How Ibadan market leader lost N26.8m to midnight inferno

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By OLA AJAYI, Ibadan

If Mr. Olusola Olalere, the General Chairman, Ifeleye/Ogunpa Market had known the people whom he had offended as the leader of the market, he would not have hesitated to beg them for forgiveness.

He would have pleaded for mercy if he had  known that the deadly blow his alleged enemies would leave on him would be this disastrous.

Though, the incident did not claim the life of Mr. Olalere, the scar it left on his life may take a very long time to heal.

If asked to describe the saddest day of his life, it is a fact that he would not want to mention Monday December, 10, 2012 when all his means of livelihood were destroyed by a strange fire that gutted his shop at Ifeleye Market.

He would not want to remember the day not because it was not the saddest day but he would prefer to keep mum on the incident because it would fester  another wound and leave sad memories that would make his heart bleed.

*Rubbles from the burnt building (inset) Mr. Olusola Olalere

After the day’s hectic work, Mr. Olalere had gone to bed hoping to have a sound sleep in his residence located in the  Olorunsogo area of Ibadan.

But before he could fall into a deep sleep, he got a strange  phone call came about 11.55pm informing him that the storey building where he kept N1.8m and motorcycle spare parts estimated at N25m was on fire. He quickly dashed to the place but the raging fire did not give him room to take even a needle out of the entire shop.

Although men of the Fire Service were there on time and used their expertise to check the spread of the midnight inferno, but their best could not help Olalere.

This latest incident happened a few weeks after an early morning inferno destroyed property worth millions of Naira at Labaowo Market, just some metres away from Ifeleye.

The fire, according to Olalere, razed down the   storey building which houses tyres, motor batteries and other goods.

The havoc caused by the fire could have been more if the men of the fire brigade had not responded on time. When Vanguard Metro visited the scene the following day, billows of smoke still enveloped the market.

Some men were seen pulling down the whole structure because there was virtually nothing to retrieve from it.

A cluster of traders stood opposite the road narrating the sad incident. Till now, what caused the fire that started from the upper part of the building still remains a mystery as there had been no electricity supply to the market for the past three weeks.

But Olalere, a motorcycle and spare parts distributor told Vanguard Metro that he had a clue as to what caused the fire disaster.

He Alleged in a very convincing tone that somebody set his shop ablaze although he could not tell who the person was.

As the leader of the market, he said there was no way he could please everybody. Painfully, he had just bought some  goods on Friday and all of them were lost to the fire.

VM met him outside a shop, where he was squatting. He was drinking cold water intermittently even though it was in the morning. As he was being interviewed, several phone calls from sympathisers almost became a nuisance.

Besides, some sympathisers stood in groups consoling him and praying that God should replenish Olalere.

To all these prayers, he was just muttering some words, sometimes, inaudible.

When asked how it all happened, he managed to say this: “After I had left the shop on Saturday, I got a call around 11.55pm that my shop was on fire. I quickly rushed there. By the time I got there, fire men were there. They did their best but all my goods worth N25m and 1.8m that I kept in the shop were gone with the fire. The building is there. We are pulling it down perhaps we may still see the remnant of the burnt money”.

”I don’t suspect anybody, but you know that as a leader, you offend some people and also please some. But, I’m sure somebody torched my shop. There has been no electricity supply for the past three weeks and I don’t use any generator. The one I had, I have given it out to somebody. When there is heat, I always sit in front of my shop”.

Asked him if any of his boys knew about the money he kept in the shop, he replied by saying that it was only his cashier that knew about it.

”I cannot suspect him because he has been with me for a long time and he is very honest,” he said.

Olalere appealed to Governor Abiola Ajimobi to put measures in place to mitigate the losses of the traders.

Mr. Sina Sotunbo, another trader, estimated the goods he lost at N20 million.

One of the men from the state fire service  said he and his men brought three water tankers to the scene.

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