It was gathered that the failure of the fire service to arrive on the scene on time, as well as the few number of volunteers, allowed the fire to spread quickly.
According to the Nigerian Tribune’s findings, some people linked the fire to politics, while others alleged that it was instigated by the state government because it was afraid of defeat. However, the state government it was gathered did not rule out saboteurs who wanted to discredit the government and apportion blame to the government for failing to respond to the fire outbreak.
But the question remains: how will the ‘mysterious fire’ burn down an entire complex without intervention from the people?
A source who pleaded for anonymity remarked that the fire started around 1am and lasted over four hours till dawn on Sunday.
Confirming the fire incident in an interview, the information officer of the market, Bawa Gana, remarked that “the fire has burnt the entire complex. Nothing is left.”
A trader, Mustapha Goni noted that he was still at loss as to the cause of the fire because the market is not connected to the national grid. He wondered how the fire started in the first place.
“This market has no electricity connection from the national grid, neither does the management allow illegal connection to a solar panel or batteries,” said another grieving trader, Isa Sale.
Findings by the Nigerian Tribune also revealed that the market did not open on Saturday as it was Election Day.
“That is why we are worried about what could have led to the fire,” said Bashir Aji, a sympathiser on the scene.
Buhari, Zulum, Shettima sympathise with traders
On the Thursday following the weekend tragedy, at the Shehu’s of Borno palace, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was in Maiduguri to commiserate with the victims of fire disaster,assuring the palace and the people of Borno the readiness of the Federal Government to complement the efforts of the Borno state government by assisting the fire victims.
“I am here to commiserate with you over the fire incident at the market”.
“I am mainly here to go and see the market, but the governor has hijacked me to commission his projects,” he stressed.
Earlier, the Shehu, Umar Garbai expressed gratitude to President Buhari for standing with the people of Borno in their trying times.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State presented a N1billion cheque to the victims of the fire incident.
Presenting the cheque, Zulum asked Zarami Dungus, a former permanent secretary, to chair a committee that will immediately begin to verify, identify the eligible victims and disburse the one billion naira to them. He noted that the money given is to serve as an emergency palliatives before assessing the actual lost.
He also state that the state government will take preventive measures to avoid future occurrence, promising to start the re-construction of the market.
Among others who made handsome donations to the traders were the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, who donated the sum of N100 million.
According to him, the personal support was to bring smiles to the victims. He made the assertion while he paid a sympathy visit to Governor Babagana Zulum at the Government House in Maiduguri.
Shettima, who was a two-term Governor of Borno State from 2011 to 2019 said, “It saddens my heart to address you this afternoon on the unfortunate fire incident at Maiduguri Monday market. This is a very famous market, it is the nerve centre of commercial activities in the northeastern sub-region.”
Also, Yobe state government supported with the sum of N100 million. The Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, who described the fire incident as sad, regrettable and disturbing, said it happened at a time when people in the state were recovering their economic livelihood after years of Boko Haram insurgency that crippled the economic sector in the Northeast region.
A prominent son of the state, Kashim Shettima Imam the chairman of the TETFUND, also donated N100 million to the fire victims. The state council of traditional rulers donated N10 million to the victims.
While commiserating with the fire victims, the chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Borno State council, Comrade Dauda Iliya, commended the Borno State governor for donating billions of naira. He called on the Federal Government, as well as its agencies like the North East Development Commission, national and international relief agencies and philanthropic organisations to immediately come to the aid of the victims.
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