Should it be called a black Wednesday? Well, many, especially traders who lost all they had laboured for years, won’t forget January 29, in a hurry. Balogun Market on Lagos Island, known for its wide selection of colourful Nigerian and imported fabrics, was on fire yet again on that day. This reporter, who was at the scene of the incident the morning after, captured the agonies of some of the victims, who lost hundreds of millions to the unfortunate inferno. Many of them were inconsolable as they count their losses.
One of such people is Chibundu, who had a huge stock of items in his shop, before the incident. The 52-year-old from one of the Southeastern states was speechless and seemed to be absent minded when approached for comment. By the time he regained his memory, Chibundu only managed to mumble a few words. In tears, he said: “I’m finished! Everything I laboured for, gone with the fire. Where do I start from; how do I repay the loans I collected from the banks? It’d have been better I die in the inferno as my life means nothing to me anymore.”
One of Chibundu’s colleagues, who was also in tears, told this reporter that his friend lost over N10 million worth of goods. He said he had received a trailer load of his merchandises three days before the incident. Chibundu had also taken a loan from two new generation banks, which he used as a bait to enable him to take more goods from his suppliers.
This arrangement, according to him, was facilitated by his friends at the banks. They, he said, had robust relationships with the suppliers for years. Chibundu did not lose only his live savings but the loans and the overstock taken on trust from his suppliers.
The recent fire incident was allegedly caused by an anonymous man, who was said to be pouring petrol into a running generator. The man, according to SaharaReporters, which quoted an eyewitness, died on the spot and was taken away in an ambulance.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, corroborated this when he said that a preliminary investigation by his agency had revealed that the fire started when someone was trying to refuel a powered generator. He, however, denied the allegation that somebody died in the incident. This denial infuriated one victim, who refused his name in print, dismissing the government official’s claim as merely based on assumption.
Balogun market is located on Lagos Island. The fire outbreak was alleged to have started from Anambra Plaza on Martins Street in the market and spread to about six other buildings in the area. Similar incident occurred in the popular market in the last quarter of last year when goods worth millions of naira were equally destroyed. Over five major markets across the country also experienced fire outbreaks last year, resulting in losses worth billions of naira.
It started on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, when a fuel tanker fire accident claimed several lives, buildings and properties in the famed Onitsha Main Market in Anambra State. The market is regarded as one of the busiest in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
Before then, a massive fire had swept through the popular Oko-Baba Sawmill, a slum market in Ebute-Meta area of Lagos, on November 3, of the same year. Several shanties were said to have been destroyed as residents ran helter and shelter trying to salvage whatever remained of their belongings.
The GSM market in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was also on fire in which numerous properties and shops were reportedly destroyed. The market, popularly known as Jagwol, is located at the Post Office area of the Maiduguri metropolis. It is a hub for GSM traders and artisans and the biggest computer village in the city.
On December 1, 2019, another fire incident occurred, destroying over 30 shops and damaged other properties at the Owode-Oniri Market in Lagos State. The cause of the inferno was unknown as there was no power supply within the market at the time.