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Blood and fire in Birnin Kebbi

Tragedies of immense proportions in the form of multiple murders and fire have hit Birnin Kebbi in recent times. Kara, an otherwise melting pot in…

Tragedies of immense proportions in the form of multiple murders and fire have hit Birnin Kebbi in recent times. Kara, an otherwise melting pot in the outskirts of the state capital, is increasingly becoming a lawless neighbourhood. It is notorious for murder, daylight robbery and theft and the security apparatus in the state is hereby invited to begin to pay serious attention to the unfolding events there. Just last month, unknown persons went to a house in Kara and slaughtered a whole family in their sleep. The head of the family, an itinerant businessman had travelled down to Onitsha on a business trip and before he could return, his wife, twin children and some other children from the neighbouring homes had their throats slit by yet to be identified people. Up to now, there is no clue as to who was responsible for this heinous crime.
And then about mid-night Friday, 25th March, 2016, the Birnin Kebbi Central Market was engulfed by a mysterious fire which was still smouldering by Saturday morning. Millions of Naira in cash was said to have been lost and the fire concentrated on the most strategic shops belonging to the richest merchants in the market. Alhaji Malami Jallo and Alhaji Murtala Zauro are said to be the biggest losers in the inferno. These two businessmen reportedly lost property worth millions of Naira in Bauer and guinea brocade, lace materials as well as other trading articles. Murtala Zauro allegedly slumped and was immediately rushed to the hospital upon seeing how the fire had razed down his shop. He is still there. As of this minute, the Birnin Kebbi Central Market traders are still counting their losses. This inferno is the single biggest tragedy that has befallen commerce in the poor state.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started at a shop that relied on solar power where some batteries exploded and then sent out a spark. Immediately after, the kindled fire spread to other shops and since most traders possessed the “I better pass my neighbour” electricity generating sets, the petrol inside them simply provided additional fuel. Over three hundred standard shops and above 1000 rough-and-ready others were lost to the fire. As you can imagine, the rescue efforts were utterly hopeless not only because the fire fighting equipment was nought but also because there was simply no water in the vicinity. Even if these two were in place, the makeshift shops provided no access for any meaningful action contemplated by relief workers. Meanwhile, speculators that had bought and locked up over 160 idle shops waiting for the highest bidder to rent also lost their deposits.
Observers have noted with alarm the sequence of fire disasters that has affected strategic markets in the North in the last few months. At the same time that the Central Market in Birnin Kebbi was burning, the Abubakar Rimi Market in Sabon Gari, Kano, was also being razed down by fire. Not long ago, the Singer Market had also been incinerated by another fire. Similar occurrences had taken place in Jos, Minna and Yola and you begin to wonder whether these are mere coincidences or there is a coordinated arsonist hand stoking these fires.
As it is, commerce in Birnin Kebbi has practically come to a standstill. Most of our businessmen and women are one line traders and it will really take a long time for the shop owners in the Birnin Kebbi Central Market to come out of this hole. This means that concerted efforts must be made, essentially by the state government, to provide relief for the losers. Relief must not only be substantial, it must be supplied immediately, in order to help maintain the mental and physical health of those directly affected by this unfortunate incident. Many people who went there to see the remains of the market couldn’t hold back tears owing to the level of economic catastrophe they witnessed.
There is an urgent task to rebuild the Birnin Kebbi Central Market. But how do you rebuild the market? Is it something the state government can do alone or does it have to go into partnership with private concerns? Obviously, this is an unforeseen and therefore unbudgeted expenditure, but if you don’t have a market where will you buy and sell? The market has to be modernised; it has to have uninterrupted water supply and a functional, 24-hour fire fighting equipment. The authorities must also take steps to eliminate makeshift structures that more often than not hinder the smooth operations of law abiding buyers and sellers. There should also be adequate and functional conveniences as well as suitable emergency exits for the users.
The fire disaster that visited the Birnin Kebbi Central Market completely overshadowed the royal splendour associated with the turbaning of the 20th Magajin Garin Gwandu, Alhaji Aminullahi Umar by the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Muhammadu Ilyasu Bashar at the Abdullahin Gwandu Palace in Birnin Kebbi on Saturday, 26th March, 2016.
It’s not known at this point what Governor Atiku Bagudu intends to do with the market, or his plans for providing succour to those who sustained losses but by Sunday, he was said to have visited the place three times to see things for himself and empathize with the people. I would like to use this space to express my heartfelt empathy to the traders, to Governor Bagudu and the entire people of Kebbi on this economic catastrophe and pray to Allah to restore them to their worth and multiply it many times over.

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