We can’t bear our losses alone – Kwara traders who lost goods to fire

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TUNDE OYEKOLA spoke with the victims of the fire disaster at the Isale Oja, Owode Market, Offa, Kwara State, where foodstuffs worth millions of naira were destroyed on Tuesday

I learned of incident on the phone – 70-year-old woman

How long have you been trading in the market?

My name is Alhaja Nimota Usman. I’m 70 years old. I have been trading in the Owode Market for over 35 years. I’m a landlord and a trader in the market. I have some shops in the market, which I let out to other traders apart from my shop where I sell farm produce.

What produce are you selling in the market?

I deal in yam flour and guinea corn (dawa.)

How did you learn that the market was on fire?

Some of the traders called me on the phone that there was a midnight inferno and that all our goods had been destroyed. I arrived at the market around 4am and I met several people who were assisting the firemen to extinguish the fire. After the fire had subsided, I discovered that all the goods we stored in the shops had been destroyed.

How can you quantify what you lost to the inferno?

The yarn flour lost in the incident is worth about N250,000.

How did you raise the money with which you were trading?

I got the money through thrift contributions (ajo) done with co-traders in the market. Each of the traders contributes a certain amount of money on every market day. This market is held every five days, and on each market day, we contribute a fixed amount of money, which is given to a member of the group on rotation. I use my contribution for trading.

Has there ever been a fire incident recorded in the market?

No fire incident has been recorded in this part of the market. I have never learned of it.

How do you want the government to assist the traders who are victims of the fire incident?

The government should come to our aid by giving us money to assist us. Though we know that the government cannot give us the amount that will cover the goods we lost to the fire, they should assist us. Secondly, the government should help us to rebuild the shops in the market because right now, the traders have no money to rebuild the shops. So, we are appealing to the governor to come to our assistance.

I couldn’t salvage anything from my shop – Trader

How long have you been trading in the market?

I am one of the traders at Isale Oja in the Owode Market and my name is Alhaja Sakiratu Solagberu. I’m over 50 years old. I sell maize, rice, and guinea corn wholesale in the market. I have spent over 20 years as a trader in the market. I sell wholesale.

How did you get information that the market was on fire?

I got the information through phone calls made by some of the traders in the market around 4am. My husband took me to the market and when we came, the fire was still raging. I saw my shop burning but I couldn’t salvage anything because the fire was fierce; we could not go near it.

Are you the owner of the shop that you are occupying in the market?

No, I rented it from one of those who have shops in the market.

How did you raise funds for your business?

I got a loan from a bank as well as contributions from my family members.

What is the estimate of the goods in your shop?

The goods in the shop were worth more than N1.5m.

What is your appeal to the government?

The government should assist us by giving us funds to go back to business. Though we know that the government cannot give us sufficient funds to plow into our business; they should come to our assistance.

Standard boreholes needed in Owode Market – Head of meat sellers

How did you get the information that the market was on fire?

My name is Alhaji Akeem Ahmed, Seriki Npawa of Offa (head of butchers and meat sellers in Offa.) I sympathise with all the traders in Isale Oja, Owode Market, whose shops were destroyed by fire. When the fire started, the night guards called the Iyaloja to inform her of the incident and we all rose and headed for the market and to render assistance on how to extinguish the fire so that it would not spread to the other parts of the market. I observed that the firefighters were experiencing a shortage of water and that made it take a longer time to control the fire.

What can you recommend to the government to do for the victims of the fire disaster?

First, I want to appeal to the government to provide many boreholes in the market because the market lacks water for drinking and other domestic uses. Shortage of water in the market also prolonged the time that the firemen could control the fire. Secondly, the majority of the victims of the incident are women who are fending for themselves; the government should assist them with funds to continue with their trading.

I was lucky that new stock didn’t perish – Victim

How did you get money to fund your business?

My name is Mrs Amina Abdulafeez. I have been trading in this market for 10 years. I was born into the business. I sell rice, beans, palm oil, and vegetable oil wholesale and retail in the market. The money that I’m using for the business was obtained as a loan from the cooperative society.

How did you learn about the fire incident?

I was called on the telephone in the early hours of Tuesday by my co-traders that the market was burning and when I got there, I observed that all the goods I kept in the shop had perished.

Can you quantify the goods that were destroyed in your shop?

I came back from the market where I went to restock my shop on Monday evening but it was late. Most of the traders had closed and left the market for their homes, so some people advised me to keep the new stock in the shop of a man, which was about 200 metres from the market. The new stock was not put in my shop in the market. What I lost to the fire was about N300,000. If the new goods were stored in my shop in the market and were destroyed by the fire, I would have fainted. I would have been admitted to the hospital by now.

What kind of assistance are you expecting from the government?

The governor, Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, has sent his representative to the traders affected by the fire incident and many prominent people, including the Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi, and Senator Lola Ashiru, who is representing Kwara South in the Senate, have also visited us and they have promised to assist us, but I want to appeal to the government to quickly give the affected traders money so that we can go back to business. Some of us don’t have money to continue to trade. The government should also assist us in rebuilding the shops.

I lost shops in the market – Landlord

What types of goods were being traded in the part of the market gutted by fire?

