A midnight fire which recently ravaged a popular market in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital has left many traders with bitter tales, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Midnight fire has destroyed property worth billions of naira in Maiduguri Monday Market, taking away sources of livelihood from thousands of traders.
Penultimate week, the incident had thrown many millionaires in the largest market in Borno State into poverty within few hours.
Some of the traders who operate from Kano, Lagos and neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad and Cameroon, revealed that the larger part of what they lost were goods bought on credit.
- LIVE: Nigerians Elect Governors, House of Assembly Members
- Business boom for petty traders as old naira notes bounce back
Devastated by this disaster, some of the traders have fallen sick and remained indoors while others currently engage in petty businesses.
Narrating their ordeal, some of the affected traders said that although they incurred huge losses through the inferno, a large number of their goods were looted by criminals.
One of the biggest losers, Bashir Mai-Iyali, said he lost up to 17 shops and warehouses of brocade.
“We could not salvage our goods from the inferno. I deal in fabrics and brocade. We own 17 stalls with an estimated value of over N200 million,” he said.
The trader, who is in a joint venture with others, also decried how looters stole goods that were salvaged from the raging fire.
Recounting how the incident happened, he said, “I received a call at 5am that my shops had been gutted by fire. I quickly rushed down to the market to see if we could salvage some of the goods, but when I arrived, it had burnt to ashes.”
Mai-Iyali, who deals in expensive fabrics and materials, said he imported some of his goods from neighbouring countries.
He said, “Whatever the Almighty Allah destined is the best for all of us. Our only challenge is the people we received goods from; and the incident happened before making payments. It worries most of the traders here,” he said.
Another trader, Sale Musa Maisaleh, who deals in brocades and materials said he lost over N170million to the midnight fire, adding, “It is the second catastrophe that befell us. Boko Haram insurgency reduced our 12 shops to seven, then this inferno. We have lost everything.”
Maisaleh said his father started the business over 40 years back while he was introduced in it 25 years ago, adding, “Since then, I have been managing everything.”
He also said their challenge was that they collected some of the goods on credit from wholesalers in Kano and stockpiled them targeting Sallah celebrations.
On what he is doing to survive, he said, “I now shuttle from Maiduguri to Kano to see how we can start all over and recover. It is a serious burden on us.”
Maisaleh said they could not rescue anything out of their shops. He, however, said, “I thank Allah that my father is hale and hearty, but everyone is afraid of the uncertainty that lies ahead.”
He also observed that over 30 apprentices who fed under them are now left without jobs. He called on the state and federal governments to put that into consideration because “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”
Another shop owner, Zubairu Maisumari, who rushed to the spot on the day of the incident, said he lost six shops that housed tea and mats worth N20 million.
“I helplessly watched as my means of livelihood went down to ashes. I was a millionaire days back but a pauper today. All my six shops were filled with goods, but I am struggling to feed my family today,” he said.
Maisumari, who was in tears, said he spent over 20 years struggling for livelihood, but unfortunately, “Today, I went out with a small bag of wares to sell and buy food.”
He, however, thanked Governor Babagana Zulum for his prompt response and advised the well-to-do in the society to donate to the victims so that they would bounce back to help the people under them.
Aminami Kaka, who has been operating in the market for more than 23 years, said all his six shops got burnt and he lost goods worth N20 million.
Kaka, who is a dealer in perfumes said, “I cannot believe that all the goods I received from dealers days before the inferno have gone. I wish I was able to save some of the goods.
“Those of us who have sufficient savings are now feeding from there. I don’t know about those who do not have savings.”
In an interview with Daily Trust Saturday, the general manager of the market, Mustapha Loskori, said that over 10,000 shops were destroyed by the midnight fire.
“I cannot tell you the exact number of shops we lost, but they are over 10,000. We also have squatters and temporary sheds that are uncountable. The losses are worth billions of naira,” he said.
He said the incident was a great tragedy to the state, especially now that the people are picking the pieces of their lives from the devastation of Boko Haram insurgency.
He also observed that textile material dealers were the top losers in the fire outbreak, which lasted for almost three days before it was brought under control.
The Maiduguri Monday Market was established 40 years ago, and is said to be the largest, not only in Borno State but the entire North East.
Zulum commences reconstruction, donates N1bn to traders
Meanwhile, Governor Zulum has donated N1billion to the affected traders and another N1bn as initial fund for the reconstruction of the market.
“While we are waiting for support from the federal government, the Borno State Government will not completely fold its arms, we have to start somewhere,” the governor said.
Last Tuesday, Zulum revisited the market to assess the level of the ongoing reconstruction work and expressed satisfaction.
He said, “This committee is doing a very great job and we have to support you. Most importantly, we should beef up security here to ensure absolute safety of people’s property.”
The governor also dispelled rumour making the rounds on the social media that someone donated N500million to the traders through the state government. “We did not receive such amount, people should take note of that,” he said.
He explained that donations so far received in respect to the fire incident had been properly documented, and urged mischief makers to stop spreading misleading information on the social media.
Giving a breakdown of donations so far, Zulum said N300m was made by Zenith Bank Limited; N100m each by the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, the Yobe State Government, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the chairman of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Alhaji Kashim Imam; N50m by Martix Nigeria Ltd; N20m by Al-Ansar Foundation and N10m by the senator representing Southern Borno, Mohammed Ali Ndume.
“We have to be very careful about some information going round on the social media. Some people are posting ghost donations, which we know nothing about.
“At least after every two weeks, the committee, as the custodian of the special account meant for the market fire incident, should inform the public of the amount of money received,” Governor Zulum noted.