The Enugu Timber Market is reputed as one of the largest wood markets in the country and also about the only timber marker in the country that is regularly gutted by mysterious fire, sometimes twice in a year. For the second time in less than four months, this popular market located in the Uwani area of Enugu, the Enugu state capital, was again ravaged by fire which destroyed about 50 shops and properties worth over N500 million.
The fire incidents occurred last week at about 11.30 pm, several hours after the traders had closed for the day, and were probably fast asleep in their different homes.
LEADERSHIP gathered that when some of the traders were alerted that the market was on fire, they rushed to the scene of the incident to salvage their goods, but were reportedly confronted by some unidentified hoodlums who took advantage of the inferno to loot as much merchandise as they could
lay their hands on.
The latest fire incident may not be the last to occur in the market, since the causes of the previous fire incidents in the market are yet to be officially ascertained, and beyond that, no arrests have ever been made, even when the market is gutted by fire once or twice every year.
Some of the items destroyed in the latest and previous fire incidents in the market, included wooding machines, generators and timber. In each occasion, the fire put some of the traders on the breadline; forcing them to relocate to their various villages.
Although there is a mini-fire station attached to the market, witnesses said the latest blaze was such that the station’s personnel couldn’t handle. But fire fighters who came from the main fire station in the city, battled for several hours before they could bring the raging fire under control.
According to findings, the market is usually gutted by fire at midnight when all the traders might have gone to sleep. Some traders in the market finger those they accuse of being members of an occult organisation, of regularly stoking fire in the market. It was gathered that members of this organisation become richer each time there is an outbreak of fire in the timber market. They are said to be overtly jealous of some traders in the market whose fortunes have improved tremendously over the years.
“Each time this fire occurs, some people will become rich overnight; they use this fire which occurs every year in this market to make more money. The losses suffered by the victims are mysteriously converted into gains in favour of members of the occult organization”, one of the shop owners said.
“This persistent fire outbreak has rendered many people useless, and has even sent many to their untimely graves”.
Although the traders are not new to the mysterious fire, they least expected that it would occur so soon after last December fire incident in the market that destroyed over 100 shops and properties worth about N300 million.
And, so it was like a fairy tale to some of the traders when news filtered into the coal city on the night of March 19 that the market had again been gutted by fire. And when some of them rushed to the scene of the fire incident, their respective shops had already being razed to the ground.
Though fire fighters from the state fire service, responded swiftly following an emergency call made to their office, they were unable to put the fire immediately under control. And when they finally did, about 50 shops and properties worth over N50 million had been lost to the inferno. By press time yesterday, the cause of the fire was yet to be established, giving rise to insinuations that the repeated fire outbreak in the market is the handiwork of ‘evil men.’
One of the victims of the inferno who spoke to LEADERSHIP at the scene of the incident, Mr Hyginus Onyia, appealed to the Enugu State government, to assist the traders in fencing the market, to stop undesirable elements from having access into the market after the end of the day’s business.
Speaking with our correspondent, the chairman of Enugu Timber Market, Chief Livi Obi, said he was shocked and confused over the incessant fire disaster, saying he was yet to ascertain the cause of the inferno.
"The fire service men responded swiftly when they were called. I was shocked when I heard that the market was burnt. I don't know if it is man-made or not… I don't know the cause”, he said amid intermittent sobs.
The chairman, Enugu South local government area, Mr Nwabueze Okafor, said that he would set up a commission of inquiry to unravel the causes of the constant fire disaster in the market.
He expressed surprise that fire disasters had continued to occur in the market despite the presence of fire service office in the market as well as the procurement of modern fire fighting truck by the government.
As the mysterious fire continues unabated, the question on the lips of many traders and concerned residents is: when will those in authority unveil the cause of the incessant fire incident in Enugu Timber Market”?