…Zulum, Shettima donate relief of N1bn, N100m
Tragedy struck early morning of Sunday, when a fire razed down the largest market in Maiduguri – the Monday Market.
The inferno, which started around 2am, continued to burn shops till around 6am. The cause of the inferno was still not known as of the time of filing this report.
However, some traders, whose shops were burnt by the believed it was the hand work of political elements, while others believed it was a test from God.
Abba Liberty, whose house is a stone throw from the market, told our correspondent that he was awoken by the loud sounds caused by the raging fire.
“Despite the hectic day spent at the polling booth, a loud sound woke me up around 2:30am. Initially, my thought was, may be it was Boko Haram that struck, but I later saw flame and thick smoke from the market’s direction.
“I believed the sounds were explosions of drums in the market which caused the fire to escalate to other parts,” he said.
A market official, who simply gave his name as Goni, said they could not comprehend how the fire started.
He said the market had no electricity and it was not opened since Friday because of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“So, it’s not even possible to attribute it to electricity because we have no electricity connection. The market is not on the national grid and not even solar power is allowed in the market,” he said.
He said firefighters worked since the fire was noticed until day break but they couldn’t put out the fire.
In an interview with Daily Trust, the General Manager of the market, Mustapha Loskori, also said the cause of the inferno was still a mystery.
He revealed that over 10,000 shops were destroyed by the fire. “I cannot tell you the number of shops we lost but we have E2, CU and temporary shops. In fact we have over 10,000 shops. We also have squatters and temporary sheds that are uncountable. The losses run into billions of naira,” he said.
He said the incident was a great tragedy to the state, especially now that the people were trying to recover from the devastation of the Boko Haram insurgency.
When our correspondents went round the market, hundreds of traders were seen trying to salvage what remained of their properties from the burnt shops.
One of the traders, Muhammad Isa, said he had five shops in the market but had lost everything. “I cannot immediately quantify my loss but it is worth more than N30 million.”
Mustapha Shugaba, another trader, who spoke to our correspondent in tears, said he had two gold shops that were worth over N500 million but he could not remove anything from the shop.
“The two shops were all razed down, and I lost everything. I lost over N500 million and a large number of the gold is on credit,” he said.
A major livestock dealer in the market, Sani Idris Hausari, said he had five shops of live chickens, guinea fowls and exotic birds.
“I lost all of them. Almost one hundred birds were given to me by people on credit. In fact we don’t know where to start now,” he added.
Mohammed Goni, who owned a textile shop in the market, also said he lost everything.
“I stocked the shop with materials targeting the forthcoming Sallah festivities, some of the goods were under arrangement that I will remit the money after sale,” he said.
Some other traders told Daily Trust that they had stocked their shops with food items, garments and other essential goods ahead of Sallah celebration, and most of the goods were supplied to them from Kano and Lagos on credit.
They said the impact of the tragedy was likely to be felt in faraway Kano and Lagos.
Looters ransacked shops
Daily Trust correspondents report that looters, mostly youths who disguised as good Samaritans stormed the market and began to loot whatever wares the traders saved from the raging fire.
The state government later deployed security operatives, mainly soldiers and police, to guard the market against looters.
Traders, youths attack Zulum, journalists
However, the situation took a new turn as a section of the traders and sympathizers attacked Governor Zulum’s convoy, when he arrived at the market around 7:30am to assess the situation.
The protesters also attacked a crew of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) who were there to report the situation.
While the reporter, Pauline Kudjo, and her cameraman were manhandled, the hoodlums also damaged their camera. She was later taken to a health facility for treatment.
Daily Trust gathered that the hoodlums accused journalists of coming to the scene late. However, other journalists escaped the attacked.
In an interview with our correspondent, a public affairs analyst, Abubakar Mohammed Kareto, said the news was heartbreaking.
“It is very unfortunate. Though the exact amount of losses is unknown, the Monday Market has been the state’s largest trading hub since the early 1970s.
“It has been reported on several occasions that overcrowding posed a serious threat to the market in the event of a disaster. The market is currently containing several times more than its capacity for decades, making it nearly unmanageable during a disaster.
“There is a need for market decongestion efforts, such as the relocation of some major sellers of specific products out of the city,” Kareto said
Zulum, Shettima donate relief of N1bn, N100m
Meanwhile Governor Babagana Umara Zulum has in a broadcast, announced the setting aside of N1 billion for an emergency relief to provide urgent support to victims, pending assessment of the incident.
He also promised to meet president Buhari to solicit for support for the victims from the federal government. He, however, cautioned the traders against politicising the incident.
Also, the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kashim Shettima, has donated N100m to the victims, and also assured them that the party’s presidential candidate, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, would soon reach out to them.