… Security men on the run
From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
There was pandemonium in the Ogbosisi section of the Bridgehead Market in the commercial city of Onitsha gutted by fire on Wednesday night, even as traders accused the local vigilance group and past executive of the market of complicity. Daily Sun gathered that the fire started in the late hours of Wednesday after the traders had closed their shops leaving the market under the care of the members of the vigilance group. One of the victims, Mr. Michael Okoye, said the news of the inferno got to them in the early hours of yesterday, adding that before he could rush to the market, his shop and goods including cash had been consumed by the inferno.
He said: “I just got a contract yesterday and the money paid for it was among the cash that got burnt in this shop. Also my goods that I offloaded just yesterday were all gone with the fire.
I also had a giant machine that cuts woods into sizes which was also burnt, in fact I lost over N100 million to this fire.” Mrs. Maria Olikeze also said she lost everything to the inferno while calling on the state government to come to her aid and save her entire family from starvation that would follow the fire incident. She, however, said the cause of the inferno still remained a mystery.
The President General of the Onitsha Bridgehead Traders Association, Mr. Emeka Ilonze, said though the actual cause of the inferno was unknown, the action of the members of the vigilance group in the market had called for suspicion, adding that the cause of the fire was not due to electrical fault. Ilonze, while taking the Chairman of Onitsha South Council Area, Mr. Ugochukwu Ezeani, round the burnt market, dismissed the rumour that the cause of the fire was electrical fault, adding, “there is no way it could be caused by machine or electrical fault, though for now, only God and the security men knew what caused this fire disaster.”
He said the Wednesday’s incident was not the first time such calamity would happen at the Ogbosisi market, cabinet section but said the market got burnt in January 2010 under such mysterious circumstances and urged the security agencies to unravel the true cause of the inferno while commending the fire service for responding on time. “I have been here since 3 a.m. when I got information that this market was on fire again, I called the police and also called the fire service, they responded and on time too.
That was why the fire could not escalate to the entire Bridgehead market, I must tell you, several millions of naira and equipment have been lost to the inferno,” he said. The Transition Committee Chairman of Onitsha South Council Area, Mr. Ugochukwu Ezeani, expressed sadness at the level of damage caused by the inferno and urged the traders to remain calm till investigations into the cause of the incident were concluded.
He said the state government would make sure that the security agencies fish out the perpetrators of the dastardly act and also investigate the allegation of the involvement of the members of the local vigilance group in the inferno. However, Daily Sun gathered that the four security men in charge of the market were at large when the traders trooped out to demonstrate which had further threw confusion over the alleged mastermind of the fire incident.
When contacted, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Ralph Uzoigwe, confirmed the incident and said investigations were ongoing to unravel the circumstances surrounding the inferno and the alleged culpability of the vigilance group members.