December 4, 2020

#EndSARS: How hoodlums vandalised, looted my business, owner of Mr Biggs outlet in Gbagada laments

#EndSARS: How hoodlums vandalised, looted my business, owner of Mr Biggs outlet in Gbagada laments

…Says half of staff sacked, remaining workers on half pay

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

SEVERAL days after, many business owners are still bitterly counting their losses to hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest. One of the victims, Mr. Gabriel Eretchabor, who runs a Mr Biggs franchise in Gbagada, Lagos, is still tormented by the pain of that devastating experience as the vicious hoodlums vandalised and looted his business premises, leaving his once flourishing business in ruins. This is why he is presently pleading with Lagos State government for help.

According to him, the eatery that opened for business on January 31, 2015, lost over N21 million on account of the mayhem orchestrated by the hoodlums, stressing that while half of the 18 employees have been asked to stay home without pay, the remaining are on half salary.

How my shop was looted

Hear him: “On the fateful day, Gbagada was in turmoil. We heard that some hoodlums had taken over the entire Diya Street where my shop is located in Gbagada. I tried to come from my house to probably see what was going on. I stopped by one of the gates at the Deeper Life end. There was fire everywhere; used tyres were burning everywhere. The boys from our street (Diya), and Sonobi Street came out and said they would not allow bad boys to enter the area.

Nobody could access the roads or dare to come down to where my shop is located to see what was happening. It was the next day that we came to see the devastation done to my shop. The entire shop, the entire glass wall, very toughened glass wall that served as a defence wall was shattered. If you watch the video clips, you will see a heavy pipe loaded with concrete which they must had uprooted from somewhere. They used it to hit the glass wall severally until they were able to shatter it to gain entry into the shop.

“When they entered the shop, they started breaking, and looting everything in sight. Our service counter, our television, our wash hand basin made of glass, our chairs, tables were carted away. Good a thing, our CCTV camera was on, and from the video footage, you could see the level of devastation; how it all started and how they looted my shop. You could see them carting away our chairs, cups, food and every other thing, bags of chicken, pastries, cake shelve loaded with cakes, they emptied everything. You could see them in the video footage destroying all that they could not cart away. They carted away our drinks and emptied everywhere.

“As you can see, we are trying to do a makeshift arrangement and look for funds to return to business. We have gone to some banks and our bankers are telling us they could only offer loans for about 20 to 26 percent interest rate. We heard about Access Bank giving interest free loans. We have filled their forms and submitted. But we have been told to get a police report which makes it very funny. On the fateful day, we called the police to report that on Diya Street, shops are being vandalised and looted. They said sorry, we cannot respond because we are having crises in our hands. We have video clips and pictures of the destruction and looting. The good news is that we have the CCTV footage and once we download it, you can it.

“In terms of cost, we have done initial estimate of N15 million loss, and if we look at our loss in sales, that is about N6 million. All together is N21million. If we can get about N15 million we should be back in full operation.”

Insurance, Lagos State assistance funds

“I did not insure the business. The building is not my property. But normal insurance for employees is in place. I am one individual that does not believe in the kind of insurance that is offered in Nigeria. Outside Nigeria, insurance is fine, but here, it is a charade and I can tell you that I do not regret not insuring the business.

For the Lagos State funds, yes, I got the information from a friend after the incident and I was able to fill the form online and did attach three pictures because it could not take more than three pictures. Two days later, I got a response from the state government that they have received my application and that they would send some representatives to assess the damage.

“About a week later, a representative came and brought a form. I took him round, he took some pictures and video clips that we recorded.    He asked for us to do a little video recording where I appealed to the Lagos State government to come to our aid. Since then, we have been waiting to hear from them. To be fair to the representative from the state government, he told me that the exercise would last for one month. From the calculation, we took it that probably it would last up to the end of November. So, we are hoping that towards the end of November, we will hear from them.

READ ALSO: Updated: Body found in wreckage of footballer Sala’s plane

“We are also using this medium to appeal to the Lagos State government to come to our aid. If they can assist us with all that is needed to bring us back to business, or augment what we are going to spend to return to full operation, we will appreciate it. I tried to be as straight forward as I can. Some people might be tempted to exaggerate their losses, but I only put the information I know as it is. The one I do not know, I estimated based on verifiable facts.

“We were lucky. The day when the government announced the curfew, we directed our staff to close shop by 3.00 pm so that they could get home before 4.00pm. We took out most of the cash we sold for a couple of days before that day; if not, it would have been really traumatic. Until that day, we used to have a certain amount we call ‘float’ which was kept in small denominations for giving change to customers.

“We go to the bank to get the float. Even when we do our cash remittance to the bank, float of N60,000 was always there. That float disappeared. I put in the form that the cash that they took was N60,000. I am not interested in exaggerating. I only want my shop back. I pay my tax, personal income tax is paid directly from my office. For the business tax, I also pay as at when due. We have direct staff of 18. Half of the staff have been asked to go home without pay, while those that are working are on half salaries.”