Following the midnight fire that gutted some batchers or makeshift shops constructed by traders under the ruined Jos ultra modern market last Saturday, victims of the inferno recount their experience to LEADERSHIP Friday as reported by Achor Abimaje.
Alhaji Abdulrahman Yusuf, chairman of Traders Association in Plateau State, told our correspondent in Jos that over 170 makeshift shops with properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
“We have one trader in this market that lost goods worth over N20 million.
“So, it’s a huge loss and it’s quite devastating, ” he lamented.
When asked to give the total amount that was lost in the inferno by his members, Yusuf said as for now they cannot give the total figure as they are presently computing the losses of their members. “Only what I can say right now is that over 170 makeshift shops were destroyed.”
Yusuf commended the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong for commencing the process of rebuilding the market with a view to alleviating the suffering of the traders while calling on government to come to the aid of the traders, to enable them bounce back to business.
Also narrating his ordeal, Magaji Abdullahi, a trader at the market, who deals on second hand clothes, said he was called on the night that the market was on fire and he immediately ran to terminus to see what was happening.
According to him, he did not know what led to the inferno, saying the fire service had tried their best. When we came, we watched the fire consuming our shops and goods helplessly.
Magaji disclosed that he lost goods worth 21 million naira, adding that as at the time the fire was raging, he had 160 bails of clothing in his shop with over 25 boys working for him.
“I am left with nothing as I speak to you right now. I have over 200 customers who come from other states to collect goods from me and sell before turning in the money. Now, our means of livelihood has been destroyed”.
Magaji, in tears, appealed to the federal state and local governments’ council, to assist them with a view to starting a new life again adding that it is only Allah that will comfort them.
Fa’ad Abubakar, a 28-year-old, deals in second hand bags in the market.
According to him, he lost all the goods in his shop, stressing that his customers come from Taraba, Benue and Kaduna.
He pointed out that his business is a family one, as both his father and five of his siblings are staying in the shop in the market, adding that they have lost close to 6 million naira and have been rendered koboless with no shop to stay, not even a dime to start a new life, he said.
In the same vein, Mr Ibrahim Isaku, 27, a tailor, whose shop and materials were burnt down in the incident, appealed to the government at all levels to come to his aid and other fellows who have lost things in the incident.
Also, according to Mr Sunday Ali, who is a 30 years old weavon seller and hairdresser, in the market, “I have lost products worth of over 1 million naira in this fire outbreak, government should please come to rescue us both financially and materially, because we have lost everything and we are back to zero level. In this incident, I know of a neighbour who has lost over 17 million Naira because his goods arrived on the eve of this unfortunate incident.
Another victim, Ajiya Hauwa Adam, 34, a food seller in the market, has lost virtually everything in the incident, saying she cannot give the exact amount of what the incident has caused her, but called on the government to help them generally to regain what they have lost.
The ultra-modern Jos Market was located at the city centre and attracted a large number of visitors until tragedy struck leaving the multi billion Naira project in a state of comatose.
Once upon a time, the Jos Main Market was a centre of tourist attraction in the nation and a trading centre that attracted visitors as well as people passing through the city who took in its beauty, massive size and expansive architecture.
But all that changed when a mysterious fire left the complex in rubble in February 2002 and no government was able to restore it to its glory days except governor Simon Lalong who wanted to fulfill his electioneering campaign promise to the people of the state and is now doing everything humanely possible to redesign the market with a view to building it.
The huge complex accommodated at least 3,500 traders and had an open space at the base of the market, which was meant to accommodate at least 2,000 shops. The market also had provision for a police station, fire service station, post office, warehouses and car parks.
The market had a unique design, which made it one of the most attractive shopping centres in Nigeria, and West African sub region, which made the federal government regard it as one of the major tourist attractions in the country.
Besides, the burnt market site in Terminus Jos now, has clusters of shops erected by traders at the foot of the now ruined market, while other traders take on the streets to display their wares for sale and contest the use of the road with vehicles.
Investigation revealed that currently, about 70 per cent of buying and selling take place in Terminus within the vicinity of the ruined main market.
Speaking at the scene, the state commissioner of police, Adie Undie, the management committee chairman of Jos North local government area, Mr Philip Nyam, and the chairman, Traders’ Association, Abdulrahman Yussuf explained what they knew about the incident.According to the CP, “This incident happened in the wee hours. My DPO in-charge of this area, got a report and he promptly alerted me and we equally alerted the State Fire Service and they too did not waste time.
They mobilised their men but because of the location of this incident, it made it difficult for the Fire Service to promptly put out the fire and avoid the kind of damage that we have here.
