Daily Trust (Abuja)

19 January 2013

Nigeria: Day Fire Rendered Kaduna Destitute Homeless

Kaduna — Four years after fire razed part of the building housing hundreds of physically challenged persons in Kaduna, killing seven of them, another one has engulfed parts of the building again.

The building housing the destitute including the blind, deaf, dumb and cripple, among others is located on Kano/Ilorin Road in Kaduna metropolis.

Weekly Trust gathered that the inferno occurred a few minutes to midnight last week Friday, which caused panic and confusion among the destitutes as they all scampered for safety.

Weekly Trust also gathered that no life was lost to the fire, but two of them sustained fracture while running for safety. The houses gutted by fire were made of zinc and wood.

It would be recalled that in December, 2008; fire engulfed part of the destitutes' camp killing seven of them, injured many others and destroyed their properties.

Narrating how the incident occurred, the chief of the blind, Mohammad Tukur said "we were all in our rooms on Friday night when there was a sudden electrical spark after which fire took over the place."

He also confirmed that no life was lost, but that two of his people sustained fracture and had been taken to their villages. According to him, mattresses, chairs, wheel chairs, money and clothes among others were lost to the fire.

Since the latest round of this fire, those affected according to him, have been sleeping outside, noting that the few rooms spared by the inferno cannot accommodate all of them.

As at Thursday, re-construction work was going in the camp as men were building new accommodations for them with wood and zinc.

The Public Relations Oofficer of Kaduna State Emergency Agency (SEMA), Abubakar Zakari Adamu confirmed the incident, saying that they were yet to confirm the true cause of the fire.

He said that they gathered two reports from the camp. "While a source said the fire was caused by electrical spark, another one said maybe one of the women forgot to put off her fire after cooking at night, which escalated into the building. So, we are yet to know the authentic cause of the fire, because this is the second time we are having fire in that camp," he said.

Tukur said the victims have challenges of getting good place to sleep and good food to eat among others. He said they need additional rooms to accommodate them and their families.

"We solely rely on people who give alms to us whether in cash or in kind, even the rooms here are not enough to accommodate us, because we are many and have wives and children," their leader said.

On whether their children go to school, he said they cannot afford to send their children to school, reiterating that getting food to feed themselves, wives and children is a very big challenge talk less of sending their wards to schools.

"Schools now are meant for the rich and in fact, if we send our children there, they will be sent back home," he said.

According to him, Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero when he visited their home last promised to render assistance to them.

He appealed to the state government to help them build their houses with blocks and that the rooms should be shared for them so that they can also enjoy some comfort.

The physically challenged persons also called on government to build a hospital for them as well as a school where they can be treated when sick and where their children can be given education.

"We also want government to be giving allowances to the heads of the physically challenged in the home, so that we can attend to the yearnings of our people and stopping begging for alms. If we don't have a steady income, we cannot stop begging," he stressed.

The district head of Gabasawa who was also seen at the scene of the fire, Alhaji Jibrin Mohammed also recalled that the destitutes formally stayed along Hadejia Road, Katsina Road and Kano Road before they were all moved to occupy the building that was gutted by fire

According to him, there are over 1,000 physically challenged persons living in the camp, noting that there is need to expand building to take more rooms and provision of essential facilities for them.

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