Traders at Aguiyi Ironsi International Market, in the Ladipo area of Lagos, have raised the alarm over a suspected case of arson following a fire outbreak that destroyed several shops and goods worth millions of naira in the market.
It was learnt that the fire, which began on Friday night, gutted over 200 shops in the Never Give Up and Bakassi sections, leaving several goods, including tyres, burnt beyond recognition.
Auto parts, including fairly-used engine, motor gearbox, steering racks, shock absorbers, propellers and fuel pumps, were said to have been destroyed in the inferno before the arrival of state fire service, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Agency and the police.
Some of the traders affected were said to have sold some of the damaged items they could salvage to scavengers at cheap rates.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farintoye, in a statement on Saturday, said the fire rapidly spread across three blocks that housed auto spare parts within the market and was aided by combustible substances stored around the affected locations.
“Most of the shop owners did not have insurance coverage on their business despite all efforts on awareness creation and sensitisation on the needs to imbibe the culture of insurance coverage of the business outfits.’’
But a dealer, who said he lost three shops but did not want to be named, told Sunday PUNCH that he suspected foul play due to the level of damage done by the inferno.While lamenting that one of his affected shops served as a store for his valuable goods he said, “It looks like the place was set on fire. An electrical fault could not have burnt the building like that. The fire affected more than 30 shops. If I begin to quantify how much I lost to the fire, I would get angrier.”Another trader, who identified himself as Frank, said, ‘‘The fire did not affect some shops in the same building, so we believe it was not accidental. Last month, we were given a quit notice to create space for the building to be renovated but we said there was no need for a renovation. They gave us until February 8 to leave but we did not leave before this incident happened. It has not happened before.
The President General of the market association, Mr Jude Nwankwo, who told our correspondent that some of the traders were inconsolable, said that the incident had been reported to the police.
Nwankwo added, “To be sincere, I cannot tell you exactly what caused the fire incident. The only thing I know is that my security persons called me at about 10:30pm (on Friday) that there was a fire incident in Aguiyi Ironsi (building), so I had to rush down to the place to find out what caused the fire incident but nobody could tell me exactly what happened.
“As human beings they (traders) are sad but we are trying to console them. We are appealing to the state government to come to our aid and we are also appealing that a fire service station should be created in the Ladipo axis.”
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, could not be reached and had yet to respond to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing the report.