By Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Nnewi
Goods worth over N500 mil-lion were on Friday night destroyed by fire at Woliwo Market Onitsha, Anambra State.
Some of the goods destroyed in the inferno that was said to have started at about 10 pm were textbooks, cartons of assorted stationery, cartons of pens, cartons of assorted greeting cards, packaging cartons, lab equipment and other educational materials.
Speaking with newsmen in the market, Chairman of the market, Chief Silas Uzor, said the entire market traders and his executive were devastated by the fire incident, adding that the incident happened when the traders were facing economic hardship affecting everybody in the country.
He said the market has lost goods worth over N500 million, apart from the shops that were completely destroyed and other things in their shops and materials and equipment like refridgerators, gadgets and other personal effects in their shops.
He appealed to the Anambra State Government to come to their aid, otherwise, most of the traders will not find their feet in the market again and may be forced to relocate to their villages.
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Contractor/Financier of the market, Mr. Emeka Nwajiobi while addressing newsmen over the incident alleged sabotage.
There has been crisis in this market over the constitution of the Management Committee of this market.
Instead of the management committee appointed by the government to help the state government bring sanity and development in the market, they turned round to claim ownership of the shops.
The government told them that their tenure expired last December and a new management committee will be appointed this January and today, what are we seeing? Market on fire and goods destroyed! That is why I strongly suspect sabotage, I have told this same thing am telling you to the officials of the Department of State Services, DSS, who interviewed me.
“However, we lost over 150 shops here, you know the incident destroyed four buildings housing 120 shops. All the 120 shops on top were destroyed, with many also destroyed downstairs.
As the Contractor/Financier, I’m appealing to the state government to assist me and owners of the allocated shops to reconstruct the shops for the traders to go back to their businesses.
However, as at the time of filing this report, the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has not visited the market, but his Commissioner for Commerce, Industry, Trade and Wealth Creation, Dr Christian Madubuko, who visited the market at about 11am Saturday, said the state government will set up an investigative panel to look into the immediate and remote cause of the fire incident and anybody found to have been involved in any activity that caused the incident will be punished accordingly.
He, however, said that the government will assist the traders to find their feet again by assisting them financially after the investigations into the incident have been concluded.
Member representing Onitsha North and South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Linda Ikpeazu lamented the nonfunctional state of fire fighting equipment in the markets in the state and alleged unconcerned attitude of state and the local governments towards making the equipment work.
“We cannot continue like this, anytime there is fire incident here in Onitsha, it is either the men of Fire Service Station from Asaba, Delta State or those from Nnewi markets that will come to Onitsha to put off the fire, none of the ones in Onitsha, including that of Onitsha Main Market, is functioning, government is not doing anything to help the traders in that regard.”