At least 25 shops and goods worth millions of naira were destroyed when fire gutted the New Benin Market in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State on Sunday, June 3. One of the shop owners, whose name could not be ascertained, reportedly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital after he dashed to the market and saw that his shop had been completely razed.
Sad as the incident above may be, it is just one of dozens of market fires to have wreaked havoc across the nation this year alone.
Ushering in the New Year was a market fire at Ika Ika Oqua, also known as Marian market in Calabar Municipal area of Cross River State. The fire which started around 5:00am on January 1 destroyed 20 stalls and goods valued at several millions of naira.
On March 3, 72 shops were razed at the Kenyatta Timber Market in Enugu. Barely three weeks after the incident, another fire in Binukonu Ultra-Modern Market, Ojota, Lagos, on March 23, destroyed 30 stalls and goods worth millions of naira.
But perhaps the most destructive market fire this year ravaged old Bida Market, Niger State on Thursday, March 1. The fire which completely razed all 600 shops in the market destroyed clothes, motorcycles, building materials, bags of maize, beans, rice, palm oil and poultry products. The goods were said to be worth billions of naira.
If this year has been filled with sad tales of market fires, the nation did not fare any better in previous years.
The President of Fire Disaster Prevention and Safety Awareness Association of Nigeria, Badanga Ahmed Lamidi, stated in September 2017 that Nigeria had lost N6 trillion to fire outbreaks in five years, with market and industrial fires constituting a large chunk of the damage.
“For instance, the Kano market fire (of November 2, 2008) alone was estimated at about N2 trillion worth of goods which was lost to a single fire incidence,” he lamented.
About 3,800 shops were reported to have been destroyed in the fire, one of the most disastrous in the nation’s history.
Despite the huge tales of loss and destruction occasioned by market fires, the nation continues to fall into the debilitating menace.
This has continued to raise concerns over how to end the problem, with many stakeholders challenging the government to do more to find a lasting solution.
In an exclusive chat with Safety Record Newspaper, the Director of Anambra State Fire Service, Engr. Martin Agbili, decried the non-adherence to fire safety regulation and practices in the establishment of markets across the nation.
He emphasised the importance of integration of fire safety design in the planning of markets across the nation to forestall further destruction of properties due to market fires.
Agbili, a respected fire professional in Nigeria, said that “before any market is built or before final approval is given for the construction of any market place, fire service must come in”.
He said that the essence of this was to ensure that fire safety design is “inbuilt in the drawing of that particular market”.
“If we have fire safety design in the system, it will entail the fire sprinkler, which should be installed there; fire extinguisher; smoke detector; and fire alarm. All these things are very important,” he stressed.
According to him, siting of a borehole at an accessible part of any proposed market and creating a spacious access way for fire service trucks will also help in combating the destructive impact of market fires.
He expressed concern that markets were still being built across the nation without proper fire risk assessment.
“You’ll find out that in some of the markets they will build without contacting fire service to conduct fire risk assessment in the market.
“And when there is fire outbreak, you’ll find out that there is no way for fire service trucks to enter the market,” he stated.
Agbili disclosed that market fires across the nation were mostly caused by power surge and electrical fault, urging traders to endeavour to switch off electrical appliances before close of any business day.
“Some of them, when leaving the market in the evening, they don’t switch off electrical gadgets. Probably power surge will come, which could cause fire outbreak within the market.
“Unfortunately, most of the things in the market are always free-burning materials,” he said.
He stressed, “My advice now is this: the Physical Planning Board of every state should involve fire service fully in the process of giving final approval (for market construction).
“They should allow fire service to go and do their fire risk assessment through fire safety inspection and issue fire safety certificate before they can then issue final approval for people to build a market.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, a safety professional, Mr Bruno Ozigbu, said that lack of adequate government enforcement of existing fire regulations was making it difficult for safety professionals to assist in the combating of market fires.
Ozigbu, the Director, Technology Innovation at Luchrinottz Nigeria Limited, an HSE organisation, said that safety professionals offer trainings in the area of fire safety but must be backed by effective government enforcement to create needed impact.
He said, “The duty is not just the safety professionals alone. As you can see already, safety profession in Nigeria is still on the rise.
“Of course there are regulations, but there is no enforcement.
“Safety professionals are like police; if the government does not enforce certain regulations, then safety professionals can do virtually nothing, apart from charity training and other things they can do on their own.
“The government policy enforcement is the back-borne of safety professionals, because if there is nothing to enforce, there will be nothing for the safety professionals to do.”