My name is Mrs Rukayat Olaniyan. I’m 43 years old and I’m the owner of some of the shops that were destroyed in the Isale Oja, Owode Market, Offa. Though I don’t sell goods in the market, some of my tenants lost goods worth millions of naira to the inferno. In this part of the Owode Market, goods that were being traded included beans, rice, guinea corn, palm oil, yam flour, vegetable oil, and maize, as well as new and second-hand clothes.

Can you quantify your loss in the fire incident?

I told you that I’m a landlord, the shops that I lost to the incident can be estimated to be around N500,000 because they are made of wood.

Who informed you about the fire incident?

The traders who are my tenants called me on the phone saying that the market had been burned. I came in the morning to see things for myself and I saw that the wooden shops I inherited from my parents had been destroyed.

What assistance do you want from the government?

The government should assist the traders by giving them money to revive their businesses. The government should also assist us in rebuilding the shops that were destroyed by the fire. They should construct the shops in a modern way and allocate them to the original owners.

Can you recall any previous fire incidents in the market?

No, there had been no fire incident in this part of the market where foodstuffs are being sold. The only incident that occurred in 2018 happened at a distance of about 100 metres away; it was caused by a fire from a refuse dump and it only affected a shop before it was extinguished by traders around the market.

What do you think caused Tuesday’s fire?

No one can say that this was the cause of the inferno. The cause has yet to be established.

But the Kwara State Fire Service attributed the cause of the fire to a cigarette stub that was not properly put off, don’t you think this might be the cause of the fire?

This assertion may not be correct because most of the traders in that area are women and none of them smoke cigarettes or marijuana.

State govt should assist the traders – Iyaloja

How did you learn that there was a fire outbreak in the market?

My name is Alhaja Idiat Ige Ishola Yusuf; I am the Iyaloja General of Offa. Around 2am on Tuesday, I received phone calls from the vigilantes that the market was on fire. I called a radio station to help us announce that the market was on fire so that people would be alerted to the incident. I also made contact with both the federal and the state fire service that they should come to help us. There was a quick response and it was the Federal Fire Service that first arrived before the Kwara State Fire Service joined in the rescue operation. Both of them tried their best and we thank God that no life was lost because the intensity of the fire was high.

We thank the Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II. We also thank the Onijagbo of Ijagbo, who came later to sympathise with the traders as well as Senator Lola Ashiru and other elected people who came to see the burnt market and sympathise with the traders. We also thank Governor AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, who sent his representatives to visit the market and promised to assist the traders.

What do you think could have caused the fire in the market? Could it have been a power surge?

No, it was not a power surge because electricity has not been provided to that part of the market. Only God knows what triggered the fire and it could not have been caused by a fire from a cigarette because there was no one smoking in that area, and even those smoking marijuana have not been seen in that area of the market.

Have you met the victims of the inferno and what arrangements have you made to ensure that they return to their business?

Most of the people whose shops were burned are mostly women and we have met them and told them that they should take the incident as an act of God. We have also compiled their names and sent the list to the state government.

What are the challenges facing the market?

Well, the only challenge that we are facing is lack of water, because if water was available, the intensity of the fire and the level of destruction would not have been up to what was lost in the fire incident. When the men of the two fire services were working to extinguish the fire, there was a time when the water they brought was finished and they had to go and look for water. So, the government should provide standard boreholes in the market.

What do you want the government to do for the victims of the fire disaster?

The government should assist the traders with funds so that they can go back to their businesses. The majority of those affected are women who are the breadwinners of their families, so the government should assist them with funds. I’m also appealing to well-to-do individuals in society to help them. Most of them don’t have anyone to assist them. Though the government and other philanthropists have promised to assist them, I want to plead that they should do it quickly. The government should also assist them in rebuilding their shops.

I lost over N1m foodstuffs to inferno – Female trader

How long have you been operating in the market?

I’m Mrs Bushurat Salahudeen; I sell beans, yam flour, guinea corn (dawa), rice, and maize at the Isale Oja, Owode Market. I have been trading in the market for over 20 years. I sell local foodstuffs in bags to customers who come to the market every five days.

Which of your goods were destroyed by the fire that ravaged the market in the early hours of Tuesday?

I had some bags of foodstuffs in my shop, which were destroyed by fire. I had three bags of beans with each bag selling for N75,000; three bags of maize (N50,000 per bag); four bags of yam flour (N70,000 per bag ); some bags of guinea corn at N45,000 each, and bags of local rice.

Where do you purchase the commodities that you sell in Offa from?

I used to buy all the raw food items from neighbouring markets like Share in the Ifelodun Local Government Area, Idofin in the Oke-Ero Local Government Area, and Gbugbu in the Edu Local Government of Kwara State.

What is the rough estimate of the foodstuffs you lost in the incident?

It cannot be less than N1m.

How did you source the funds for the business?

I raised the funds through contributions that I made with other traders in the market.

How can the government come to the assistance of the victims of the fire disaster?

The government should assist the traders with funds to revive their businesses. Most of us are breadwinners of our respective families. We have no one but God assisting us. The government should assist us so that we can return to our businesses. We are also appealing to individuals and philanthropists in society to come to our rescue by reviewing our businesses.

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