7 March 2010

Nigeria: 'Improper Planning Triggered Potiskum Market Fire Incident'


His Royal Highness, Alhaji Muhammadu Abali Ibn Muhammadu Idrissa is the Emir of Fika and Chairman, Yobe State Council of Chiefs. In this interview with Special Correspondent Mohammed Abubakar, he speaks on the recent fire disaster at Potiskum Central Market that destroyed millions of naira worth of properties. The royal father however heaped the blame at the doorsteps of the Potiskum Local Council, saying the incident could have been avoided but for the misuse of the revenue collected from the traders that could have gone into redesigning the market. Excerpts:

Sir, recently you paid a sympathy call on traders at Potiskum Central Market who lost all their goods to the fire; how did you feel?

I felt very sad indeed; the incident was avoidable but for the nature of the market. It could have been avoided with proper planning, and we are very sad at the huge cost to the traders particularly, because about 210 shops were razed with all the goods gone. The situation is currently being looked into; the traders deserve some compensation. The loss is such a massive one and also very saddening for all involved, and we hope that the government will look into this and some assistance given to victims of the fire. By that mishap, the livelihood of many people has been destroyed. I pray the Almighty God makes it up to them. This kind of incident does occur from time to time; nevertheless it is a big blow to the traders and the Potiskum community in general.

This fire problem, this is not the first time; what do you think is responsible and how can such incidentce be avoided in future?

Yes, I am aware that there have been many outbreaks of fire. I remember similar fire outbreak about seven months ago at the market. With timely intervention, we were able to douse the flames. There have been many other attempts, and the nature of the market is a main factor because the area is congested. In fact we observed there are no gates in the market. If there are proper routes, this would have been avoided. We know that the local government collects a lot of revenue from the market and should, at least, have put in place gates which would have reduced the likelihood of the fire, as they would have been closed by 6p.m. and everyone gone home, not loitering.

Do you think the government really is to blame?

I think I will surely blame the Local Government, they should have lived up to expectation. I mean to use the revenue collected to make the place good. We hope they will look into this and put a fire post in the market, so that if there is any outbreak of fire it will be tackled; there will be quick intervention to reduce the damage and the magnitude of destruction would be minimised.

What advice do you have for the traders?

Yes, my advice to victims of the fire is that they should take it as an act of God, from the Almighty. They should also take heart and pray to God that it does not happen again. I believe the government will come to their aid; but they should join cooperative societies whereby they can be assisted easily and secure compensation not only from the government and other NGO's in the advent of such incidence.

Also the market can be made secure by decongesting it; therefore room should be made and no littering allowed in the place.

We urge them to be patient as so many of them have lost a lot of their goods. Meanwhile they should organise themselves and pressurise the local government to utilize the revenue being collected from the market to make it safe.

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