Traders at Amu Timber Market, Mushin, Lagos and residents of the area have yet to come terms with their losses after the market was razed down.
The fire broke out around 12am on Saturday and was fuelled by the building materials sold at the market. At least 11 houses were destroyed as the fire raged for several hours before it was put out.
There was also a fire outbreak on Saturday at Ojota New Garage where some shops were burnt. While firefighters were able to salvage the Ojota incident, traders at Amu Market lamented late arrival of emergency workers. A trader, Owolabi Wasiu, said firefighters came about one hour after a distress call was put across to the 767 emergency line. There is no single fire service around the market despite how big the market is. This is not the government we voted for. Why is the government taxing us if we cannot get value for our money? he asked.
Another trader, Abdullahi Yahaya, who resides in Oshodi, said he learnt the market was in flames around 12.30am, adding that when he arrived at the scene one hour later, he met just one fire truck. He added, The firefighters said there was no more water. It was around 3am that two other trucks arrived. All my planks were burnt. This is a big blow. No one could say what actually caused the fire. About N30m goods were delivered in a shop on Friday. Everything was burnt. Some people kept money inside their shops. A displaced resident, who gave his name only as Ibrahim, said he had no idea where he would relocate his wife and their two children to.
We live in one of the buildings affected by the fire. We could only pick few of our belongings. I don’t even know the next move to make now. We could not sleep throughout the night. If we had got help from firefighters on time, the impact would have been reduced, he said.
Another affected trader, Adeyemi Olalekan, described the incident as ‘unfortunate,’ saying the losses would have been minimised if there was quick response. If the Lagos Response Unit was still in place, the damage would not have been this much. The government owes the workers salaries and they have become ineffective. I used to work there. I resigned from LRU because of non-payment of salaries. The government should provide fire hydrant to major markets in Lagos. If there is one, there won’t be a reason for a fire service to be telling us in the middle of the night that there was no water. We own the government but we are handicapped to fight them. They should protect our means of livelihood. It was gathered that at a point, traders and residents had to quench fire by themselves after firefighters exhausted their water.
I sold planks there but everything is gone. It was some residents who alerted me. I lived in Ijegun. We called firefighters but they didn’t come on time. They arrived after 1am, he added. However, the acting Head of Fire Service, Mrs Margaret Adeseye, said the agency received a distressed call at 12.51am and responded promptly.
She said, Action was taken swiftly by deploying Ilupeju and Isolo fire stations which were subsequently joined by Sari Iganmu and Alausa fire stations, Federal Fire Service, Julius Berger Fire Department, LASEMA, LASAMBUS, the Nigeria Police, Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps and Red Cross. The fire we met flaming was being tackled when unidentified bystanders attacked an injured a chief fire superintendent attached to the Isolo Fire Station. He was quickly rushed to the Gbagada General Hospital for treatment. He is now in a stable condition. The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Femi Oke-Osayintolu, said one person was trapped in a three storey building that collapsed during the fire outbreak.
He said, Around 12:20am, there was a fire outbreak which suddenly culminated into explosions of plywood/asbestos. Immediately, Lagos and federal fire services and LASEMA responded. Materials worth billions of naira were consumed in the fire disaster. We rescued somebody trapped in a three storey building that collapsed. He is receiving treatment. We are still doing the enumeration of the buildings affected. At the last count, we have 11 affected houses. We have discussed with the market leaders and allayed their fears so that they could cooperate with us. Their major fear was that the government wanted to take over the place. The state government wants people to enjoy the dividends of democracy. We want to clear the rubble first before we do the holistic enumeration of shops affected in the market. There was also a fire incident at Ojota Garage but we have put it out. No life was lost.