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Traders in agony as Ibadan spare parts market fire kills dreams and ushers in rains of indebtedness

Traders in agony as Ibadan spare parts market fire kills dreams and ushers in rains of indebtedness

Traders in agony as Ibadan spare parts market fire  kills dreams and ushers in rains of indebtedness image

WALE OYEWALE writes that days after the popular Araromi Auto Spare Parts Market at Agodi-Gate, Ibadan, went up in flames, the affected traders and their family members as well as auto technicians and car users continue to bemoan the painful losses and the impending effects of the disaster on the public

The Araromi Agodi-Gate Auto Spare parts Market, Ibadan, is now a shadow of its glorious past. Since the popular and expansive market, which showcased auto engines and spare parts, went up in flames in the wee hours of Saturday, April 2, the wealth and essence of the market have been buried in mounds of ashes. The midnight fire that gutted the market reduced the shops to rubble and melted iron, auto engines and spare parts.

As of Sunday when our correspondent visited, thick smoke still bellowed from different points in the market like puffs from old chimneys. Some of the traders were seen picking the pieces of the ruins, while others merely watched and groaned momentarily as they struggled with the thoughts of where to start from again. Having lost their life savings and means of livelihood to fire, many of them said there was no hope of recovery from the losses anytime soon.

Some shop owners, who suffered great losses, were seen grieving, while the scavengers were picking rods and pieces of iron in sight. Some of the traders have since resorted to selling the charred irons that are now remnants from car engines and other spare parts to recyclers. Days after the incident, the traders continue to count their losses, expressing uncertainties of a quick recovery from the losses that they suffered.

The traders said items that could have been sold for N30,000 were now being sold at giveaway prices of between N2,000 and N5,000 as they were already damaged. Auto parts that got damaged include several tons of tyres, engines, shock absorbers, springs, other car and truck parts.

Chief Abduljeleel Abdulraheem, a spare parts dealer, who was affected by the inferno said, “I lost about N8m to the incident. This is my 31st year in the market. I sell vehicle engines and axles. As the fire started, those living in the neighbourhood called me. I live at Amuloko, which is quite a distance from the market. I rushed down and got here around 3am.

“Unfortunately, by the time I got here, the whole place had been engulfed in fire. Both the shops and our wares were completely razed. Now, we are left with nothing. We are appealing to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and the Federal Government to come to our aid. One of the traders was reported dead as a result of shock; we learnt that he kept a substantial amount of money in his shop. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“We are using this opportunity to call for help from the government. We also want religious bodies to also come to our aid. Governor Makinde visited the market, but we can’t be sure yet of the exact help that is coming from the state government. We have lost our life savings to the fire. Our apprentices also suffered the same fate, so there’s nowhere to turn to. This is the seat of wealth at the Agodi-Gate Market. Our customers come all the way from the East and the North for auto spare parts in the market.”

According to him, firefighters tried their best but they were unable to penetrate the market to extinguish the fire.

“Our wives and children are in a pensive mood at the moment as a result of the situation. We have cried without consolation,” Abdulraheem added.

Asked if there had ever been a fire outbreak in the market since its creation in 1970, the traders were affirmative. Some of them recalled that a section of the market was up in flames in 1983. However, according to them, the magnitude was not this huge.

Akanji Ariyo, an auto engine and shaft dealer, who claimed that he had spent 25 years in the market, said he just returned from Onitsha, where he went to buy wares to stock his shop on Friday. The tragedy struck a few hours after his arrival.

He said the fire affected his shop, that of his former boss as well as shops belonging to his former apprentices.

Ariyo, who said that the news of the inferno got to him around 1.30am on Saturday, stated that his shop had yet to be affected by the time he was alerted.

He stated, “The situation was worsened by the inability of the firemen to drive into the market. On my arrival at the market that night, eight fire trucks were on the ground to extinguish the fire. The firemen were helpless as a result of this.

“Now, we are just appealing to government at various levels to come to our aid. Survival is a big problem for many of us at the moment. We have no shops anymore and there are no goods to sell. I lost several millions of naira to the incident. We made efforts to salvage some of the engines, but it was rather too late to do anything.

“Most of the engines that we brought into the market from Onitsha on Friday were taken on credit.”

