Less than one week after the Federal Fire Service, FFS, boasted of its readiness to tackle fire incidents in Edo State, the popular Ekiosa Market was on Sunday, December 22, 2019, razed without a fire-fighting truck on ground to put out the fire.
Bidemi Jeremiah, the commander of the FFS, during a street march to announce its presence in the state, said the agency was ready to tackle fire emergencies.
But throughout the four hours that fire razed the Ekiosa market, men of the FFS or the Edo Fire Service failed to respond to distress calls.
The fire started at the Ekiosa market from the goat line at about 11am and lasted for more than four hours, spreading through the market.
A five storey building housing the Edo Property Development Agency, EDPA, was also razed.
Owners of buildings closed to the market, including a petrol station, battled to stop the fire from reaching their houses.
They poured water and knocked out areas where the fire had already affected.
Some traders were forced out of their shops to avoid being caught in the fire.
It was gathered that men of the Edo State Fire Service were chased away by angry youths and traders when they came with one truck at about 12:30pm.
The youth said the Fire Service officials did not respond to their distress call, claiming there was no water, but rushed to the scene when they learnt fire was spreading to a new shopping mall and the EDPA building.
There was jubilation among the crowd when they saw fire at the top floor of the EDPA building.
Several cars belonging to the Edo State Government on the premises of the EDPA were destroyed by the angry youth.
Security personnel, including soldiers, were drafted to the scene to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
Robbers, pick-pockets and other criminals had a field day, as they stole goods brought out from the raging fire by traders as well as phones of sympathisers.
A teenager, who tried to retrieve his phone from a pick-pocket, got his feet cut off, as the hoodlum escaped into the crowd.
The teenager was rushed to hospital.
One trader, who gave her name as Idowu, said she lost many goats and other animals that were rescued before fire got to her shop.
Another trader said a bus driver fled with bags of rice he wanted to convey to a safe location.
Ade Omosola, an eyewitness, said: “The fire started from the back. It got to somewhere and a generator exploded, which helped the fire to spread. The fire was following the roof, so we could not put it out.
“The fire service officials came and left. People stoned them. Goods worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Edobor Imuwa, another eyewitness, said: “There was no fire service. I heard about the fire at about 11am. Nothing was taken out. It is a pity that no fire service official was on ground. It is painful that Godwin Obaseki, the Edo state governor did not equip the fire service to handle a situation like this.”
A man, Iyamu, said: “I was in Warri when I was called that the market was on fire. I rushed to Benin and on getting here, I did not see any fire fighter on ground. They later came and said no water. They returned and the people chased them away with stones because the fire had caused a lot of havoc.
“Look at the market. People were stealing goats. Soldiers came and started shooting. My wife lost many goats. We don’t know what to do now.”
Read more at Pulse