Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Lagos Boxing Day Fire - Our Sad Story, By Traders

Traders at Jankara market on Lagos Island, numbering 420, are accusing security agencies of denying them access to their shops, almost two weeks after an inferno that killed one, injured many and destroyed property worth billions of naira. The fire was reportedly sparked by firecrockers stocked in a warehouse. Since the incident, ,the market had been condoned off by law enforcement agents for security reasons. However, the traders lamented their denial of access to their wares.

Also, the traders called on Governor Babatunde Fashola to conduct proper investigations into the cause of the incident, identifying the owner of the ill-fated warehouse as one Ibiwoye as against one Olalekan fingered by the police.

Here is the version of the story from Okoya/Ojogiwa Traders Association as relived by their chairman, 51-year old Cletus Nnadiukwu, "We want to clear the wrong impression by government because we are the direct victims that witnessed what happened. The inferno was triggered by dynamites stocked at a shop at Ojogiwa Street and the owner of the goods is one Ibiwoye; we wonder how the police arrived at one Semilore Olalekan.

"The items were brought in around midnight of the said day amidst tight security provided by armed Mobile men numbering over a dozen though this has been a routine thing as they bring in these dangerous wares. The place is always under lock and key but the revelation got to us on the said day that the items were suspected to be dynamites which were in no way healthy to be stocked in a residential or commercial area.

The dealer is said to live at Dosumu Street on Lagos Island where he deals in fireworks. By the market arrangements, what we deal in are kitchen utensils, not fireworks, so, it is highly impossible for such items which are not highly inflammable to have caused the inferno as claimed by government. Nobody could precisely tell the cause of the fire outbreak but our members saw dynamites flying in the air taking off from Ojogiwa Street and lending on surrounding buildings there by aggravating the inferno. The affected shops were 420 in number."

Prayers

On their losses, Nnadiukwu said: "The state government should come to our aid as she has been doing in cases like this, we have lost all our life expectations and belongings in one day. Many amongst us obtained loans through various means to pay exorbitantly for shops that are worth N50,000 monthly to be paid for 5 years with 10 per cent agency and agreement and also stocked it with wares.

As a result of this exorbitant rate, many of our members could no longer afford the fees, so, the opportunity of getting that now lies in the hands of the rich many of whom are dealers of this illicit business. One of us lost goods worth of over N40m. We use this opportunity to appeal to the state government not to turn deaf ears to our plight as we are not the cause of the inferno. We are responsible citizens of Nigeria with dependants. The government should help fish out this illegal dealer whose sin we are suffering from and as well come to our aid by releasing some funds for us as we are law abiding citizens of Lagos State."

Investigations revealed that the land lady of the said building is popularly called "Iya-Oke" who has also disappeared into thin air.

Sources said danger looms on the Island as the owner of the wares that sparked the Boxing Day fire is an influential person as he still has more wares in houses there.

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