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Makurdi Fire disaster: We’re still in shock, disbelief — Affected traders

…Call for aid as they count their losses

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

Last Wednesday’s fire disaster that consumed the popular Wadata Market in Makurdi no doubt has left tales of woes and unimaginable pains in the hearts of the victims of the inferno.

No fewer than 600 lockup shops and stalls were razed in the conflagration while the losses incurred by victims have been put at over N1billion.

Many of the victims have been left in a state of shock, disbelief and hopelessness while they count their losses even as majority still kept believing that it could be a bad dream that would end at the break of day.

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There is no gainsaying that not a few of the victims are currently going through harrowing post traumatic stress disorder which might take a while to overcome given the magnitude of losses most of them suffered.

Some of the victims who spoke to Saturday Vanguard lamented how the disaster had brought them misery and agony given the timing of the firebreak at a time of the year when they had brought in new stock preparatory to commencement of sales in the new year.

Recounting her ordeal, Mrs. Fumilayo Eric who said she traded in cereals said she lost goods worth over N1million to the disaster.

“I just came back from the market where I bought bags of millet, corn, rice and guinea corn but I have lost all that now and the most painful part of it is that I obtained a loan from our thrift society to buy the goods. I only pray that public spirited individuals and the government would come to our aid to help us overcome this the sad effect of this disaster,” Mrs. Eric said.

On his part, Isreal Osho who traded in confectionaries and dairies said he was woken at about 2am by phone calls from neighbours who alerted him of the fire outbreak at the market and when he got to the scene all he had in his store was gone with the fire.

Osho said, “I arrived here and could hardly locate my shop, everything was razed to the ground. My goods worth over N900,000 were gone. I couldn’t hold back tears. At a point I almost ran into the fire because it was like my world had come to an end but for good young men who held me back and drummed into my ear that it was not the end of the world.”

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For Mrs. Christiana Lawrence, a big time trader in yam flour, millet and sorghum, the disaster had set her several years back as all her savings were used the day before the disaster to stock her store.

“Everything is gone just like that. How I will continue with the trade is what is presently troubling my heart and I just hope help will come from somewhere before it is too late,” Mrs. Lawrence added as she wept.

Yusuf Adamu on his part lost over 50 bags of groundnut to the inferno with a market value of over N9,000 per bag but was lucky to have rescued eight bags before his shop got consumed.

“I still thank God that no life was lost though the situation we have found ourselves is such that if we don’t get help we might find it hard to take care of our families,” Adamu lamented.

For Precious Okiri, a trader in frozen food, she lost several cartons of frozen fish and her deep freezers to the inferno including bags of corn which she bought for family use.

“Till today I still believe it is a dream, but God knows why it happened to us at a time we were preparing to start business for the year. This is just the saddest moment of my life”

On his part, Uba Mohammed a renown trader in the market who sold powdered milk, sugar and confectionaries in bags said he lost good worth over N800,000 to the disaster and added that he was still in shock and disbelief. “Till today we do not know the cause of the fire but we pray that God touches the heart of good spirited people to come to our aid because the loss we incurred is too much. I am still in shock,” Mohammed said.

Also weeping uncontrollably was Mrs. Salamatu Abdullahi who deals in cereals. According to her, aside losing over N3million worth of goods to the disaster, she also lost two of her shops.

“This is where I make a living to feed my children and take care of their educational needs but all that have gone with the fire. Where do I start from now?”, She queried as she fought back tears.

Further counting the losses of the traders, the Vice President, Makurdi Traders Union, Yusuf Gambo, said majority of traders usually obtained loans from banks and schemes in the market to stock their shops at the end of the year preparatory to commencement of sales in the new year lamenting that most of the goods were consumed by the fire.

“Most of the traders got loans to acquire the goods that were destroyed, and the fact is that most people affected cannot survive without their trade and need an intervention from government to sustain their families.

“Though we are still collecting information about the burnt goods and will make that public soon, we are appealing to spirited individuals, organisations and government to come to the aid of the victims,” Gambo said.

Speaking on the incident, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Mr. Doo Shave said the command was alerted of the outbreak around 2am by one of the affected traders and his team quickly mobilised fire trucks to the scene and eventually put out the fire at about 5am.

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Shave said, “we have five functional trucks in the state now. We did not arrive the scene late, we got there as soon as we got the report at about 2am and within 10 minutes we mobilized to the scene.”

Meanwhile, one of the early visitors to the ill fated market was Governor Samuel Ortom who after assessing the damage caused by the inferno expressed shock at the level of destruction and losses suffered by the traders.

He immediately announced the donation of the sum of N30million to the victims to cushion the effect of their losses.

While directing the beef up of security in the market to prevent the looting of goods, Governor Ortom also announced the setting up of a committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Tony Ijohor to investigate the cause of the fire and also come out with a recommendation to prevent a reoccurrence.

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