By Bose Adelaja
The popular Balogun Market in Lagos Island has been in the news for the past three months not for the bustling commercial activities there, but rather for the frequent outbreak of fire which has destroyed goods and property worth billions of Naira.
The most recent occurred on Wednesday April 1 when a two-storey building at No 23/25 Balogun Street collapsed after it was engulfed by an inferno. Though no casualty was recorded, but eight lock-up shops were completely razed. The traders had closed for the day’s business when fire was noticed at one of the shops around midnight. An alarm was raised and sympathisers immediately rushed to the scene and tried to put off the fire. In the event, fire fighters were not alerted until the inferno had spread almost to the surrounding buildings. The Onikan fire station was eventually contacted and the situation was brought under control.
The building in question was used mostly by traders dealing in clothing materials and head ties. Eight of these unfortunate traders are presently counting their losses which they put in the region of billions in Naira.
Speaking with Vanguard Metro, VM, the Chairman Hides and Skin Section of the market, Mr Azubike Nwachukwu, said each of the traders lost about N200 million to the inferno. “The least of the shops had goods worth about N200 million before the inferno; also, one of the traders stocked about N500 million worth of goods before she travelled for the election,” he informed.
One of the affected traders simply identified as “Mama Gold” said she lost goods worth N350 million to the inferno. “My phone rang in the middle of the night but I ignored it only to be greeted by the bad news when I woke up. I rushed to the scene but it was too late,” she lamented.
Director Lagos State Fire Services, Razaq Fadipe, blamed the development on storage of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS(or petrol), in the affected building.
However, prompt response by the Onikan fire station prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings. “Our prompt response prevented the fire from spreading to the surrounding buildings. “Onikan station was closer to the scene but we gathered that petro- chemical products were stored in the building which collapsed because of the severity of the fire. We responded with four fire trucks from Onikan, Sari-Iganmu and Alausa,” he informed.
Wednesday’s inferno was the second recorded in the market within a space of three months.
The incident occurred on a day the Arrival Wing of the Murtala International Airport was almost gutted by a mid-afternoon fire. The fire was said to have destroyed two offices on the first floor of a six-storey building occupied by the National Drugs and Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.
Fadipe said the area was smoke-filled and required the use of breathing apparatus to locate the source of the fire.
VM gathered that the incident disrupted flight activities for hours and triggered panic among passengers who hurriedly abandoned their luggage and ran out of the international terminal.
However, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mr Yakubu Dati, had moved to douse the resulting panic, dismissing the incident as nothing but a fire scare.