On Monday, March 22, 2021, traders of Katsina Central Market were thrown into agony as a devastating fire which broke out around 8:30 am razed down hundreds of shops and stalls where goods and properties worth billions of naira were destroyed. Daily Trust reports on the inferno and its aftermath.
Sympathisers from far and near trooped to the market to commiserate with the traders over their losses, with some donating to the funds being raised to assist the victims, even as the market remained under lock and key in order to allow for proper and thorough assessment of the damage caused and loss incurred.
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Some of the victims of the inferno who spoke with Daily Trust said it was too early to give the exact figures of what they had lost but recounted their ordeal during the unfortunate incident.
Alhaji Shamsu Badaru is one of those mostly hit by the fire disaster as he said he had about 26 shops and stalls under his company, Alfa and Sons, affected by the inferno.
“In our company, Alfa and Sons, in which I am the leader, there are about 26 shops burnt and all of them were well stocked and including even our sales from Friday evening to Sunday evening as all the cash was inside waiting to be taken to bank on Monday, then the unfortunate incidence,” he said.
“We sell a variety of items both wholesale and retail. In these 26 shops, we were not able to salvage anything, and as I told you, all the money generated within that period was burnt inside. So for the time being, I cannot give any rough estimate of what we have lost as we need time to do that,” the businessman said.
Alhaji Shamsu said from the personnel, labourers to security men, there were over 120 people working for the company and that meant many families were affected by the inferno and that also meant life would be miserable for most of them.
He called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, come to the aid of the traders, saying they were however solaced by the plethora of sympathisers, particularly the federal delegation that came to share in their grief and to promise some assistance.
Alhaji Musbahu Umar Maizare, the Secretary, Board of Trustees of the market, said as a Muslim, both profit and loss must be accepted with equal equanimity as they all come from God. “Whatever situation one finds himself, in gain or in pain, is a trial from God and one must accept it as such to pass the test.
“I rushed to the market immediately after receiving the bad news around 8:30 am and the market was open already. Two of my shops were burnt down but as of now, I cannot tell you the exact loss. We have attempted evacuating the goods and in the process, some were damaged, and some stolen by thieves who posed as helpers,” he said.
According to him, the traders were hopeful with the high level delegation that came from the federal government, saying that was an indication of concern on the part of the government as well as a good omen that the government was ready to assist the victims.
“We are also confident that the state government was concerned because the governor came to see for himself even while the fire was still razing. Our major concern now is that such help should come as early as possible because a lot of those affected by the disaster are low-income earners who strive on a daily basis to feed their families,” he said.
Maizare also called on the government to reopen the market as soon as possible so that those who are affected could pull themselves up again to keep going.
On his part, Malam Tanimu Lawal said he lost at least N10m in his two shops that were completely burnt down.
“We sell textile materials, women wrappers and children’s clothes and as I said, we were not able to remove anything from the two shops. We however thank God for the trial and we pray to him to replace us with more than what we have lost.
He called on the government to construct boreholes and water reservoirs in and around the market so that in the event of a similar occurrence, such sources could be used without delays.
He also called on the government and philanthropists to help the victims as some will go completely bankrupt if they could not get any support, particularly in erecting the shops and stalls for the traders.
Kamalu Abdurrashid also said by the time he arrived at the market, the area of his shop was not on fire, but while they were assisting to put out the fire, they received the information that the inferno had spread to their area.
He said one issue that compounded the problem was that too many thieves who posed as helpers carted away goods.
“We have attempted to evacuate some of our goods, but unfortunately, most of those that were collecting them in the name of help were actually thieves, because after then, you could not trace where our goods were taken to,” he said.
To corroborate this position, the Katsina State Police Command on Wednesday paraded about 34 suspects arrested at the market during the inferno.
Parading the suspects, the Police Public Relations Officer in Katsina, SP Gambo Isah, said some of the thieves used vehicles to cart goods away.
He called on the residents of Katsina to report anybody with goods suspected to be stolen from the market during the fire incidence.
When our reporter visited the market on Wednesday, a combined team of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the Red Cross were working assiduously to assess the level of the damage, taking data of the victims as well as counting the affected shops.
The head of the NEMA delegation, Abbani Imam Garki, who is the Northwest Zonal Coordinator of the agency, said they were directed by their Director General to sympathise with the victims as well as to conduct an assessment on the level of devastation by the fire so as to see what to do in terms of aid.
“We are also to advise the traders, particularly their leadership, on how to avert future occurrence of such unfortunate incident,” he said.
Also commenting, the Executive Secretary of the Katsina State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Hon. Babangida Nasamu, said the state government was also going to use the report of the combined team in order to come up with its overall decision on what to do.
Daily Trust reports that organisations and wealthy individuals have started giving their donations, with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, making a donation of N50m, while the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced a N5m donation on behalf of Kebbi-based Charity organisation.