Several days after fire gutted the popular Akesan Market in the ancient town of Oyo, Oyo State, the affected traders and other residents are still counting their losses without any hope of relief in sight,
for many residents of Oyo, an ancient town in Oyo State, the New Year began on a sad note as a fire outbreak ravaged the popular Akesan market in the wee hours of Sunday. Images of the burning market are still fresh in the memories of the affected residents and the pain they felt, as a result of the losses incurred, appears to have deepened.
Reacting to the incident, a few minutes after inspecting the ruins of the market, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the market meant more than a commercial centre to the residents of the town and the Yoruba as a people.
The woman is now left without any means of livelihood. Although her husband has tried his best to comfort her and encourage her to look up to the future, the harsh reality of the situation is beginning to dawn on them, especially now that their children have returned to school for a new academic session and the need to pay school fees arises
Mrs Adeyemo lost sewing machines, sewing accessories, bales of textile matetrials, such as ankara and guinea brocades; soft drinks, refrigerators, one deep freezer and a standing fridge, all worth several millions of naira.
“It is an important monument to us all,” the monarch said.
The fire raged for several hours, defying all attempts by residents to put it out, till two teams of fire fighters from Ibadan and Ogbomoso arrived on the scene and eventually extinguished it.
The incident had left many traders, whose goods, valued at millions of naira, had perished in the inferno, suddenly impoverished and depressed. To these ones, the razed market conjures an image of horror in the New Year.
The traders are counting their losses in tears. As of the time of filing this report, many of them were still sobbing inconsolably, while others had yet to recover from shock.
Mrs Balkis Adeyemo is one of the traders who are worst hit by the incident. The woman has remained inconsolable after losing two fully stocked shops to the fire outbreak.
Adeyemo’s husband, Abiodun, explained how he watched his wife’s shops burn without being able to do anything to save the situation. He said, “We were fast asleep by the time the fire started on Sunday. We were contacted shortly after it started. We rushed to the market, but there was nothing we could do to arrest the situation. My wife’s investment went down the drain just like that.”
Like many other traders, who also endured the horror of seeing the market go up in flames, the Adeyemos shouted for help and joined hundreds of other people in a frantic effort to put out the fire, but in vain
utensils, power generators, deep freezers, electric washing machines and dozens of ceramic wares, all of which were valued at millions of naira , to the market inferno.
Similarly, two other affected traders, Alhaja Muti Olaleye and Alhaja Peju Elegbeleye, are still counting their losses. Asked to estimate the total cost of her goods that perished in the fire, Olaleye, who sold clothes and shoes at the market before the incident, was clearly not in the frame of mind to respond.
Also, Elegbeleye’s jewellery store was burnt beyond recognition. The trinkets and other ornaments in the store were said to have melted in the fire. And judging by her reaction to these losses, it seems that the woman has lost all hope of getting back on her feet anytime soon.
During a condolence visit by former Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State to the Alaafin’s palace on Monday, Oba Adeyemi said the incident was grievous and painful because of Akesan’s importance as a market where cultural materials are sold alongside other goods.
The Alaafin described the market as the cleanest and safest in his kingdom because of the way it was maintained.
The monarch, who noted that such a tragedy had never befallen Oyo town before, expressed the opinion that the market would be restored to its former glory in due course. He called for concerted efforts toward the rehabilitation of the market.
Speaking to our correspondent on the incident, the Press Secretary to the Alaafin, Bode Durojaye, said Oba Adeyemi and the entire Oyo Mesi were devastated by the huge losses incurred by traders.
Also, Governor Seyi Makinde, while commiserating with the people of Oyo on the incident recently, said his administration would investigate the cause of the fire outbreak. He promised to ensure that such an incident would not occur in the future.
Explaining that the reason why there was a delay in the arrival of fire fighting personnel at the scene of the inferno, the governor said some of the trucks belonging to the state fire fighting service were under repair.
He added that 10 new trucks would be purchased by the Oyo State Government to deal with emergencies.
Although some people across the state applauded the governor for his gesture, many others, however, noted that 10 additional trucks were grossly inadequate for the entire state. They urged the state government to call for Federal Government’s intervention in disaster management and any other areas of needs.
The Chairman of the Oyo East Local Government Area, Saheed Arowosaye, in a meeting with journalists, said the LGA would provide palliative services to the affected traders.
Arowosaye noted that the clearing of the rubble in the burnt market was necessary to guide against health hazards in the forms of respiratory infections.
As the affected traders count their losses, other residents of Oyo are mourning the death of a man who lost his life in the wake of the protest that trailed the fire outbreak on Sunday.
The Oyo State Police Command had earlier tried to play down reports that three persons died during the protest, which was ignited by failure on the part of fire fighting personnel to arrive on time at the scene of the fire incident. However, the Police later confirmed that one person was killed when an armed security agent allegedly attempted to disperse the protesters.
In a press statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer, Olugbenga Fadeyi, on his behalf, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Shina Olukolu, indicated that one person was killed while three persons sustained injuries.