An early morning fire on Thursday demolished a commercial building in Benin City, Edo State, destroying products valued at more than N50 million.
The inferno apparently started around 4 a.m. at a building on Second East Circular Road, opposite New Market in Benin City, the state capital.
Chronicle NG discovered that the majority of store owners in the building exchanged secondhand clothing and food.
A couple known only as Ndidi and Blessing, who had two stores on the premises, were alleged to have lost products worth N10 million.
“We have lost goods worth N10 million and our source of livelihood. The government should please come to our aid,” Ndidi lamented.
The fire began with frequent electric sparks from a wire attached to an electricity pole in front of one of the stores and spread to other stalls, endangering the neighboring structures.
The early presence of the Edo State Fire Service was believed to have prevented the situation from worsening.
However, a trader merely named Madam Grace, who was believed to have lost more than N40 million in products, accused foul play and said she was the target.
She said, “I went to the market to buy goods and returned to the shop by 2 a.m., and there was a power outage at the time.
“I took my goods into the shops and went to my house. By 5 a.m., I was informed on the telephone that my shop was on fire. I have prayed for those responsible for the inferno. I have lost N40 million worth of goods,” she added.
“Apart from Madam Grace, Ndidi, and his wife, other traders were said to have lost good worth about N30 million,” an eyewitness told our correspondent.
However, when our correspondent contacted an Edo State Fire Service official in the control room, who identified herself simply as Faith, on Thursday night, she stated that those on duty when the inferno started were called and promptly went to the scene to extinguish the fire and keep it from spreading to nearby houses.
“Yes, our officials were called when the fire started and the fire was put out. They were also able to prevent the fire from spreading to houses close by,” she added.