Mrs Bose Ayoade buys old irons from spare parts dealers in the market. She said it was difficult to be specific on the actual cause of the fire.

“All our goods have been completely burnt. I don’t know exactly where to start from after the incident. Look at me, I have three children. I am the breadwinner of my family and I have no husband. Now, all that I have perished in the fire. My siblings’ children depend on me for their education but now I am finished. I got to this market six years ago. I never experienced a thing like this in my entire life,” she lamented.

Musiliudeen Muroin, who sells bolts and nuts, stated that he lost his life savings totalling about N2m to the fire.

He said, “I was informed that the fire started in the market around 10.30pm on Friday. Only God can say what actually went wrong. My bolts and nuts melted in the fire. We appeal to government at all levels as well as philanthropic individuals and groups to come to our aid. May we not go hungry.”

As the news of the inferno went viral, some vehicle owners, commercial drivers and auto technicians expressed the fear that the prices of engines, tyres and other spare parts would surge, thereby affecting the end users.

An auto electrician, Ismaila Hamzat, stated, “What has happened in the market is no child’s play as it will take a huge toll on the economy of Oyo State and adjoining states as far as auto parts are concerned. It will affect all auto technicians such as mechanics, painters, electricians, panel beaters and vehicle users generally, because there will be scarcity and inflation of vehicles spares parts prices.”

A mechanic, who simply gave his name as Matthew, said the news of the fire could have chain reactions on transportation generally as it would become difficult to repair vehicles as bad components would not be easily replaceable.

“For us to get engine and car components will now require that we travel as far as Lagos, Osogbo and Ilorin. Before now, people travel from Osogbo, Ado Ekiti, Ilesha, Ile-Ife, Akure and other parts to buy auto spare parts in Ibadan. This development will bring about complications,” he noted.

Mama Sadiatu, who is popularly known by those in the market as Kuluwe, said although she did not sell in the market, her hope of survival was attached to the affected traders, who daily patronise her restaurant. Bursting into tears, she said, “I sell amala beside the NTA station at Agodi Gate, Ibadan. What had happened is a big tragedy that the Oyo State Government alone cannot shoulder. We are appealing to other governors in the South-West and the Federal Government to come to their aid. If they are not helped, those of us selling food will be badly affected.”

Mrs Sakirat Omosalewa said, “Although we buy scrap irons and metals from them at cheaper rates and many of us are eager to buy, the truth is that we shall bear the brunt later when the damaged parts have been sold off at ridiculous prices.”

The President, Ibadan Motor Darts Dealers’ Association, Agodi-Gate, Alhaji Olanrewaju Ishola, aka Ikire, said he left the market for his residence around 10pm on Friday.

“Some of the vehicles that brought goods into the market parked indiscriminately as there was no space for them to park when they arrived from business trips. That partly made it difficult for fire trucks to be able to drive to the point of the fire,” he stated.

According to Ishola, the market is widely patronised both nationally and internationally by people from Cameroon, Togo, Senegal and especially, West African countries.

He listed the areas that were affected in the market to include the tyre, car and truck divisions, adding, “The main market of the Ibadan Motor Parts Dealers’ Association, Agodi-Gate, was completely affected. At the car division, car engines and other parts were razed; the tyre division, where new and old tyres are sold, got burnt as well as heavy duty engines and parts at the truck section of the market. We lost over 1,000 shops to the inferno. Without mincing words, goods worth several billions of naira perished in the fire.

“Hope appears dicey for all the traders but we are appealing to government at all levels to render help to our members. We will like to rebuild the shops by ourselves, but we need financial assistance from the government because fortunes have been destroyed by the fire.”

Asked if the market and the goods were insured, he said, “No, we just began the process but have not gone far on that already. After the registration of business with the Corporate Affairs Commission, we will take a step on insurance. This has taught us some lessons. This market was established in 1970. There was a major fire disaster in 1983 during the reign of late Oba Oloyede Asanike, but the current scale is larger. We never witnessed a devastation of this magnitude in the past.

Speaking further on steps being taken to avert future occurrence, Ishola stated that a bridge was being built at the Odejayi end of the market.

“We are earmarking the sum of N1.5mn for the construction of the bridge. To my members, who were affected, my advice is that we should all take heart. It is an act of God and we cannot call God to question,” he added.

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