Over 120 shops with goods worth over N150,000 and N5 million cash were last Thursday night destroyed when fire engulfed Otukpo Main Market in Benue State.
Nigerian Pilot Saturday gathered that the fire, which started about 6.30 pm at the cosmetics and fish section of the market, lasted till 10:00 p.m.
Eyewitnesses who confided in this reporter said the entire Otukpo town was thrown into confusion as traders who own shops in the market ran to the scene of the incident to safeguard their wares.
Even those whose goods were not destroyed were said to have carried them on their heads and vehicles to their homes to prevent them from being looted.
According to the Information Officer of the Local Government Council, Mr. Inalegwu Onyilo, it took the efforts of youths and other men of goodwill to put out the fire as officials of the state fire service in Makurdi, the state capital could not arrive on time.
Onyilo said the cause of the fire could be a coal pot which was discovered near a fuel container in one of the shops where smoke was first noticed.
He said, “It was somebody who alerted the security men in the market when he noticed smoke spiraling from one section one of the markets that drew the attention of the fire.”
Confirming the disaster on phone, the Market Master, Chief Obogo Alapa, who also suspected that the coal pot stove and fuel container, which were destroyed by the fire, could have caused the disaster but said the incident was being investigated while he confirmed the destruction of N700, 000 in the inferno.
The Caretaker Chairman of the Local Government Council, Dr. Innocent Onuh, who spoke to this reporter from the market also confirmed the disaster and appealed to the state government to station a fire service in the town to forestall future occurrence.
The Chairman also called for the restoration of water supply to the town, as he said people had to rush to Otobi River, where Otukpo Water Works is located, to get water to put out the fire, a situation he said led to the colossal loss of goods.
Efforts to get the response of the state police spokesman, Austin Ezeanyi failed as he did not pick the several call made to his cell phone.
This is the fifth time the market has been destroyed by fire.

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