By Bose Adelaja
Barely one year ago, the popular Jankara market in the Central Lagos Business District, CBD was gutted by fire arising from a blast which rocked a multi-storey building located on 45, Ojogiwa street, in Idumota. The building which was used as a warehouse for different types of fireworks exploded into flames on December 26, 2012 when a small boy allegedly ignited a firecracker popularly called knockout near building.
The firecracker which hit the unsold stock in the building sparked off the fire which consumed over eight multi-storey buildings, cars and scores of people wounded.
Irked by the incident, the Lagos State government swiftly moved into action. A three-man panel was set up to investigate the cause(s) of the inferno and fish out the culprit behind the dastardly act. Also, the use, buying and selling of firecrackers were banned in in all parts of the city, although the ban has been observed more in breach.
Vanguard Metro VM observed that although some of the victims are trying to put the past behind them, scores are still struggling to make ends meet, claiming the incident has crippled their sources of livelihood. Worse still, one of them, 52-year old Michael Siyanbola died in a tragic circumstance on Tuesday August 20, 2013 after the day’s work.
When Vanguard Metros visited Jankara market last Thursday, it was lamentation galore among the traders. They accused the State Government of not fulfilling its promises to them and failure to bring the brain behind the inferno to book.
According to traders, the State government through the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority LASEMA, had assured that they (the traders) will receive adequate compensation from the government, but nothing has been done in this direction.
VM observed that some of the affected buildings have been demolished by the government while the traders have erected make-shift structures to continue their business.
One of the trader at Ojogiwa street, Mr. Badmus Anyanele said he lost N12 million which he paid to the landlord for the two shops he used before the fire incident. ‘’I lost two shops and a store to the incident. I also lost the sum of N12million being five years rent I paid upfront to my landlord. I had spent only six months there before the incident occurred,’’ he lamented.
Another trader who pleaded anonymity said he now lives from hand to mouth because his wife, a petty trader at the University of Lagos, UNILAG now stays at home as a result of the prolonged ASUU strike.
‘’All my life’s earnings were lost to the inferno while my wife who took over the payment of our children’s school fees, now stays at home as a result of the ASUU strike. In fact feeding is now very difficult for our family of five,’’ he said.
The President of Okoya/Ojogiwa Traders Association, Mr. Cletus Nnadiukwu said the incident has dealt a blow on the entire association, ‘’From the angle of my Christian faith, life has been so good but on the other hand, things have not been easy as we look unto God for survival everyday,’’ he said
Asked how the traders cope with the makeshift structures he retorted ‘’imagine somebody who occupied befitting structures in the past now struggling under a shed, my sister, it is not easy at all. First of all, the makeshift is not conducive either in the rainy season or dry period. We have to pack the goods after the close of work. Can you imagine the rigours?’’
Mr. Nnadiukwu decried the harassment by street urchins, popularly called area boys and Local Government officials. ‘’The frontage of the make shift structures is being used for brisk business by street urchins. For instance, vehicle owners who patronise the market are forced to pay a sum ranging between N300 and N1,500 or face the wrath of the area boys who are well supported by the big wigs in the area. Also, our goods no longer attract attention as customers are often distracted by the vehicles,’’ he alleged.
According to him, the association had on many occasions registered its plight with appropriate authorities without any positive response. ‘’We have registered our plight with the Ward leader in person of Chief Odutola who simply told us the area boys should be allowed to do their legitimate business. Also, the Local Government officials come here to lock up the sheds for no good reasons.
We have employed the services of eight sweepers but the officials still harass us over alleged sanitation offences,’’ he further claimed.
Concluding, he called on the State Government to come to their aid. “The State Government sent enumerators from LASEMA and promised to assist us but nothing was done. We have visited LASEMA on two occasions but we yet to receive any form of compensation. Government should help us, our people are dying of hunger and we don’t want to be forced out of business,’’ he added.