It’s been almost two weeks now after a huge fire razed one of the plank markets in Lagos, the Oko-Oba wood market in Ebute-Metta area.
Most of the affected traders are yet to recover from the shock. This would be the second time in six months that the market would go up in flames.
Traders are counting losses after fire blazed through the market destroying property that some claimed can’t be less than N100 million. The cause of the fire which is yet to be established, started in a section of the market.
Rescuers and traders from the area attributed the fire outbreak to negligence and strong winds.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the agency and others tried hard to prevent the fire from spreading to other areas.
The Public Relations Officer of NEMA in the South West Region, Ibrahim Farinloye, said some makeshift shops were completely razed by the fire and it gradually moved to other sections of the market.
“The fire was huge because there was too much wind and so most of the shops with logs were burned down,” he said.
However, some traders alleged the fire started due to the negligence of people who lit a fire in another section of the market but didn’t care to properly put it out. The fire was then blown by the wind to the sawmill area where they have sawdust.
One of the traders affected by the fire, Kolawole Ojo, said he had to leave the area after losing everything to the fire.
“The fire started near the sawmill and from there it caught logs already lined up for sawing and then burning down almost the whole market.
“There is nothing remaining in the market. We were even informed that a trader had a stroke because he lost his money there. He almost jumped into the fire when he heard about the unfortunate incident,” he said.
Shade Gbolahan, who sells nails, said she lost everything in the fire and will have to look for another source of income.
According to her, she had hidden over N700,000 in her shop which was burnt to ashes.
“All my belongings were burned because when the fire started, we thought it was not going to reach us. When it reached us, it was too late to act.
“I tried but I could only manage to save five bags of nails. Two beds, mattress and gallons of gums were all burnt,” she said.
She said her dreams have been shattered by the fire, having lost her husband two years ago.
Another trader, Rashidat Alimi, whose shop was consumed by the fire, said she incurred huge losses, pointing out that the information about the fire outbreak reached her late.
“We don’t know where this problem came from, it is becoming a ritual. Some of us have not recovered from the previous fire outbreak. I had one of the biggest shops, so I lost almost N5m,” she said.
They called on the government to come to their aid as some of them obtained loans from banks and other financial institutions.
Recall that a similar fire occurred on January 5 and razed over 500 properties belonging to about 2,000 traders, majority of whom are struggling to make a living by selling planks, keys and nails.
The Oko Oba sawmill is one of the biggest sawmills in Nigeria, contributing about 80 to 90 per cent of woods used in Lagos State. Located at the Lagos lagoon in Ebute Metta, the sawmill accommodates over 2,000 sawmill operators and is meant to sustain the supply chain in the entire metropolis.
The state government had previously unveiled plans to relocate the saw millers at Okobaba to Agbiwa-Ikosi site following the recurrent fire outbreaks.
The Lagos State Government also revealed that it has plans to embark on a comprehensive regeneration of the old site in Ebute Metta.
The State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, said the government was waiting for the relocation to Agbowa timber village before saddling the state’s Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) with the new task.
But the saw millers’ relocation remained unresolved, years after the Mainland saw millers’ association signed a memorandum for resettlement in Agbowa, Ikorodu, with the former governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola.