THE fire disaster that razed Nnewi Timber Market in Anambra State on Thursday has been attributed to Indian hemp smokers around the market.
A trader who spoke on condition of anonymity told Southern City News that hemp smokers usually converged on the forest behind the market to smoke every evening after the market had closed.
He said, “This market is not fenced. We have complained on several occasions to those concerned and nobody listened and this is the result of their inaction.
“Indian hemp smokers would always come to that forest behind the market to smoke every evening after the market had closed. They were people that wreaked this havoc.
“This is their meeting place and you know sawdust is highly inflammable. That was why this section of the market got burnt to ashes.”
The trader maintained that the smokers must have carelessly dropped live butts of their smoke on the sawdust, which ignited the fire.
A philanthropist, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, who visited the market to sympathise with the traders, blamed government for the poor infrastructure in the market.
Ezeemo, who donated N500,000 to the traders to mitigate their losses, said institutional policies must be put in place to make markets conducive and protected.
“It is unfair for government to go to markets to collect revenue without providing the attendant social services. They owe these traders the duty of making the markets conducive and protected.
“This place ought to be fenced in the first place. A fire-fighting arrangement should have been here for proactive preventive measures. This is how it should be; that’s how it is in some other places.
“Government should take charge of the welfare of her citizens. We must change some of these old ways of doing things,” he said.
He called on both state and federal governments to come to the aid of the Nnewi fire victims to assuage their pains.
Thanking Ezeemo for his concern over their plight, the Chairman of Nnewi Timber Dealers Association, Mr. Chukwunonso Nnetu, said a security guard in the market alerted him to the incident at about 12 midnight that fateful day.
Nnetu said the fire fighters in Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha fire service stations were immediately contacted.
“The Nnewi Fire Service men later arrived, though the fire had reached an advanced stage. We lost about 155 shops; 555 sawing and curving machines valued at N2m each were destroyed.