7 January 2007

Nigeria: Fire Guts THISDAY Headquarters

Lagos — Fire gutted THISDAY corporate headquarters in the early hours of yesterday morning, causing major damage estimated at millions of naira.

The fire which started at about 3.03a.m. raged for about two hours, 30 minutes and razed the entire penthouse of the main building in the complex housing printing plants, IT infrastructure, the news room, the advertising and accounts departments.

The Penthouse accommodates the offices of THISDAY Chairman /Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena as well as the offices of his chief of staff, Business Development Group Head and personal staff.

The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained.

However, when the fire was noticed by staffers on production, there were immediate attempts to put it off.

But the intensity of the fire aided by the harmattan wind made it difficult for the staffers' effort to contain the inferno.

The staffers then made several telephone calls and despatched two delegations to the Ojuelegba office of the Federal Fire Service. Also, the fire service section of the Niger Biscuits which is the next door neighbour of THISDAY immediately came to the rescue.

Also, Lagos State government officials, including Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Folarin Coker, who were contacted immediately facilitated the fire service section of the Lagos State governor office in Alausa.

Shortly after the fire began, Mr. Obaigbena arrived the office to take control of the situation.

Six fire service operations from Ojuelegba, Isolo, Alausa, Nigeria Ports Authority, Tin Can Island, Apapa and Niger Biscuits came within short intervals of each other and assisted in fighting the inferno which raged for about two and half hours before it could be brought under control. They eventually put off the fire at about 5.30a.m.

However, the fire had consumed the entire floor housing the chairman's office.

Documents, both in hard and soft copies, computers, furniture, the chairman's personal library, prized art works and some other personal effects were completely destroyed. Also gutted in the fire were archives of all past THISDAY editions, all past THISWEEK magazine editions, the complete editions and archives of THISDAY South Africa, TIME magazine archives, personal works and prized manuscripts.

In his reaction, Obaigbena, thanked God that there was no loss of lives and praised men of the fire services from both the Federal, Lagos State and the neighbouring Niger Biscuits Company who responded to distress calls. He particularly commended the NPA Tin Can Island team whose state of the art equipment made the difference.

Obaigbena then inst-ructed the staff to ensure that the operations of the newspaper continue unhindered while he also took charge of the operations and the printing of the newspaper rolled back into action.

As early as 8.30am, sympathisers have started trooping in to commiserate with the chairman and staff of THISDAY News-papers while prominent individuals were making telephone calls to Mr. Obaigbena. One of the early callers who spoke to Mr. Obaigbena on phone was President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo in his telephone conversation with Obaigbena expressed gratitude to God that there was no loss of life and prayed that God will continue to protect all staffers of the newspapers and the company properties.

Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Uwais (rtd) and his wife, Maryam, presidential spokesperson, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State, Mr. Andy Uba, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman and her aviation counterpart, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode also expressed their sympathy to Obaigbena on telephone.

Others who called on phone to sympathise with the Chairman included Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Com-mission (EFCC), who said he was shocked and devastated by the news of the fire incident, Mr. Jim Ovia, Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor of old Abia State, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, MD, Tanus Communications Ltd, Mr. Muyiwa Bakare, MD, Caldwell Properties, Uncle Sam Amuka, Chairman of Vanguard newspapers, Mr. Ademola Osinubi, Managing Dire-ctor, Punch Newspapers and the newspapers Executive Director, Mr. Azu Ishiekwene.

Among those that have so far visited the corporate offices of the newspapers to express their sympathy on the incident included Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in company of Senator Mahdi Abubakar and Mr. Tunji Bello, the Commissioner for Environment, Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Tayo Aderi-nokun, former House of Representatives member, Mr. Nduka Irabor and his wife, Ebele, PDP gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Chairman of The Punch Newspapers, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, Executive Chairman of Dangote Group of companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Oil, and Mr. Charles Nwodo, Managing Director of XL Management.

Mr. Tony Elumelu, Managing Director of UBA Plc, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, Mr. Oronto Douglas, a lawyer and environmentalist, and Mr. Chiedu Ebie of Ozzard Petroleum also visited THISDAY premises yesterday to convey their sympathy to the company's management and staffers.

Other sympathisers who visited THISDAY Chai-rman were former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and his wife, Angela, Mrs. Fatima Wali-Edu, Dr. Abiodun Eke-Aluko, Mr. Bayo Amusan, President, Lagos Polo Club, Mr. Tosin Runsewe, MD, Guarantee Trust Assurance (GTA), Mr. Oye Odukale, MD, Leadway Assurance Plc, Mr. Seun Ajayi, MD, Sovereign Insurance Inc, MD, Guardian newspapers, Mr. Emeka Izezeh and the newspaper's editor, Mr. Debo Adesina as well as photojournalist, Mr. Sunmi Smart-Cole.

Early sympathisers who visited THISDAY office also included Mr. Kenny Odogwu, Mr. Tayo Amusan, both businessmen, Mr. Chike Ogeah, MD, Skypower Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) and Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in Lagos, Mr. Tunde Fashola.

Others are Mr. Femi Falana, lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director of The Sun Newspapers respectively, the Managing Director of The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Victor Ifijeh, Editor The Sun, Sunday News-papers, Mr. Louis Odion, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, Editor, Vanguard New-spapers, Mr. Asue Igho-dalo, a lawyer and Mr. Waziri Adio, former editorial board member of THISDAY, who is now a staffer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mr. Olutokunbo Ena-boifo, an assistant to PDP presidential candidate and Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar' Adua also commiserated with Mr. Obaigbena on phone.

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