A midnight fire on Tuesday gutted about one hundred stalls at Uwelu motor spare parts market in Benin, destroying auto parts worth hundreds of millions of Naira.
An eyewitness said no one could trace the source of the fire which started around 11:45 p.m. and lasted till around 4:00 a.m. when it was put out.
Auto spare parts traders and sympathisers who were at the area joined the firefighters from the University of Benin and the 4th Brigade of the Nigerian Army to put out the fire.
Chairman of Spare parts Dealers Association, Mr. Ibie Osaretin Augustine, said the fire incident had compounded the low patronage, which traders in the market we’re currently dealing with due to the bad economy and bad roads that lead to the market.
He said it was the quick intervention of one of the people around that saved the life of one of the traders who wanted to jump into the fire to rescue his goods.
Augustine said the trader had just stocked his shop on the day of the fire incident.
He added that the four security guards hired by the traders were being questioned by the police.
He said he received a call from an unknown person that the market was on fire and when he called the security personnel on the ground, he was told that it was somebody burning something in a street close to the market.
“I received a phone call around 11: 45 p.m. that the market was burning. I immediately called the security men on duty to ask them what was happening, but he said there was no fire and that it was someone burning something around the market. I insisted that I just received a distressed call and it was inside the market, that the fire was burning, it was then that he walked towards the place while still on the phone. Then he shouted, ‘Chairman, it’s your store line that is burning please call firefighters’.
“So I started making efforts to get fire service but I couldn’t get them. I quickly called a brother around the town to help me call the firefighters but they still did not come. By the time I got here from my house, the fire was still ravaging destroying the shops. When I saw that no help was coming from the firefighters, I tried to reach out to our Local government Chairman to try and reach fire brigade for us.
“Again we couldn’t get any help, it was later that we sent two of our colleagues to UNIBEN fire service, who then followed them and immediately put the fire under control and later they were joined by the firefighters of the Nigerian Army and the fire subsided. We thank God for their intervention otherwise the whole market would have been razed by the fire,” he said.
Augustine said for now, “We do not suspect any foul play but we have held a meeting to appease those affected and prevent any suicidal attempts.
“We beg the state government to rebuild the market.”
When The PUNCH visited the market, it was observed that sections of the market affected were the lines where Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Ford, and Toyota parts were sold.
Daniel Okungbowa, who said he lost about four million Naira worth of goods to the fire said he deals in all types of fuel and oil pumps.
Daniel said he was still confused as to what steps to take next.
Another victim, Festus Maxwell Osaeruoname, wondered how the fire spread rapidly when there was no power supply to the market.
According to him, “We are yet to ascertain what actually happened that led to the fire. We could not remove anything from our shops.”