Timber market rising as traders put losses at N20b

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TWENTY-FOUR hours after the multi-billion naira Amu Plank Market, located at the Amu area near Olorunsogo Bus Stop, Mushin, Lagos, was razed by a wildfire, traders have started rebuilding their stores.

Those who left the place on Saturday evening could not believe their eyes with the level of rebuilding ongoing. The Nation on Sunday saw many artisans working on the site.

The traders, it was learnt, decided to quickly rebuild the market due to fear that the government might take over the land from them. They said the government could not be trusted following the bitter experience of the traders at the Tejuoso and Ogba markets, who suffered a similar disaster.

“It would be a double disaster for us for the government to take over the market and hand it over to developers. We all knew what happened at Tejuoso and Ogba Retail Markets. Tejuoso Market is yet to regain that vibrancy it had since it was rebuilt. This is because the money charged for the shops was extraordinarily unbearable. How many of those traders can afford that amount?” a trader, Taofik Alamu, asked.

The fire has not totally burnt out as at press time. Some of the traders were seen joining fire-fighters to quench the smoulder. There were still some emergency responders within the vicinity, including police officers, who were preventing hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation.

The road leading to Amu Plank Market from Palm Avenue was blocked. Motorists were informed to use alternative routes.

The number of burnt houses has increased to 10 and residents were  seen picking the pieces of their burnt property.

Loads of timbers were being dropped by cat-pushers and some hefty men on-site were also carrying them.

Some of the market’s union leaders were moving from one place to the other, assuring traders that everybody would have their stores restored.

The evacuation of debris from burnt planks and goods was still ongoing at the Kayinsola House and two other warehouses on Palm Avenue, Mushin.

According to the union, the four-storey Kayinsola House had goods worth over N500 million. A member of the market union, Alhaji Tajudeen Sanni, put the worth of the goods lost to the inferno at N20 billion.

Mmajority of their goods, he said, were imported from various countries.

“Those who were saying that Amu Market is not that  big don’t know what we have in this place. This is a huge market. Majority of our goods was imported and they are original. Think of the amount of forex expended on regular basis. If I say what we lost to the inferno was over N20billion, it is not an exaggeration,” he said.

He denied reports that there were no fire extinguishers in the market., adding that fire extinguishers were mounted in safe places by the officials of the Lagos State Fire Service.

He said: “We complied with government regulations in this market. Immediately the fire started, we call on our people to start to bring out the fire extinguishers, but the fire was so wild that fire extinguishers could not be effective in putting it out.

“As we were doing that, some of us were calling on the emergency responders, especially the fire service. Things have gone beyond salvaging by the time the firefighters arrived.”

He admitted that the union took the responsibility to rebuild the market. This, he said, was to make the traders return to their business as soon as possible.

A trader, who simply gave his name as Ibrahim, commended the union for acting promptly to rebuild the market.

“This is where we make our living. For how long do we continue to lament over the losses. What has happened has happened; we need to move on with our lives,” Ibrahim said.

The Amu Community Development Associations (CDA) Chairman, Apostle Timothy Ogungbesan, who lost his two-storey building to the fire, described the fire outbreak as disastrous.

He said this was not the first time such a fire outbreak was happening in the vicinity.

“We thought we will able to curtail it as we normally do before but this one got out of hand and claim all our property,” he said

He said the fire outbreak started around midnight.

He said: “I heard people shouting fire! fire!! fire!!! and I rushed out as the CDA Chairman and called the fire service but no response. I called the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Olosan Police Station, who now called the fire service. Before the fire service got here, the fire had already gutted the whole area. As I am standing, this is all that I have. I lost everything in the building to the fire.”

He added that he lost millions but grateful to God that no life was lost during the process.

“During the cause of the inferno, I was unable to protect my belonging, I was just making sure everybody is safe,” he said.

Toyin Kabiru amid tears recalled how the fire gutted her shop and that of his son and she pleaded for support from the state government.

She said: “Some Muslims were having night prayer and they raised the alarm about strange odour and thought it was a small fire and rushed to get water to quench the fire.

“As soon as they poured water on it, the fire exploded. Before we knew it, the whole Amu Market was on fire. We were not able to get anything out; all our goods were burnt to ashes. Many traders just restocked their stores. I just bought goods worth N180, 000 on Friday. I want the government to help us; we are helpless; my son’s shop and relatives’ shops were also affected.”

LASEMA’s account

Lagos Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Director-General Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said the fire was extinguished on Sunday.

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