An early morning fire has gutted 32 out of 72 shops in a building located in Ogunpa Market, Ibadan, Oyo State, destroying goods and property said to be worth over N700m.
The one- storeyed building, which has adjoining lock -up shops, is owned by by St James’ Cathedral, Oke Bola, Ibadan.
Goods burnt in the fire on Sunday were agricultural produce, building materials, mobile phone accessories, shoe materials and wood products, among others .
It was learnt that hoodlums took advantage of the disaster to steal aluminium roofs and other goods found in some of the shops .
Traders said they were helpless as they could not stop the hoodlums.
According to a security guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the fire began around 3 am on Sunday from an electric spark in one of the shops, before it spread to other shops in the building.
It was observed that all the shops and goods on the top floor were destroyed. The fire also affected the walls, which showed visible signs of cracks .
The security guard said, “Electricity was restored to the market around 9 pm. All was alright until around 3 am when I observed a spark from one of the shops .
Immediately, power went off, while the fire started. The fire must have been caused by the electrical spark.
“We called for help, but help did not come early enough . The men of the state fire service came a few minutes before 5 am ; it was too late. They only ensured that the fire did not go beyond the top floor . ”
It was learnt that the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Odude; the Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Alli; and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Segun Bolarinwa , visited the scene of the fire .
Some of the traders in the market said they lost millions of naira to the fire.
Among them is Okechukwu, who said he had to cut short a journey to the East.
He said, “I met ashes and burnt receipts in my shops. Everything is gone. I used the place as a store. I have another shop elsewhere where I sell the goods. I had more than N25m worth of goods in the store, but all is gone. There is no shop owner here that had no good worth at least N 15m. This is a big tragedy. ”
Another trader in the market, Deborah Anuolu, said the fire was helped by chemicals stored in some of the shops, fuel from generators and gas cylinders.
“Every shop owner here has a generator. Some of the burnt shops had deep freezers and other types of refrigerators . These are agents that will aid fire.. I ran a shop with my husband, but we are now in debt because we lost more than N 50m worth of goods to the fire, ” she said.
A member of the church that owns the building, who declined to be identified, said although a decision had yet to be taken, there was a possibility of pulling down the top floor before repairs could be carried out.
“The loss is on the side of the traders and the church . The church will spend more than N50m to repair the building. The walls have cracked and the structure is possibly distressed. The way it is now, it is dangerous for anyone to use, ” he said .