Recent Sabon Gari Market fire outbreak, the fourth in as many months, has reportedly inflicted huge financial damages to traders and others who depended on the market for their livelihood.
The traders in particular are said to have lost goods and cash roughly estimated at about N2 trillion. Though there isn’t official statistics to confirm or debunk the claims, Nigeria’s disaster management agency, NEMA, however confirmed that no fewer than 3,800 shops were burnt in the inferno.
Friday Magazine recalls fire outbreak that razed the market happened last weekend, Saturday to be precise, and the traders’ association said on Monday that the fire was the worst market fire disaster in Nigeria in recent times.
In the light of this, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, inaugurated a 9-man committee to assess the level of damage and the traders affected by the inferno. The committee, chaired by Alhaji Alin Bagadaza, was also mandated to advise the government on how to resettle the affected traders. The committee, which has five days to submit its report, is expected to turn it in this weekend.
Chairman of Sabon Gari Market traders’ association, Alhaji Nafi’u Nuhu Indabo, said over 75 per cent of the market was burnt down. “Many traders lost both goods and cash in the fire. Only God knows what we actually lost to the fire, but sincerely speaking traders have lost a fortune,” he said and lamented that the fire started in the night when there was nobody in the market to take preventive measures against its spread.
Recall that the GSM market was gutted by a night fire in which millions worth of properties were burnt. Then, foul play was suspected largely because as at the time the fire outbreak occurred there was festering internal leadership tussle was raging. The persistence of the leadership crisis at the time the outbreak occurred, further fuelled speculation that it may have been engineered by some elements. The unresolved tussle created tension and anxiety among the traders who fear that the longer it lasts the more it would impact negatively on their businesses.
“We could not but hold strong suspicions that the fire incident may have been deliberate act of sabotage by some who are disgusted with the leadership tussle and believe destroying the market would ease tension,” Umar Alhaji said.
Though NEMA did not specifically point a finger at anyone or group of persons, its Director General Alhaji Sani Sidi, confirmed to reporters that 3,800 shops were burnt down by the fire and that some 15 persons were hospitalised for inhaling too much smoke and for sustaining minor injuries.
“This is the biggest market fire outbreak Nigeria has ever witnessed. This is a serious calamity,” Sidi said adding that an assessment of the situation was ongoing which would determine the level of help to be rendered to the victims.
Also at the scene, the former CBN Governor and current Emir of Kano, Malam Muhammadu Sanusi ll, asked the federal and state governments to investigate all the causes of recent fire outbreaks in some Kano markets and schools.
The emir also called on the Kano state government to restructure all Kano markets in order to modernise them and make them safe, even as he appealed to traders to imbibe the culture of Islamic insurance (Takaful) so as to recover their losses in case of disasters.
The Director of the state Fire Service, Alhaji Mustapha Rulwan, who hard put coming to terms with the frequent cases of fire outbreaks in the state, said his men were still searching for any tangible cause of the inferno. He confirmed though that like the previous experience, it occurred around midnight meaning that nothing could actually be done to salvage the situation.
“The fire started at about 1am and before we could do anything to contain the fire, most parts of the market had been destroyed as several shops went up in flames.
“The fire started at the footwear section of the market. Our men are still trying to put out the fire as I am talking to you now we are in the market”, he said noting that it the second time in five months that the Sabon Gari market was gutted by fire.
Traders recount losses
Uwaisu Ali Baba, who sells shoes, said his three shops had been burnt. He said: “Blocks A, B, C, D, L were burnt and goods worth billions of naira destroyed.”
He said approximately over 18,000 traders were affected by the disaster.
“Concerning the estimate of cash lost, I cannot do that because many people have lost cash. I know somebody who lost over N300m,” he stated.
Another victim, Isma’ila Sani, said he lost over N15m. “I was not able to remove even a pair of shoes,” adding, “my brothers also lost about N7m in the disaster.
‘We have left everything to God. But to be honest with you we have to start from the scratch. We have lost both goods and cash.”
He called on the government to investigate and punished those found culpable.
When our correspondent visited the market yesterday around 12pm, fire fighters were still battling to extinguish fresh outbreak that engulfed more shops.
A fire service official, Muhammad Abdullahi said they were on routine checks when they noticed fire in some of the shops.
“We are still battling with the fire. The fire is still ravaging goods. We will continue doing our best to put it off,” he assured.
Already, Kano State government says it plans to restructure the markets in the state to facilitate improved business transactions.
Gov Ganduje disclosed in Kano while receiving the governors of Gombe, Kebbi, Niger, Imo, Borno and Jigawa, who paid him a sympathy visit over Saturday’s fire outbreak at the Sabongari market.
He said the restructuring would involve provision of roads, culverts and fire service points as well as collapsible structures for petty traders. The new design of the market he said would henceforth not accommodate present wooden structures in such markets. According to the governor, wooden structures are to be replaced with collapsible ones to reduce the chances of fire and obstructions during emergency.
Ganduje said the government would also implement some measures to alleviate the sufferings of the victims of the fire to enable them rebuild their lives.
“The programme would include resettling the victims at an appropriate location to enable them restart their day to day economic endeavours.
“I have already directed Kano Urban Planning Development Authority (KNUPDA) and the Metropolitan Local Government council chairman to scout for a suitable site to relocate the affected traders for the time being.”
He assured that none of the affected traders would lose a place to earn a living and appealed to them to cooperate with the government to find lasting solution to the problem of fire outbreaks in markets.
Ganduje also appealed to the Federal Government and well meaningful individuals and groups to support the victims and commended the Progressive Governors Forum as well as the Northern Governors Forum for identifying with the government and people of Kano state during this period.
Gov Rochas Okorocha and Kashim Shettima, who spoke on behalf of the other governors, pledged to offer support to the victims of the fire incident.
Nonetheless, Umar Alhaji wonders whether human error or deliberate act of sabotage can be completely ruled out from the frequent cases of fire outbreak in Kano.
“It’s one too many. One may be right to be suspicious. I think the government needs to conduct proper investigation to unearth the real cause of fire outbreak in major markets in Kano.
“Until one lays a finger on the real cause of the fire, the government may not stem the tide and bring about relief to traders in the state, who have been subjected to misery. In these hard times that money is hard to come by, it is regrettable that the little that traders are able to gather together for business, in fact just for sustenance, are destroyed in seemingly mysterious ways more than once,” he said.