•I’m finished, says trader who lost warehouse of generators
•40 injured, one feared dead, eight vehicles destroyed in firecrackers’ havoc
By SEYE OJO and NDUBUISI ORJI
The day after Christmas was meant for exchange of gifts among friends and families, but that was not to be for some Lagos residents yesterday who woke up to the defeaning sound of explosions caused by fire-crackers. There were tears, sorrow and anguish. The scene was Ojo Giwa and Okoya streets in Jankara area of Lagos Island. Goods and property worth millions of Naira were lost to the inferno. By the time the smoke subsided, one person was feared dead, 40 people were injured, five houses got burnt, five others and eight vehicles were destroyed.
There were rumours that the dreaded Islamist sect, Boko Haram, had made good its threat to attack Lagos until the state government doused the tension, saying, the explosion was caused by fire-crackers. The fire affected buildings on Ojo Giwa and Okoya streets. Soldiers, policemen, Nigerian Security and Civil defence Corps (NSCDC) operatives had a hectic time controlling the crowd that stormed the scene. The inferno which started from house No. 45, Ojo-Giwa Street, a Three-storey building, was triggered off by firecrackers warehouse in one of the shops in the building. Mr Segun Atolagbe, one of the shop owners explained how the fire started: “My shop was in 47 Ojo Giwa Street.
I sell fans and my partner sells generators. I was in the shop attending to some customers this morning (yesterday) when we saw some people passing through the street. It was around 9:00 a.m. As they were going, they were throwing up fireworks. They threw one up and it landed on the top floor of the houses. “The top floor is a warehouse where fire-crackers were stored. Then the crackers started exploding. Initially, we were hearing minor explosions from the top floor.
At a time, there was a deafening explosion. All of us downstairs thought it was a bomb blast. We all scampered for safety. Later, we came to retrieve some of our goods. Many of the shops were not opened because we are in the festive season. I have more than N2 million worth of goods in my shop. The whole building contained shops,” he said. Mr Casmir Emedike has his shop at No. 47. He stocked the place with decorative items such as artwork frames, flower vases, wall clocks and others. He got to his shop and discovered that everything got burnt.
“I was at home in Apapa when I was told about the fire. When I got here, I could not go near my shop because it has been burnt down. I have lost almost N78 million to the fire,” he lamented. Another trader, Mr. Taye Mogaji, who sells generators and grinding machines, disclosed that he took delivery of goods worth more than N5 million. According to him, he had N1.5 million worth of goods in his store before he took the new delivery. Many of the generators were burnt, electric motors, alternators, grinding machines and so on. We could not pick anything from the shop.” Mogaji recalled that the traders on Ojo Giwa Street had complained bitterly about the firecrackers before the incident: “We have been complaining that any day fire-crackers explode, they would wreak monumental havoc.
We usually see police escort whenever they brought in the firecrackers. “We did not report to the police because they usually came with the police escort. Do we need to report to the police again? At least, I counted eight vehicles parked on the Okoya Street that were razed by the fire.” Mr. Ozokolie Sunday Kevin could not hide his emotions as he shed tears. He lamented that he took bank loans to buy generators worth more than N15 million that were razed. He has his shop at Nos. 43 and 45 Ojo Giwa Street. “I live at Alaba International Market. I took a commercial motorcycle (okada) from my house to this place when I was told about this incident. I sell generators in the two shops.
On December 23, I brought in 50 generators. When I got here, they did not allow us to go near the shop. They said the building could collapse. Everything inside the two shops had been burnt. “The worth of goods I have in the shops is more than N15 million and the larger part of the money I borrowed from the bank. I am finished. I don’t know what to do. I hail from Enugu State.” Alhaji Alimi Nurudeen, who has his shop at 47, Ojo Giwa Street, was grateful to God that his shop was not burnt. “I live at Orile Iganmu. I was driving when one of my colleagues called me and told me about the fire. I sell generators and grinding machines in my shop. But I thank God that my store was not burnt.
I have evacuated some of my goods before the place was declared a no-go-area. To me, the fire crackers are bombs.” Mr. Ganiyu Olayiwola is an Assistant Controller with the Federal Fire Service. He told Daily Sun that the inferno was compounded because many buildings in the area have explosives. He said a child of about 10 years was feared dead during the explosion. Spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), South-West, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, told newsmen that one person was feared dead while 40 people sustained minor injuries. He noted that they were treated and discharged immediately. He explained that the people might have been injured when they were running for safety. His words: “The Lagos State Government ought to have enforced the rules that houses between each other should be 12 metres apart; six metres on one compound, six metres on the other. These are not complied with.
These are standard Town Planning rules. “We are only appealing to the state government to reduce disaster risks for us. They should not mind whoever is going to be affected. If the right thing had been done, this thing might not have got to this level.” Director, Lagos State Fire Services, Mr. Razaq Fadipe, said he deployed seven vehicles containing 10, 000 litres of water in the scene. But he lamented that the fire-fighters had difficulty in putting out the fire initially, because many buildings in the area have explosives.
He said: “When we arrived, we could not start fire fighting operation because the explosives were firing outside the building. The school opposite the building was affected by the explosives. Beams from the burning building flew into the school premises. One of the beams went as far as 80 metres.”