Some traders operating within the premises of Oja Oba market in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State capital, have lost property worth about N150 million to fire.
The market stall, having 30 lock-up shops, was located opposite the popular Bisi Market at the Post Office area of Ado Ekiti metropolis.
The fire, which according to eyewitnesses, suddenly surged at about 7.30 pm on Tuesday, gutted the entire building belonging to Governor Ayodele Fayose’s Chief of Staff, Chief Dipo Anisulowo, and destroyed the property therein.
The building was formerly used by a new generation bank before being converted to a market stall for traders.
The traders, numbering 30, who were operating under the aegis of Ekiti State Youth Traders’ Association, linked the incident to alleged arson attack by unknown persons.
Rumour had it that the house must have been attacked by politicians, because the building belonged to a top politician of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) extraction in the state.
Recounting how the incident happened, the Chairman of the Association, Opeyemi Fakayode, said it started at about 7.30 pm when the security guard had already arrived.
He said some of the property could have been salvaged by men of Fire Services, but for lack of water in the fire fighting tanker, adding that the other vehicle that could have helped the situation suddenly developed fault upon arriving the scene.
He said: “None of us was able to salvage a pin from that place. Even the guard had arrived and was about changing his dress behind the building when he came back to meet huge smoke bellowing from the windows.
“We suspected arson because one of the window’s blade had bent, meaning that someone must have done that for sinister intention. We suspected that was where they used to set the building on fire.
“It could not have been electrical problem, because our light had been disconnected before the incident. Even the fuse of the generating set we were using collectively was intact and was put on neutral, which we believe could not have sparked fire.
“Some of us just went to market to buy new products to sell when the incident happened and we may end up having nothing if we have no help.”
Fakayode added that when they immediately called the state Fire Service upon receiving distress calls from the security guards to salvage the situation, but to no avail.
“When the fire fighters came with two tankers, one of them had no water while the other one with water could not pump, it became faulty.
“It was after this we called Afe Babalola University, which deployed its tanker but the property had already been razed down completely before it arrived,” he added.
In a letter dated June 20 and signed by the victims and addressed to the General Manager, state Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the traders appealed to the state government for relief materials.
They said help from government and well-meaning Nigerians remained the only way some of them could return to the market and begin trading.