Traders at the popular Ketu Plank Market, Lagos State, are counting their losses after a fire outbreak destroyed a section of the market on Sunday.
Some of the traders, who spoke with SaharaReporters, said they lost goods worth millions of naira in the fire but had accepted their fate as there was no way they could recover except with God’s help.
The cause of the fire, according to the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management (LASEMA), Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, is not yet known.
Traders who spoke with SaharaReporters could also not ascertain the cause of the fire but were sure that the presence of foams where the outbreak started from worsened the situation.
SaharaReporters also gathered that some of the affected machinery could be repaired while others were totally destroyed or burnt beyond recognition.
One of the affected persons in the market, Ibrahim Mogaji, a wood toner operator, said he had over eight machines but lost everything to the fire.
He said he lost over N6 million worth of machines to the fire.
Mogaji said he was in his house at Sagamu, enjoying the Christmas holiday when he received the sad news that his shop “had gone up in flames again!”
“I was at my house at Lukosi, Sagamu when I got the call. I didn’t even know my phone was ringing, my children brought it to my attention. I was told I had incurred losses again.
“This is the fourth time this is happening to me in this market. The government has not really done anything for us in this place.”
When Mogaji was asked if he had any plan to get his business running again, he said there was none.
“I have no one to help me but God. My family members came here, saw the extent of the damage and went back home after commiserating with me. It is only someone from a rich home that can say he has someone to fall back on. For me, I have none,” he said.
A dealer in planks and roofing materials, Kabiru Rahimi, said he also lost “everything” in the inferno. He told SaharaReporters that he couldn’t retrieve anything from his shop as all his planks were affected.
“I live nearby, I was in my house when we all started hearing shouts of “fire, fire”, I wondered where it was coming from. By the time I came out from the house, the flame was so thick that we couldn’t get through to save anything. Thank God for the efforts of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency.”
He said he hoped the government would help the people affected.
Rahimi, who had obtained a loan from someone to buy goods a week before Christmas said he had not made any money from the new stock because he had not sold anything from it.
“This has really affected me and it’s something that could have made someone else to contemplate suicide but I have faith in God and I know He will see me through. The man that gave me a loan has given me the time he wants his money back and I will surely pay back, while trying to source money for my business afresh.”
He, however, said the government should assist the victims of the outbreak in every possible way.
Idris Afolabi, a wood designer in the market, said he was in the market when the fire started around 10am but was unable to save the things he had in the shop because of the strong flame.
“The fire was really massive but we thank God that LASEMA responded accordingly. If not for LASEMA, houses around here would have also burnt because the houses are close to one another. We all had to run off. I have lost over 3N.8 million worth of goods and machines to the inferno.”
He alleged that those present at the scene of the incident tried to control the situation but couldn’t.
Sikiru Akanni, a carpenter, whose machinery and completed projects were also destroyed, said he bought one of his machines in April during the lockdown. Now he has to buy another one, according to him.
“The machine was completely destroyed because it uses fuel. Aside from that, the projects I did for some people that got burnt; I was not able to recover anything. There was a project I had completed which my customer said he’d come and get on Saturday. He didn’t come so it got burnt along with other things. I would estimate what I lost to be about N1.5 million.”
He also said he had no idea of how to get back on his feet but hoped the state government would assist them by providing funds to cover the worth of the goods destroyed by the fire, which was quantified by LASEMA officials.
According to the Chairman of the Plank and Building Materials Association in the market, Aliu Bello, the incident is unfortunate due to the extent of damage.
He said, “It happened on a Sunday and only a few people were available. We sell inflammable materials here; the specific area where the fire broke out was where lots of foams were deposited. Generators and machinery were also there. Unfortunately for us, nothing was left. There were about 40 to 50 shops at the section, they were all burnt down; nothing is left of them. The cost of things that got burnt runs into millions of naira. Each shop lost goods and machinery worth millions of naira.”
He added that the chairman of the Community Development Association, Agboyi Ketu, Dele Oshinowo, had visited the traders to commiserate with them.
The chairman said the traders were counting on governments at the federal, state and local levels to assist them.
Bello said, “We know that if the shops being built for the plank market had been completed, this calamity would not have occurred. We are not blaming the government but we call on them to speed up the job, after that, we can always educate our people to be more careful in their shops. Then, we will be able to do more things but for now, we are handicapped.”
The market has consistently experienced fire outbreaks over the years.
The Lagos State government intervened after the 2013 fire outbreak by starting the construction of a modern market for them in a bid to curb the menace but has not completed it.