By Ugochukwu Alaribe & Eric Ugbor
Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has ordered the immediate closure of Aba Shoe Plaza within the Umuehilegbu Industrial Market following an attack on the personnel and truck of the State Fire Service.
Vanguard gathered that the Abia firefighters arrived the market to fight an inferno which engulfed a section of the Aba Shoe Plaza market, popularly known as ‘Bakassi market’ when some shoemakers attacked them, destroyed their vehicle and injured most of them.
Though no life was lost in the incident, the shoemakers were said to have been angered by the late arrival of the fire service to the market when the inferno had consumed most of their shops and properties.
Reacting to the attack on the fire service, Gov Ikpeazu, in a statement signed by his Chief of Staff, Dr Anthony Agbazuere, ordered the closure of the market and also suspended the Chairman and all members of Management Committee of the market.
The governor further directed the Police and other security agencies to arrest all perpetrators of the act.
Contacted, Aba Zonal Commander of the Abia State Fire Service, Mr Okezie Uche, explained that they escaped death by whiskers following the attack on them by the shoemakers.
In his words; “The shoemakers attacked us, destroyed our vehicle and injured us without any form of provocation except for them coming to extinguish the fire. We got a call about a fire outbreak at shoe plaza in Ariaria International market.
“They attacked us, they didn’t allow us to do our job when we got there all the way from our office. They started beating us, stole our phones, destroyed our vehicle for no reason just we came there to do our job. I don’t know what they really wanted from us.
“These people started beating us while the fire was still burning. The police came to our rescue. They beat our driver, one of our workers got his arm broken.”
A fire service personnel who declined to have his name on print told Vanguard that the damaged vehicle is the only functional fire fighting truck in Aba Zone which comprises nine council areas.
He disclosed that the bigger fire fighting truck in Aba zone broke down in October 2019 and is still parked at the premises of the Abia State Fire Service, Aba Zone, at Constitution Crescent.