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How traders lost fortunes in Lagos multiple fire outbreaks

Agony, sorrow and pains have continued to trail a series of fire incidents that have been recorded in the Balogun business district, Lagos. The market…

Agony, sorrow and pains have continued to trail a series of fire incidents that have been recorded in the Balogun business district, Lagos.

The market which plays host to millions of people from within and outside the country daily has witnessed not less than seven fire incidents in the last one year.

Different sections of the market have been engulfed by fire, and on each occasion, goods worth billions of naira are consumed.

In fact, the market, which is located on Lagos Island, had been hit by some of the worst and most tragic infernos in the country’s history.

During the different fire incidents, warehouses, shops, offices, restaurants and law firms have been consumed.

These incidents have left many people dead or injured, and the pain of losing life savings lives on to this day. Many of the victims are still yet to recover as loans collected to stock their shops have not been repaid.

Just last Monday when people were preparing for the Eid El-Fitr celebration, a fire broke out at the Dosumu business area of Balogun, throwing scores of traders out of business.

It was about the most intense fire in recent times which affected 14 buildings altogether, out of which four collapsed while properties and goods worth billions of naira were destroyed.

According to emergency responders, the cause was rumoured to have started from a printing house owned by a business man, simply called Uche, who was said to be trying to refuel his running generator. The fire went out of control and spread to other generators in the penthouse.

“From there, explosions caused shrapnel of fire flying across the road to the adjoining and opposite of the building,” an official said.

The state emergency management agency (LASEMA) in its preliminary report said, “The fire which started at about 11:00am was said to emanate from the first building on Dosumu Street.

“Investigation gathered revealed that the fire started from a shop where a generator set was being fuelled while still on. The generator ignited in the process and the person fuelling the generator threw the fuel to the building opposite, causing the fire to escalate. The fire had currently affected about fifteen (15) buildings out of which six (6) had collapsed. No casualties or mortality recorded so far.”

Traders recount losses

Traders, who lost their goods and properties, are still grappling in the shock after the fire incident which razed their stores.

Emmanuel Olanipekun, a co- owner of KAF stores who sells decoration materials inside a 4-bedroom apartment on No. 51 Dosunmu Street, expressed grief over the loss of goods.

The soft-spoken man revealed that he lost N15 million worth of goods, adding that he took a loan from a commercial bank to purchase the goods.

“Both my shop and store got burnt. We sell decoration materials, baby clothes, and sewing machines. My friend also owns a space here.

“My goods are worth N15 million and I took a loan from a commercial bank. The goods are in the stores in the care of someone who will sell on my behalf,” he said.

He expressed worry that the burnt goods were not insured, and appealed for assistance from the government.

“We don’t have insurance. We just sell and buy but whatever the government can do for us is welcome,” he said.

The Iya-oloja general of Lagos Island, Alhaja Sikirat Lasisi, her daughter and her husband- Alhaji Lasisi, a developer, lost properties running into billions of naira.

Narrating their ordeal, a grandson who was at the scene disclosed that the huge loss has thrown the victims into a terrible situation.

“My grandma owns a store. She sells decorations and fabrics in a storey building.

“We are trying to calm her down. She is not happy. It is a tragedy and a huge loss. Both her daughter’s store and husband’s house, everything has gone. We just have to accept everything in good faith,” he said.

Chronicle of fire incidents

This fire incident was not the first in recent times.

On January 26, 2023, while traders were just returning from their Christmas and New Year holidays, a fire incident engulfed House 5 Gbajumo Street, Balogun market, Lagos Island. The house was a four-storey building where clothes and shoes were sold.

The fire started at about 12:45 a.m. and it took the concerted efforts of fire men from the federal and state services to put it out at about 3am.

However, while dampening was ongoing, the fire started again around 6am and lasted for another three hours.

Also on March 28, 2023, another fire broke out at 32 Gbajumo Street, Lagos Island. It started from the Pent floor used as a store.

The fire also affected a 3-storey building close to the 5-storey building.

Fire service officers said the building was completely burnt down as a result of the intensity of the fire.

“The fire affected the floors 3, 4 and 5 of the building including the Pent floor, while the 3-storey building was completely consumed.

“Not less than 350 shops located on the 5-storey building were burnt. The block work part of the 5-storey building collapsed, leaving only the metal part standing.

“Altogether, 580 shops were estimated to have been burnt, including a branch of the Union Bank. One person was recovered dead while seven others were injured,” Ibrahim Farinloye, Territorial Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said.

Similarly, on January 22, 2024, fire engulfed the entire 16th floor of the old Mandilas building, Lagos Island.

It was reported that an estimated 6,700 traders, 450 shops, 30 offices, two hotels, five restaurants were affected.

The Iya Oja of the Atunwase International Market Mandilas General, Alhaja Adeniji Rashidat who briefed the assessors, said the fire started at about 12.11 am from the first floor where an alleged electric welding activity was going on. 

Officials from both the state and federal fire service said the fire spread to surrounding market stalls at Atunwase International Market, causing extensive damage.

Markets lack safety procedures – ex-official

A former General Manager of LASEMA, Mr Tiamiyu Adesina, in an interview said it is high time authorities began to implement safety procedures in the area. He described the recent incident and others before it as worrisome.

“There is also the human angle. In this area, it is commonplace to see people handling generators carelessly. There is no space.

“It is one of the biggest markets in Lagos and because of the lack of electricity, people had to resort to generators to power their stores.

“Again, the Lagos State Fire Service has a duty to regulate safety procedures in premises. People still circumvent rules. You cannot have an investment of this nature without a fire-preventing mechanism. How many of them have smoke detectors? It shows there is something wrong. How many of them know how to evacuate from a building during an emergency.

“When you stay in this area, situations like this will occur and it is unfortunate millions and billions are going down the drain every day. We must be very firm and I am happy the Lagos State government has given a directive to stop all business activities,” he said.


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