By Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY – AN inferno believed to have been caused by power surge has gutted the popular Lagos Street market in the heart of Benin City and this has also started a war of words between the state government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the latter has been accused of being responsible for the fire outbreak that destroyed goods running into millions of naira.
A statement by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare has called on the police to invite the leadership of the APC for question alleging that the fire incident was part of diversionary strategies ahead of the 2023 elections as he claimed that similar scenarios were experienced in the state capital during the build up to the 2020 governorship election.
He said “Recall that prior to the 2020 gubernatorial election, Eki Osa, Santana and Oba Markets were set on fire.
“Now that elections are coming again, the APC has resorted to one of its devilish and inhuman tactics and has started with the Lagos Street fire incident.
“The relevant agencies of government have commenced investigations into the Lagos Street fire incident and no stones will be left unturned in the process because enough is enough. Col David Imuse Rtd, APC State Chairman and Mr. John Mayaki, Chairman of Edo Media and Publicity Committee of the APC Presidential Campaign Council are persons of interest and should be invite to help with the investigation of not just this fire but all previous market fires on the eve of elections in Edo State.”
Mayaki in a statement has criticized Obaseki and his government over alleged failure to find a lasting solution to regular fire incidents which ravaged major markets in Benin City, the Edo State capital, particularly at the end of the year.
He said, “Every December, innocent women and traders in Edo State are made to suffer the terrible tragedy of seeing their life investments, and possibly sole means of economic survival, destroyed by fire outbreaks enabled by the negligence and irresponsibility of the state government.” He said the incidents have followed the same pattern.
Meanwhile, an eye witness who gave his name as Joseph Eboigbe, a dealer in cosmetics in Lagos Street said , there was no power supply all through Tuesday until at about 7.00pm when power supply was restored with a very high voltage and by then most of the shop owners were gone home.
“What happened was that there was no light all through Tuesday, until at about 7.00pm when light came, but then many people had gone home and at about 7.30pm, we started seeing smoke from one of the shops, before anything serious could happen, there was this burst of flame and that was how everywhere caught fire, we have to call the fire service, who came, but before then most of the shops were already consumed. They saved the day, because they came with two vehicles and if it were not for their efforts the fire would have extended to other shops and houses there.”
A victim of the fire incident, Paul Umoh who said he had been in one of the shops since 1981 and deals in kitchen utensils, said he lost over N10 million in the incident.