Traders at the Ekiosa market in Benin, Edo State capital, may face a bleak Christmas celebration following the Sunday afternoon fire that razed the market, with goods worth millions of Naira destroyed in the inferno that lasted several hours before it was put out by the fire service.
It was gathered that the fire started at about 11:00a.m from the goat section before spreading to other parts of the market. A five-storey building housing the Edo Property Development Agency (EDPA) was also razed. Owners of buildings close to the market, including a petrol station, battled to stop the fire from consuming their property.
The fire started at the Ekiosa market from the goat line and lasted for more than four hours spreading to the entire market. Hapless shop owners and sympathizers poured water and knocked out areas where the fire had already touched. Some traders were forced out of their shops to avoid being caught in the fire.
It was gathered that men of the Edo State fire service were chased away by angry youths and traders when they were coming with one truck at about 12:30p.m. The youths said the Edo Fire Service did not respond to their distress call claiming there was no water but rushed to the scene when they learnt fire was spreading to a new shopping mall and the EDPA building.
There was jubilation among the crowd when they saw fire at the top floor of the EDPA building. Several cars belonging to Edo State Government within the premises of the EDPA were destroyed by the angry youths.
A combined security team including soldiers were drafted to the scene to forestall breakdown of law and order. But it was rather too late as robbers, pick pocket and criminals had a field day as they stole goods of traders brought out from the raging fire as well as cell phones of sympathisers.
One trader who gave her name as Idowu said she lost many goats and other animals that were rescued to the hoodlums before fire got to her shop. Another trader said a bus driver fled with bags of rice he wanted to convoy to a safe location.
Speaking with newsmen at the scene, the Commissioner for Youth and Special Duties, Damian Lawani, rued the unfortunate incident.
He decried the looting by youths during the fire incident, lamenting how a bad situation was made worse when youths who are out to loot property attacked fire fighters.
“Thirty minutes after the fire broke out, the state fire service and two from the NPDC came but the youths attack them and they had to run back. The army fire fighters, UNIBEN and Delta state fire service were able to come after we have mobilize both army, police and airforce to the scene. When we called the NPDC, they told us that their boys were injured during the attack.
“The new twist is worrisome because the youths were out to loot property instead of sympathising with victims. If they had not attacked the fire fighters we brought in 30 minutes after the fire started, most of the property would have been saved,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, the chairman, Oredo local government area, Jekins Osunde, who sympthised with the traders assured that the council would meet with them to see how to cushion the effect of the loss.