Incessant fire outbreaks in Abuja raise fear, investors lament as unemployment worsens

January 4, 2022

8 min readCategories: News

Several fire incidents in Nigeria’s capital have come at huge losses to business owners. As many of these businesses have yet to pick up, there are concerns that the incidents could adversely affect investments in the territory, writes SOLOMON ODENIYI

The several fire incidents in the Federal Capital Territory’s markets and stores have come at huge economic losses to business owners in the territory.

Last year, no fewer than six markets and stores were gutted by massive fire in the nation’s capital, destroying goods and properties worth billions of naira.

The year began with the fire outbreak at Kugbo Furniture and Timber Market located at the Asokoro Extension. An early morning fire on January 10 razed no fewer than 39 shops in the market. The incident according to reports was happening for the second consecutive year. Properties and goods estimated at billions of naira were razed by the inferno.

There was also the Karimo market fire which reduced goods worth millions of naira in over 200 stalls to ashes which happened on July 7. The cause of the inferno was not known.

The Kubwa November 7 fire incident was the most tragic, properties and goods worth millions of naira were not only lost to the fire outbreak, lives were lost. About 10 persons including a pregnant mother and children lost their lives to the inferno. Doctors are still battling to save the lives of those with severe burns at the National Hospital. That incident was caused by an explosion from adulterated kerosene.

Barely a month later, the bustling Nyanya markets went up in flames on November 24. The fire outbreak was caused by a power surge which started from one of the shops and escalated to others. Like others, goods worth millions were also lost to the fire outbreak.

Of the six fire incidents, two multi-million naira supermarkets in the territory, the Next Cash and Carry and Ebeano supermarkets were not left out by the ravaging inferno.

On July 17, a massive fire incident engulfed Ebeano supermarket, Lokogoma, Abuja and raged for two days before it was completely put out.

Few days later, a closed-circuit television footage showing how a young girl set fire to the multi-million naira shopping centre went viral.

The girl, dressed in a black top and a pair of jeans, was seen walking to a section of the supermarket where gas cylinders and electric cookers were kept. She, afterwards, picked up a lighter and lit an item there and walked away.

She was ,however, arrested and the case was subsequently transferred to the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters.

The Force Spokesperson, CP Frank Mba could not be reached for an update on the matter. He did not pick calls to his line and has yet to respond to a message sent to him as at the time of filling this report.

But he had some months back promised to speak on the incident at an appropriate time. He said , “ I will speak on this case at the appropriate time , please. “

The latest is the Next Cash and Carry supermarket where the fire raged for three days. It was said to have been caused by an electrical surge.

But the management of the company in a statement on Tuesday by its General Manager, Pape Neil, described the fire incident as strange, adding that the store was built and operated according to international standards.

He also said the roof was fireproof and had a competent Firefighting truck which has assisted the fire service in fire incidents in territory.

Fire service and late response allegations

In virtually all the stated fire outbreaks, there were complaints of late response by fire service.

The Chairman of Nyanya market , Hammed Shehu, lamented the level of damage recorded on the Fire Service.

According to him, the federal fire service station close to the market told them there was no vehicle on the ground.

He said, “The fire started from one shop, we tried to break the door and put out the fire while we called on the federal fire service close to us. We were told

there was no vehicle on the ground. I personally took a motorcycle to their station and they repeated the same thing.”

At Kugbo market and Kubwa inferno there were similar complaints.

In the latest outbreak at the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket, some employees also accused the fire fighters for arriving late.

But the Federal Fire Service Spokesperson, Ugo Huan, said the service should not be blamed for any fire incident in the country, adding that the safety culture of Nigerians was nothing to write about.

She said, “ This is not the first time we are being blamed for fire outbreaks. We get this every time there’s an outbreak. How would you blame federal service for your own carelessness? Safety begins with individuals, our safety culture in this country is zero. How many of them have smoke alarms? How many of them have fire extinguishers ? These things are meant to put out the fire at the incipient stage.

Also, the Assistant Controller General of the Federal Fire Service in the Federal Capital Territory, Braimoh Momoh during a programme on NTA denied responding to fire outbreaks late, noting sometimes they receive distress calls late.

He said, “Our response to various fire disasters has been prompt. Sometimes, we get the information late and when you get the information late, the public will start blaming you for coming late.”

Business activities yet to pick up at burnt markets

Some of the business owners have yet to bounce back after the huge loss they incurred as a result of the fire outbreaks.

Two business owners affected at the Nyanya market fire told our correspondent that they had yet to get their businesses back on track.

Shedrack sells and repairs plasma Television , he said he was yet to begin his business after the inferno.

He said, “ Get back to business ? I have not. It is like starting from the scratch and doing that at this current dispensation is even more tough. Some people who brought their televisions for repairs are even asking for their televisions, I have to consider this too before planning to get back. “

Another victim at the market , Ojbenn Ursula Said , “ I have not started my business, to feed has not being easy. I just stocked when the incident happened. Some government officials came here during the incident and promised to look into our matter, we are hoping on them and other well-meaning Nigerians.”

Also, our correspondent observed that business activities had yet to commence at the razed Ebeano supermarkets.

Although, the Management of the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket promised to come back in no distance time stronger, the fact remains it would take a while for the store to fully pick up.

Outbreaks disastrous to FCT economy-Experts

Neil, the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket General Manager while calling for a thorough investigation into the fire outbreak at the store, stressed that the incident was capable of affecting the future of investments in Abuja and the country at large.

Business experts in separate interviews with our correspondent agreed with him.

A Management Consultant , Ekerete Gam-Ikon said the incessant inferno on stores in the FCT could affect the economy of the territory, adding that it would take time for affected business to bounce back.

He said, “It does have an implication not just on the economy of the FCT but the entire economy of Nigeria . Except they have good insurance in place, it would take those markets and stores gutted by fire to bounce back and those depending on it would have to wait a longer time. This would also affect what I would like to call the poverty index of the territory. It would also begin to affect investments especially when people know that in your environment their businesses are not secured.

I would advise the FCT Administration to study the fire incidents that have happened on businesses, take cognisance of how it happened , those that are affected, the number of people that have been sent into poverty on account of these outbreaks and the impact on the economy in order to properly deal with the issue. “

Another expert and the Chief Executive Officer, SD&D Capital Investment, Gbolade Idakolo said,” Fire is a natural disaster but we could have reduced the loss. In the instances mentioned billion of naira have been lost, it would no doubt deter or frighten investors to move into those areas and if the government does not come out with some set of guidelines especially when it comes to supermarkets to ensure that this kind of losses are mitigated as much as possible and part of this measures have to do with monitoring the kinds of building that are used for mega supermarkets,ensuring also that enough fire fighting equipment are put in place and must ensure traders and owners of business have insurance in place.”

Some of the experts expressed fear that the fire incidents would worsen unemployment in the FCT as affected business owners would lay off workers.

Measures put in place by FCT administration

The Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mohammed Bello, said he had directed the Development Control Department of the FCT Administration to conduct vulnerability tests on supermarkets and edifices in the territory to address incessant fire outbreaks in the nation’s capital.

“Besides, I spoke to our building development control department based on the experience of what happened about two days ago. We will be looking around especially on mega buildings and big stores like Next and conduct a vulnerability assessment on them.” ,

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