How Plateau traders lost mil­lions to fire

Sunday Trust - - SUNDAYMENU - From Lami Sadiq, Jos

>>> Page 16

About a week ago at 9pm, traders at the ‘Aci a rage na gobe’ (eat and re­main for to­mor­row) sec­tion of the Kugiya mar­ket in Bukuru, Jos South Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Plateau State, got the news of a fire in­ci­dent that en­gulfed their shops. Ex­pect­edly, most of them de­fied dis­tance and rushed to the mar­ket, hop­ing to sal­vage their goods. But un­for­tu­nately, they only watched help­lessly as their makeshift shops, filled with goods worth mil­lions of naira were razed.

The po­lice public re­la­tions of­fi­cer in the state, ASP Ty­opev Terna, said that cash amount­ing to N20mil­lion was also said to have been burnt.

By the time of­fi­cials of the Fire Ser­vice ar­rived the scene, the fire had spread from a bar­ber’s shop to other places, ac­cord­ing to eye­wit­nesses. The af­fected traders told Daily Trust on Sun­day that it took about an hour to put the fire un­der con­trol. The cause of the fire is still un­known. Over 117 shops were burnt while over 50 oth­ers were van­dalised by crim­i­nals.

The chair­man of the mar­ket union, Com­rade Em­manuel Ge­orge, said most of those af­fected by the tragic in­ci­dent were women, some of who were wid­ows and barely mak­ing ends meet.

Sym­pa­this­ers and vic­tims of the in­ferno who spoke to our cor­re­spon­dent said some crim­i­nals did not only take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion but con­trib­uted to ag­gra­vate it so as to loot shops. It was also said that some of the crim­i­nals at­tempted to stop the men of the Fire Ser­vice from per­form­ing their du­ties by pelt­ing them with stones.

Am­brose Madu, whose shop was van­dalised, said the crim­i­nals at­tacked men of the Fire Ser­vice with the hope that the dis­trac­tion would pro­vide them the nec­es­sary cover to con­tinue loot­ing. Madu said he and his wife lost goods worth N2.3 mil­lion from their three shops. Fight­ing back tears, he ex­plained that while two shops be­long­ing to his wife were burnt to ashes, his was van­dalised and looted dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

“My wife had just re-stocked her shop in prepa­ra­tion for Satur­day mar­ket. She had palm oil, veg­etable oil and beans worth N1.5 mil­lion while my own shop equally had palm oil and other goods worth N800, 000. My shop was not burnt, but it was looted; they took ev­ery­thing.

“To eat is now a prob­lem for us as we have lost our sources of in­come. We don’t know what to do now,” he said.

The Kugiya daily mar­ket, which is said to be the largest in Jos South, has many sec­tions. Many traders said that prior to the fire in­ci­dent, they had re-stocked their shops in an­tic­i­pa­tion that they would make a lot of prof­its from the usual Satur­day mar­ket.

Ac­cord­ing to Com­rade Ge­orge, the union chair­man, the mar­ket is built on a land owned by the Nige­rian Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion. He said it was in 2013 that the mar­ket ex­tended to the ‘Aci a rage na gobe’ sec­tion, which equally be­longs to the cor­po­ra­tion.

Al­though the mar­ket has ex­isted for a long time, it be­gan to wit­ness an in­flux of com­mer­cial activities af­ter the 2009 cri­sis in the state.

“Peo­ple trooped into Kugiya mar­ket in large num­bers while oth­ers went to Gyel in the same Bukuru. But Gyel mar­ket be­came a seg­ment for only Chris­tians while Kugiya be­came a mar­ket for all. It doesn’t mat­ter whether you go to church or mosque; it is not our busi­ness. The lead­er­ship of the mar­ket is equally mixed up so that ev­ery­one is com­fort­able. And be­cause of that, the mar­ket be­came large and pop­u­lar,” Com­rade Ge­orge said.

The ‘Aci a rage na gobe’ sec­tion of the mar­ket is known for per­ish­able goods, such as all sorts of veg­eta­bles like to­ma­toes, pep­per and other food items. The food items are brought from vil­lage farms, and ve­hi­cles some­times load them here to the South-East. Some come from Bauchi, Kano, Benue to buy goods, just like the pop­u­lar Farin Gada veg­etable mar­ket in Jos,” Ge­orge ex­plained.

Ac­cord­ing to the chair­man, the ‘Aci a rage na gobe’ sec­tion of the mar­ket used to be a res­i­den­tial area be­fore the Nige­ria Rail­way Cor­po­ra­tion de­mol­ished the build­ings.

“It later be­came a refuse dump for years. We re­quested for it to re­duce the conges­tion of traders in the streets. We re­lo­cated to this sec­tion in April 2013, and grad­u­ally, peo­ple were given shop al­lo­ca­tions and they be­gan to build,” he added.

Some of the vic­tims of the fire in­ci­dent who spoke to our cor­re­spon­dent said they had been count­ing their losses and hop­ing that gov­ern­ment would come to their aid.

The woman leader of the af­fected sec­tion, Lami Mu­g­long, said most of the fe­male traders had taken loans from the co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­ety to start busi­ness. She lamented that they were now left in de­spair.

It was gath­ered that in or­der to make ends meet, some of the traders who lost goods worth N200,000 or N350,000 bor­rowed goods in small quan­ti­ties from other traders, with the hope that at the end of the day, they would be able to make some prof­its and pay back.

Rahi­natu Muham­mad, whose shop was filled with soup condi­ments and grains be­fore the in­ci­dent, now has a ta­ble with few goods. “My sis­ter-in-law gave me this ta­ble, and I have been able to col­lect a few ki­los of beans and other items from other traders, which I now pack­age in small quan­ti­ties to sell. At the end of the day, I am ex­pected to make some prof­its and pay them their money so that they can give me more,” she said.

Also re­count­ing her ordeal, Re­becca Sun­day, who also sells soup condi­ments, said she learnt about the fire in­ci­dent on Satur­day morn­ing when she was wo­ken by a fam­ily mem­ber and told to rush to the mar­ket. “By the time I got to the mar­ket, there was noth­ing but ashes where my shop and goods once stood,” she said.

Also, Al­haji Ba­bangida, who usu­ally trav­elled to Adamawa, Borno and Ji­gawa states to buy dry fish, said he had goods worth N350, 000 be­fore the in­ci­dent, but it per­ished. “By the time I got to the scene, the en­tire sec­tion was in flames, in­clud­ing my shop. Now, I have been given dry fish worth N150,000 by some of the fish traders. When I make some profit I will pay them off. I will have to keep do­ing that for some time to raise little cap­i­tal,” he said.

It was, how­ever, ob­served that some of the traders were al­ready re­build­ing their shops. Some of them who spoke to Daily Trust on Sun­day ap­pealed to well-to-do in­di­vid­u­als to as­sist them go back to their busi­nesses.

The chair­man of the mar­ket union said the lo­cal gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties had asked for a com­pre­hen­sive list of af­fected traders and the value of goods de­stroyed. He ex­pressed op­ti­mism that gov­ern­ment would do the need­ful.

PHO­TOS: Lami Sadiq

A sec­tion of the mar­ket en­gulfed by fire last Fri­day night

Some of the van­dalised shops in the mar­ket

An­other sec­tion of the mar­ket en­gulfed by fire last Fri­day night.

Chair­man of the Kugiya mar­ket union, Com­rade Em­manuel Ge­orge

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.