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Traders count losses in the aftermath of Lagos market fire

Shade took a long look at what was originally her shop and her eyes glistened with tears. She managed without success to hide her face…

Shade took a long look at what was originally her shop and her eyes glistened with tears. She managed without success to hide her face away from her 12-year-old daughter, Bolu, as the tears finally dropped.

Pointing at what was left of the goods she had stocked in her shop before she went home on Tuesday night, all had been reduced to ashes by the early morning fire which razed over 100 shops at the popular Apongbon market, in Lagos Island.

Not knowing what else to do, she roamed around the place, obviously in deep thoughts, and looking at what was left of other shops. 

“What happened and how did the fire start,” she asked one of the security men who passed the night in the market. But sadly, not even the security man, Ibrahim, could provide answers to her questions. 

Some said she recently stocked up her shop ahead of the Easter celebration.

Most traders usually do so ahead of festive seasons and Shade is among several others who must have lost millions of naira to the fire.

Like Shade or Mama Bolu, as she is popularly known in the market, several other traders are also counting their losses.

The affected traders struggle effortless to salvage what was left of their goods to no avail as the few ones recovered were also stolen from them by urchins who besieged the place.

Some traders put the goods destroyed at over N700m as many claimed to have stocked their shops with goods few days back.

Shade Ajayi wondered how she was going to survive considering the harsh economic realities.

“I sell cartons of tomato paste, butter and flour. The goods in my shop alone are over N8m.

“Mama Helen’s shop is bigger and she has well over N20m worth of goods. She is one of the biggest distributors,” she said.

Pointing at what was once her shop, she said she had about N500,000 cash in a safe and that the safe and its contents also got burnt in the fire.

Another trader, who identified himself as Big John, said it was his neighbour in the market who informed him of the fire.

“I think I got the call around 6.15am and by the time I arrived at the market, the entire place was raging. Some men from among us formed a rescue team. Our intention then was how to put out the fire.

“We scrambled for water. Those who sell sachet and bottled water lost all they had as people broke into their shops, carrying bags of pure water with which we tried to put off the fire.

“Some fetched water from taps, while others ran to the lagoon to fetch water.

“We started moving our goods out when it dawned on us that the place was beyond redemption,” he added.

He noted that officials of the federal and state fire service arrived at the place around 7am and by then the fire had gotten out of control.

Meanwhile, the federal government said it would carry out an integrity test on the burnt Apongbon Bridge before it can be reopened to traffic.

The Lagos Controller Works, Federal Ministry of Works, Engr. Olukayode Popoola, disclosed this in a chat with Daily Trust.

The entire area had been cordoned off by policemen. That notwithstanding, hoodlums, also known as “Area boys”, still found their way into the market while the fire was still raging all in a bid to loot items.

Speaking with our correspondent, Engr. Popoola said “We will carry out integrity test to know the extent of the damage.

“So, I cannot tell you anything now until we carry out the test and that is why we have barricaded it. The very first thing is to just close it down to prevent further calamity.”

Daily Trust reports that the situation has worsened gridlock in and around Lagos Island as the closure of the bridge spilt over to adjoining areas like Iganmu, Orile, Costain, among others. 

Our correspondent reports that vehicles coming out of Victoria Island were managing to use Ebute-Ero exit into Eko Bridge but the gridlock has remained heavy.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), on Wednesday, warned members of the public to be wary of the presence of burnt canned foods in Lagos markets.

It said there are strong indications that some urchins, as well as traders, have started the re-distribution of burnt canned food, stolen during the fire outbreak at Apongbo, Lagos Island, to other markets in the state.

Some of the urchins, under the guise of helping shop owners, allegedly carted away several goods from affected shops. 

Some of the goods include canned tomato paste, butter, canned drinks and canned fish.

Public Relations Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Ibrahim Farinloye, while warning members of the public, said some traders whose shops were affected might start selling burnt products far below their original cost price.

“The public is hereby urged to be wary of tomatoes paste, margarine and sardines when purchasing such products.”