Tragedy struck at the popular Uselu Market on Ugbowo Road, in the Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, following a fire outbreak which gutted a section of the market.
It was gathered that the fire, which occurred at about 8.30pm on Monday, razed over 50 shops on Osamwonyi Street, although no life was reported lost.
When our correspondent got to the scene of the incident on Tuesday, a thick smoke billowed from the charred remains of burnt goods.
While some of the affected traders struggled to salvage what was left of their wares, many others were seen bemoaning the damage done to goods reportedly worth millions of naira.
One of the traders, Mr. Chidera Nwakeze, explained that he recently stocked four shops with bags of rice, beans and other food items, but lost everything to the inferno.
Nwakeze said, “I came to the market around 8.30pm and discovered that it was on fire. But before I could get to my shops, the fire had consumed all my goods.”
Another victim, who declined mentioning her name, alleged conspiracy against the affected traders.
“I don’t think that the fire was caused by any electrical fault because the section which got burnt has been out of electricity supply. Someone must have set fire on this area of the market,” she said.
It was gathered that but for the intervention of the Edo State Fire Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and some soldiers in the area, the inferno would have razed the entire market.
An official of the Edo State Fire Service, who identified himself as Fireman Ero, told our correspondent to write officially to the service, if he wanted any information on the incident.
“You say you are a journalist? You have to write officially if you want to get any information,” he said.
But the council Chairman, Mr. Victor Enobakhare, described the incident as an act of sabotage by persons who were against the reconstruction of the market.
While urging the victims to remain calm, he announced a donation of N1m to cushion the effect of the damage. He also promised to notify the state government for further action.
“I want to say that it was an act of sabotage. The area involved doesn’t have electricity because they don’t sell at night. They close as early as 7pm.
“I think some persons did this probably to discourage the council from going ahead to rebuild the market. We must build the market.
“I am giving them N1m immediately. Let them share it among themselves to ease their minds, so that they can settle down and give me the list of affected persons. I will forward the list to the governor.
“I know he will show a lot of sympathy.
The spokesperson for the Edo State Police Command, DSP Joseph Edoigiawerie, who was contacted on the issue, told our correspondent to call back so that he could get details of the fire outbreak.