It was a black day for traders in Wadata Market, Makurdi, the Benue State capital, as the market went up in flames in the early hours of Wednesday.
The inferno which started around 1.am destroyed goods, particularly foodstuffs, said to worth millions of naira.
The fire started from the poultry section of the market and spread through the fish section to the palm oil and grains sections of the market.
It was gathered that for more than four hours, both the state fire service and residents battled to put out the fire and eventually succeeded in bringing it under control around 5am.
At the time of visit, smoke was still billowing from the wreckage even as traders, whose shops were affected, were seen trying to salvage what was left of their wares.
Some of the affected traders cried as they counted their losses while watching helplessly how the fire had reduced their stocked shops to ashes.
Some of the affected traders who spoke with our correspondent, including Okpe Ojo, Alero Nuhu Grace Adama and Oka Oche, said they lost over 460 bags of grains to the inferno.
They claimed that most of them had taken loans to stock their shops ahead of the New Year, calling on government to come to their aid.
The Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Doo Shave, said the fire service received a distress call from one of the affected traders around 2am, adding that fire trucks were driven to the scene, while firefighters put out the fire under 5am.
Shave said that the state Fire service was presently well-equipped to fight fire, adding that the service would still need smoke detectors to respond better to fire outbreaks in the state.
He said, “We have five functional trucks in the state now. We did not arrive late; we got there as soon as the fire was reported.”
…Ortom donates N30m to victims
The Benue Government has donated N30m to the victims of the Wadata Market fire.
Governor Samuel Ortom who announced the donation when he inspected the burnt section of the market on Wednesday said the amount was an interim support to the traders.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Ortom sympathised with the traders and assured them that the government would assist them “in every way possible.”
He said the gesture was to enable them to start a new life pending the outcome of the report of a committee he had constituted to inquire into the incident.
The governor said the committee would be headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Tony Ijoh (SAN).
He explained that the committee would find out the remote and immediate causes of the fire, the challenges in the market and recommend how government could address them.
Ortom recounted the damage caused by fire at the Gboko Market on two different occasions recently, and said government was considering ways of addressing fire outbreaks.
He directed that boreholes be dug in the market and urged security agencies to adequately guard the place until normalcy returned.
Earlier, the Vice President, Makurdi Traders’ Union, Mallam Yusuf Abdulahi, said the fire victims were mainly petty traders whose livelihood depended on their daily incomes from the market.
Abdulahi further urged the state government to assist the traders in rebuilding their shops and providing other relief materials to them.
He said statistics on the affected sections and the value of wares lost could not be established immediately, adding that the union had commenced collection of data.
He also disclosed that five sections — fish, yams, butchers, grain, industrial and allied materials — were burnt.
Military firefighters from the 72 Battalion, Nigeria Army, Makurdi, were on hand to assist in putting out the fire at the time filing the story.