*Pledges to assist affected traders
By Dapo Akinrefon & Monsur Olowoopejo
Lagos—Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has said the state government will assist traders who lost their shops and wares to Monday‘s fire incident at the Balogun Market to get back to business.
Fashola made the pledge, yesterday, when he visited the scene of the incident to sympathise with the traders and ascertain the extent of the damage.
An inferno at three multi-storey plazas at the Balogun Market, Lagos Island on Monday razed no fewer than 150 shops and destroyed goods worth millions of Naira.
Fashola said the government would work with officials of the market to verify losses, adding that relief would be provided to victims as soon as enumeration of traders was completed.
The governor described the incident as pathetic and promised that the government would replace buildings and structures lost to the inferno.
Fashola said: “I sympathise with you on this incident, especially you women trying to earn a living and keep body and soul together. This is indeed a very pathetic incident.
“Be assured that our government will stand with you at this difficult period and we will help you get back on your business. That is the reason I have come with the Commissioner for Special Duties.
“I am working with the Iya Oloja and other market women to authenticate and verify all legitimate losses to the incident and this will apply to all affected in all the plazas.
“Once everyone has been identified, we will do our best to put you back to business and that will include replacing as many destroyed properties and buildings as possible.”
The governor, however, said the incident was a compelling reminder of the need for the traders to insure their businesses against losses.
Fashola explained that insurance, apart from providing compensation for losses, would also help to reduce risks associated with business.
He also urged traders and all residents to always take precautions against fire outbreaks.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to all Lagosians that this is the dry season. We have two seasons in our state, the rainy season and the dry season.
“The rainy season, where we have the risk of flooding, we have successfully contained that. We are now in the dry season, where we have the risk of fire.
“We must be interested in our own safety and security. I appeal to you to stop storing inflammable materials in your homes and business places.
“Residents should cultivate the habit of turning off their electrical appliances not in use. It is the harmattan period and the harmattan wind makes fires easy to start and difficult to contain.
“As at yesterday, we were dealing with 18 fire incidents. That should tell anyone that a lot more precautions are needed during this season,” he said.
Fashola, while commending the state‘s fire service for responding adequately to the incident, noted that the new fire engines acquired by the state in November greatly helped to contain the fire.
Briefing the governor on the incident, Director of the state‘s Fire Service, Mr Rasaq Fadipe, said the cause of the fire had not been ascertained, but an electrical fault around the market was suspected.
Fadipe said it was a great challenge putting the fire under control as there were too many illegal structures around the market which limited access of equipment and men to the scene.
“We are happy that at last the fire was brought under control. What we have now is smoke billowing from the destroyed market and that poses little threat.
“We are still here, we will ensure that the smoke is gone before we vacate here,” he said.
Agbaje commiserates with victims
Meantime, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje yesterday promised better conditions for markets in the state if elected as governor on February 28.
Agbaje, who was in Balogun Market to commiserate with victims of the fire outbreak decried the condition of some markets and the plight of traders in the state.
Recall that an early morning fire on Monday gutted about 50 lock up shops and buildings in the Balogun market.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after his visit to victims of the outbreak, Agbaje decried the condition of the market which he said contributed to the fire outbreak and inability to curtail it on time.
According to him; “I will not only build more and affordable markets to meet up with expansions in the state like Jakande did, I will ensure that they have basic amenities. I feel the plight of the traders in Lagos, selling in markets that lacks basic amenities including water, toilets and motor able roads.”
In addition, he said “we must find solution to incessant fire outbreaks in markets in Lagos”.
While he said there was need to organise the markets better for the interest of the state, the governorship hopeful blamed some of the problems faced by traders in Lagos on what he called vested interest.
He said “in any place where you have vested interest, it affects the life of the people limiting the state from realising it’s maximum potentials.”
On allegations of planning to sack workers, Agbaje said it was propaganda and that his administration plans to employ more especially teachers for primary education.