By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
Stock worth billions of naira have been destroyed by fire at the popular Uwelu spare parts market in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State.
No one was hurt in the midnight blaze which began at about 11:45pm on Monday night, and was put out at about 4am on Tuesday.
The cause is yet to be ascertained, but, sources said, the guards on duty were asleep when the fire broke out from shop EE Line at the market which is the largest in Edo and the States.
Firefighters from the University of Benin and the Nigerian Army School of Supply and Transport , S & T spent more than two hours tackling a blaze that burnt over 100 shops which were not insured.
Some of the affected traders were said to have just bought goods.
It was gathered that sections of the market affected are the lines were Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Ford and Toyota parts are sold.
Some of the traders collapsed when they visited the scene. One of them was said to have almost ran into the raging fire but was stopped.
When our reporter visited the spare parts market, sympathisers were seen around while the victims were being consoled.
Daniel Okungbowa who said he lost about N4m worth of goods to the fire, said he deals in all types fuel and oil pumps.
Daniel said he was still confused on what next steps to take. 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 the led to the fire. We could not remove anything from our shops.
“Many boys that just got freedom from their masters and open their shops.
“They are yet to repay the loans they took from various banks.” Chairman of Spare Sparts Delears Association , Mr. Ibie Osaretin Augustine, said the fire incident has compounded the low patronage they are currently witnessing due to bad roads that lead to the market.
Augustine said the four security guard hired by the traders were being questioned by the police.
He stated that he received an anonymous call that the market was on fire and when he called the security personnel on ground, he was told that it was somebody burning something in a closeby street.
“When the security man told me somebody was burning something, I told him to check properly and he told me it was the line where my shop is located that was on fire.
“I called the Edo Fire Service but they did not come. The entire market would have been razed if fire men had not come from UNIBEN and the Nigerian Army.
“For now, we do not suspect any foul play but we have held meeting to appease those affected and stood any suicidal attempt.
“We beg the state government to rebuild the market because we are using loan from Microfinance bank.”
The Vice Chairman of Egor Local Government Area of the State, Mr Rex Iyeke-Oretin who visited the traders on Tuesday morning, blamed the fire on the alleged nativity of the security guards.
Iyeke-Oretin who ruled out electrical fault, said about 100 shops were affected, said the State Fire Service could not respond to distress call due to unserviceable vehicles.
Lamenting the fire disaster, Mr Ugochimezie Chinedu Osazu, called on philanthropist individuals and organizations as well as the government to assist the traders.
Also, Mr Martins Ugo Okonkwo advised business owners to endeavour to insure their businesses.
“This is why I always advice people to get insured, but a lot of us – Nigerians do not even think about it”, he said.
Similarly, Mr Kelechi Okpaleke called for adequate sensitization programmes for small scale business owners in order to be able to manage future tragedies and risks in businesses.