Traders count losses to inferno in 400-year-old Akesan market
Minister writes NEMA, solicits support for victims
Where would I start from at this old age? I have lost all I had worked for in the last 60 years to a day inferno. What a way to start a new year!”The frail looking 80-year old Alhaja Moniratu Ganiyu lamented her loss as she walked through the rubbles that remained of her shop at Akesan Market in Oyo town yesterday.
The ancient Akesan market, also known as Oja Oba, located at the centre of the town and few metres to the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, was razed by fire in the wee hours of Sunday, January 5, this year, consuming all shops and goods worth over N20 billion.
Since the incident that left over 900 traders in shock and severe pains, Alhaja Ganiyu had not been allowed to visit the market by her children who are afraid of not escalating her fragile health, which they have been trying to manage since Sunday when the market fire shattered the serenity of the ancient town.
But when she insisted on visiting the market and assess her loss, she was allowed to visit the market where she had after several decades made name and fortune as one of the biggest cloths seller in Oyo town, only to be greeted by rubbles.With tears rolling down her cheeks, she told The Guardian: “All I have worked for in my life and the money my children gave to me to do business just burnt down in a day. I lost goods worth N8 million. I don’t know where to start from again, I can only appeal to the government to come to my aid,” she said.
Alhaja Ganiyu was not only the victim of the 400-year-old market that many traders still find hard to explain how the inferno started. While some blamed electricity surge for the incident, others blamed harmattan for the disaster.For Alhaja Sadia Ishola, who sells school clothing materials in the market since 1984, the fire was the first ever witnessed in the market, the reason why the loss was so high.
She said: “I have been in this market since 1984 and we never witnessed something like this. I hustled and struggled to get money to start the business. Now the N3 million investment has been consumed by fire in the new year”.Rasheedat Adeniran, who sells baby products, children clothes and school bags, said her goods worth N7 million were lost in the unfortunate incident. She disclosed that she obtained loan from cooperative societies to finance the business.
Mrs. Sukura Alabi, who sells rice, beans and palm oil in the market, lamented that she lost N4 million to the inferno. Martins Nwosu, Innocent Nnoko and Mr. Kenneth Anagwaonye said they are yet to calculate their losses because they just received shoes and textile materials from their distributors after Christmas sales. They lamented that the loss has rendered them vulnerable and had been giving them sleepless night.
Mrs. Evelyn James, who owns two shops full of clothing materials, said she is looking up to God for recovery because the loss is too much for her to bear. On her part, Mrs. Victoria Olaoye, said:” I have been in this market since 1985. I just bought goods to stock my shop. I can’t quantify how much I lost but it is in millions”.
Though some traders were lucky that their shops were not burnt, they also had a bitter taste from the incident. Alhaja Sakiratu Lasisi, who sells herbs in the market, said: “The inferno didn’t affect me directly but three of my daughters’ shops were reduced to ashes”.
Also, Mrs. Simbia Monsura, who sells vegetable oil said her shop was not torched but looted. “I thank God that my shop was not burnt but before I got here, it had been looted”.
The Iyaloja of Oyo land, Chief (Mrs.) Adepeju Bakare, who is also still counting her losses, said the fire incident was the first of its kind ever witnessed in Akesan market believed to be safest and best in the town. She said: “When it started, the guards tried to put it out but it was beyond their capacity. They thought it was what they could curtail. Realizing that it was beyond what they can curtail they went to the fire fighters but the fire fighters claimed that their vehicles had faults. If the fire fighters had been alive to their responsibility, the shops that the inferno would have consumed would not be much”.
Meanwhile, the Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, has commiserated with the victims. He said: “It is saddening that the federal fire service, which is saddled with the responsibility of rescuing, preventing and fighting fire could not save the people in their time of need due to lack of equipment, resources or insufficiency of it.
“Our people are now in pains and we will not leave them alone in this trial time. We may have inherited some decays, but it is our absolute responsibility as government to make lives better for all. We will equip the fire service agencies across the state in 2020 and awareness will be increased on how our people can prevent future occurrences.”
The Alaafin of Oyo who described the incident as unfortunate said the occurrence was especially painful because of the importance as the king market. He also described it as the cleanest and safest because of the way it was cared for. He promised that the market would be restored as soon as possible because of its commercial importance to the town.
However, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has sought for humanitarian support from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for victims of Akesan Market Fire outbreak. The appeal, the Media Assistant on Media to the minister, Kola Daniel, said on Tuesday in Lagos, was in line with keeping his promise to bring in federal support.
The minister on Monday wrote to the Director-General of NEMA seeking assistance for those affected by the fire disaster. In the letter of appeal, Dare, who is an indigene of Oyo State, noted that many people had been incapacitated since their main sources of livelihood were wiped away as a result of the tragic fire incident.
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