No fewer than 100 shops were razed in a fire incident at one of Abuja’s largest furniture markets situated in Kugbo.
Although no life was lost, the fire incident, which victims confirmed to this newsmen as the fourth in 11 years, started early Sunday morning. It destroyed furniture items, materials and machines estimated at millions of naira.
Like other affected traders, Jude Okeke, was combing through the carcass of his shop when newsmen approached him on Monday noon.
Mr Okeke’s shop was razed leaving only its corrugated roofing sheets as evidence that it ever existed. He valued his losses at over N15 million and hinged the possibility of a quick comeback from such blow on a miracle.
“How do you think a father of three can recover from this without help? See my shop, I can’t point to anything from a shop that had goods worth millions,” the 45-year-old trader lamented.
In her account, Ann Chineto said she witnessed a similar fire outbreak accident in 2010, 2013 and 2020, all within the same market which spans across hectares of land.
“We don’t really know what led to the fire this time around but it is not a new thing around here. I have been trading in this market since 2002, that is about 19 years, and I have witnessed such an incident more than four times in the last eleven years,” she said.
The 36-year-old Chinelo was sharing a big shop with her elder brother who also deals in furniture before the fire outbreak.
Another trader, Osas Williams, weighed the “unlikelihood” of a rapid comeback from his fresh property loss.
Unlike most of the victims newsmen interacted with at the scene, Mr Williams said he suspected foul play.
“The problem we are having in this market are the people that call themselves leaders, they are not trying. This is not the first time such a thing would happen.
“They’ve even tried a couple of times to make sure that we don’t construct those workshops again forgetting that they can’t exist without us. We are the ones that made those furniture you see in those showrooms outside,” he said, estimating the worth of property he lost at over a million naira.
Mr Williams reluctantly admitted to the congested condition of the furniture makers wing but dismissed it as the possible cause of the fire outbreak.
Another witness, who identified herself as Joyce and claimed to have gotten to the scene earlier, said the fire started from the part of the market dominated by the furniture makers.
She said, “they struggled to salvage some of the goods before they realised they could not put out the fire and ran for our lives before fire-fighters came almost three hours later.”
Asides the officials from the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) who visited the scene before newsmen, the victims said no government officials have visited.
“They said they will come back to assess the extent of damages and work out a mode of compensation, even though we all know that even if the compensation comes, it may not get to people like us,” Ms Chinelo said, echoing the views of other victims newsmen spoke to.