The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), has urged the Federal and Anambra Governments to assist victims of the Oct. 16 fire incident in Onitsha.
A statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja by Mr Ken Ukaoha, the President of NANTS, stressed the need to set up compensation mechanisms and possible loans to help the traders.
Ukaoha consoled families of those who died and traders whose wares and sources of livelihoods were affected by the fire.
He also expressed worry that the incident could push affected youths into criminal activities.
“We must all bear in mind that this incident has the capacity of pulling the affected young people into criminal activities and other vices as an immediate alternative to sustain a living.
“It must be placed on record that the affected shops pay taxes and levies to the state coffers, thereby, not only contributing to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) base but overall national development.
“Therefore, they must not be overlooked or abandoned at such painful and agonising period,’’ Ukaoha said.
He further appealed to the Anambra government to convene stakeholders’ meeting to address the issue of safety standard in Onitsha to forestall future occurrence.
Ukaoha added that the outcome of such could produce a blueprint to address other flashpoints across the country.
He called for an inquiry to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of unabated fire incidents in Onitsha.
“We need protection from the menace of trailers, tankers and their drivers as we can no longer continue to live with the fear of insecurity while doing our legitimate businesses.
“These incidents are becoming too many and can no longer be swept under the carpet.
“Also, the government must recognise that more than N6 billion worth of goods from over 500 shops belonging to traders have been smoked away by this singular incident.
“We ought to have learnt from previous incidents,’’ Ukaoha said.
He also emphasised the need to review the nation’s extant policies on emergency, especially fire disasters, particularly as it affected traders.
Ukaoha urged the state government to make public reports of committees set up to investigate previous incidents so that lessons could be learnt with appropriate actions and sanctions.
“We wish to remind all tiers of government that such wasted investments apart from those who died to add great value to the nation’s economy.
“It is our opinion that this incident is preventable and should have therefore been prevented to avoid many being rendered jobless and employment sources being cut short.
“We must learn to secure our economy, and particularly understand that traders are the heartbeat and engine of the economic life of every society,’’ he said.