The deputy director of the State Fire Service, Mr Samuel Musa, said, “Our men were called around 12.45am to a scene of fire within the premises of the former burnt down main market, the Terminus area, there are some makeshifts shops they made there and they are selling second hand clothes majorly around that area.
It is in the second hand cloth section that the fire started, since around 1.45am up to 10.15 am that our men disengaged, they were able to control the fire. The severity of the situation is yet to be assessed; we are going there to assess the situation.”
The committee chairman of Jos North, Mr Nyam, whose local government hosts the market, added, “My attention was drawn around 2am about this incident. My heart goes out to the traders who lost their valuables and we appreciate the swift response of the Fire Service and the police who have been on top of the situation since the incident happened.
“You can see that they have cordoned-off the area to avoid situations where looting will take place. Again, the Fire Service has done much to contain the situation, you can see the market is large but they salvaged the situation by their timely response, you can see their efforts”.
Meanwhile, governor Simon Lalong, has condoled with those affected by the unfortunate fire incident that ravaged the satellite market attached to the burnt Jos Main Market. Governor Lalong, in a message through the state commissioner for Information and Communication, Yakubu Dati, described it as unfortunate, coming at a time when the state is on the path to recovery from recent challenges. The government is already acting on preliminary recommendations received from a team of assessors, who visited the site earlier. He pointed out that the state government remains committed to its sacred responsibility of the protection of lives and property as it urged the general public to observe safety precautions at all times in their homes, offices and anywhere they find themselves. However, the market that was a tourist attraction in Jos, is now a nightmare to the government and citizens alike as the ruined stores serve as hideouts that provide accommodation for criminals in the city; drug addicts, robbers, rapists etc. Indeed, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) Plateau State chapter, Market Associations, as well as the Bureau for Public Procurement, have lauded Governor Simon Lalong’s efforts at re-developing the burnt Jos Main Market, and the transparency that has characterised the process. Opening the bids for the re-development at the state secretariat, the state government again pledged that the bidders would receive equal and fair treatment in the process of selection, adding also that quality will not be compromised.
Speaking at the occasion, which held at the Joseph Gomwalk Secretariat, Jos, the state former commissioner of commerce, Ezekiel Daju said, “today marks a major milestone towards the rebuilding of a project that is dear to the heart of the people; an economic live wire of the state.”
Represented by the permanent secretary in the ministry, the commissioner, Mr Samuel Ngomar, painted the aftermath of the wreck of the market, lamenting that some people, who lost their entire livelihood in the disaster, even committed suicide because of the volume of the losses in the burnt market that served the entire West Africa.
He however said that the cheering news was that, “we are now at the threshold of bringing life back to the edifice.”
Daju commended Lalong for keeping his eyes fixed on the project, and for committing all efforts towards its actualisation.
Two companies submitted bids for it; MN Atat Construction Limited, who was represented at the opening by Mr Henry Duamyim, and Edil Belmonte Ltd, also represented by Mustapha Abbas.
The state government had, in 2016, signed an MoU of N230 million for the job with a UK-based company; Roughton International Ltd, in collaboration with Cynergy Associates Consortium to commence the first phase of re-development of the market that was burnt in 2002.
Traders in Jos main market have been jubilating since the news broke out that the Plateau State government has opened bid for the reconstruction of the market.
Also speaking to our correspondent in Jos on their joy about the government’s concrete moves to reconstruct the market, the chairman of the traders’ union of the market, Abdulrahaman Jimoh Yusuf, said he never thought the project would come to fruition again because of the past disappointments and the inherent realities of the politicisation of the market’s reconstruction.
The chairman said when the market is reconstructed; it will improve the lives of the traders, give residents better shopping experiences and boost the state’s economy.
He thanked Governor Simon Lalong for ‘out-growing partisan and inconsequential politics’ and implementing projects for the benefit of the ordinary people.
Meanwhile, governor of Plateau State, Barr Simon Lalong, who visited the Traders and Marketers that lost millions of Naira in the inferno, called on them to bear with the situation that it is not man made but it is God-ordained and if such happens and we accept the verdict in good faith, God has ways of improving their businesses.
Lalong, who spoke through his commissioner for Physical Planning, Mr Bulus Bot, said having come and seen the extent of damage, government would definitely begin to take decisive steps to alleviate the suffering of those that have been affected in the incident.
“As a listening government, I quite believe by the time we receive the proposal, we will act on it very fast,” he said.
“I equally want to use this opportunity to express the government’s appreciation to the leadership of the traders and marketers’ association for given us the full details of what took place in the market”, he said.
The board chairman, Jos Main Market, Mr Jurbe Gonzuk, blamed this on lack of master plan in the market and called for proper planning of the market.
He said the board is working hard in marking sure they improve the conditions and services in the market, adding that government is not making enough revenue from the market.
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