Following a fire incident at the oil mill market along Aba Road in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, goods and property valued in the millions of naira were lost.
Even though the source of the fire was not discovered right away, it was discovered that it began early on Saturday while the traders were still at home.
The Rumuokwurusi hamlet in the state’s Obio/Akpor Local Government Area hosts the well-known midweek oil mill market.
On Wednesdays, the market draws vendors who bring their wares from neighboring states.
The fire, which began at around 6:45 am, burned for many hours, according to an eyewitness, until firefighters came to put it out.
Several of the shopkeepers tallied their losses as they bemoaned the effect the blaze would have on their enterprises and pleaded with Governor Nyesom Wike to help them.
The caller informed the middle-aged woman, who just gave her name as Ebere, that she was still asleep when her phone rang.
She said, “This morning, I was still sleeping when I received a call that the market was on fire. When I got there, all my goods and those of others had been destroyed.
“A trailer load of yam, garri and charcoal which we off-loaded all burnt.
“Please, Governor Wike, come and help us. We are dying because of this fire!”
Another victim, who identified herself as a widow, sobbed hysterically while claiming that she had taken out loans to pay for the goods in her two businesses, which were now empty.
“I am a widow, my husband died since 2007. I borrowed the money that I used in buying things and I am still paying interest.
“My two shops and all the tubers of yam I bought have burnt to ashes. Who is going to help me? How do I pay back the money I borrowed?
“That is what I am thinking now,” she said while fighting back tears.
Commenting on the incident, Rumuokwrushi, O. C. Wosu, Chairman of the Community Development Committee, said that the fire’s origin was still a mystery but that he was relieved that no one had been hurt.
“I got distressed calls from many traders calling me that some section of the oil mill market was on fire.
“I quickly called the fire service. As God will have it, the Total E&P fire service, the Shell fire service also came, and they were able to contain the fire.
“I thank God that there was no casualty. The traders’ goods were affected, you know, goods, including buildings worth over N500,000.
“I call on the Rivers State and the local government to come and assist these people,” he pleaded.