It was a black Sunday for shop owners at Ganaja, a suburb of Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, on June 12, 2022 as fuel tanker explosion engulfed their shops and razed them completely.
Over 30 shops, including a plant for processing waste plastic materials, amounting to over N150million, were said to have been burnt in the raging inferno.
The shop owners in the makeshift market at the Ganaja roundabout had various items for sale: phones and accessories, textile materials, shoes, drinks, second-hands goods, foodstuffs and a mini processing plant.
Daily Trust Saturday noted that the debris of burnt items were still littering in the burnt market as shop owners were clearing and gathering the remains of their materials.
The victims of the tanker inferno who gathered in twos and threes bemoaning the unexpected fate that befell them expressed grief and hopelessness as a result of the explosion that gutted their shops and made them jobless.
“I still think I am dreaming; maybe I will wake up one day. I can’t just believe it. I was in my shop on Sunday morning, about 10 o’clock when I saw petrol flowing in the drainage. I never thought that by 4pm of the day the shop would cease to exist,” Shaibu Idris, a shop owner who claimed to have lost millions in the inferno lamented.
Idris said the tanker fell down at the roundabout about 11pm on Saturday when everyone had closed from their shops and gone home.
The victim, who claimed to have had various types of phones and accessories in his shop, added, “By 3 o’clock, another tanker came in and they started evacuating the fuel from the fallen tanker. Shortly after a compartment was drained off completely, the tanker tilted and changed position, hitting its body on the ground greatly. The impact of the fall splashed fuel and made contact with the pump being used to drain the fuel from the fallen tanker. Suddenly, it sparked with a loud bang, splashing balls of fire everywhere.
“The fire spread opposite the place via the tunnel like lightening and engulfed all the shops, burning them completely. Nobody took anything away from the shops. By 4pm on Sunday, we had lost everything in our shops.”
Idris said his worry, like many other affected traders, was mostly how to repay the money and materials some people kept in his shop, which were completely burnt.
“The secret is that some of us served as bank to commercial motorcycle operators, tricycle riders and others in their line of business. Some kept money and phones with us, which they expected to at anytime. We paid them on demand. And in most cases we slept in our shops,” he also said.
On how much he possibly lost to the inferno, he said there was a customer who brought an i-phone he valued at N250,00 for charging the previous night and had not collected it before it was burnt, alongside other materials in the shop.
Another victim, Buhari Abdullahi, who had a waste material processing plant, said he would never forget the incident. The plant, raw materials and finished products were burnt.
“He just repaired one of the waste processing plants with N1.5million three days ago. A bag of processed plastic waste costs over N35,000 and 30 bags were burnt,” one of Buhari’s workers said.
He was also said to have kept a lot of money in the shops, including what was brought by his kinsmen who operate makeshift shops around his plant.
Buhari, who was downcast as a result of the incident, managed to say, “You have heard it all from my colleagues here. I leave everything to God.”
He said he could only retrieve a container from the fire, and that is where he is operating from now.
In the same vein, a victim who deals in iron and steel materials and simply identified himself as Okafor, said he lost a complete engine of an articulated vehicle and some wood planks displaced for sale.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that although the tanker fell in front of his shop, Okafor was a bit lucky as his location prevented the flow of the fuel from moving in his direction.
Also, a soft drink seller, popularly known as Iya Iyabo, is still counting her losses as she was said to have restocked her shop on credit from for a weekend sale.
Daily Trust Saturday also learnt that when the fuel-laden tanker exploded, the owner of the fuel quickly separated the head of the burning tanker and left before anybody could notice what happened.
Meanwhile, the victims of the inferno have been receiving sympathisers, with pledges to assist them bring back their businesses.
One of such sympathisers, who holds the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Ajaokuta federal constituency, Abdulraheem Sanni, promised to create an enabling environment that would make the victims restart their businesses without much tears.
The APC chieftain, who made the pledge when he visited the scene of the accident, said the process of offering support would begin with having an inventory of the affected persons and goods.
Meanwhile, the victims have appealed to the state government and good-spirited individuals to come to their aid.
The ill-fated tanker was said to have lost control and veered off the road in an attempt to avoid potholes while approaching the roundabout.