For the second time in three days, residents wept and wailed as the Sango plank market in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, was razed by an early morning inferno.
Over 300 shops, goods worth millions of naira, 50 sawing machines and three vehicles were destroyed.
Unlike the Christmas Day disaster, which affected mostly plank sellers, the sawing machines section was badly hit yesterday.It lost about 100 machines.
Sources said the fire was first noticed at midnight on Monday. Some people were allegedly sighted moving round the burnt areas suspiciously. The fire later spread to other parts of the sawing machines section.
It was gathered that efforts by traders and others, who were alerted through the Alaro Central Mosque public address system, to put out the fire failed.
The sources said traders and police tried in vain to reach the State Fire Service.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi has said the government would raise a panel to investigate the fires.
Tension is mounting in the plank market, as many believed that some people might have intentionally burnt the market to avenge last Friday’s incident.
Ajimobi was represented by the Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Yomi Layinka.
He was accompanied by Head of Service Soji Eniade; former Secretary to the State Government Ismail Olalekan-Alli; former Special Adviser on Political Matters Gbade Ojo and former Special Adviser on Security Segun Abolarinwa.
Addressing reporters, Ajimobi said: “We are here to examine the extent of damage and to know the causes of the incident. That is the one that happened on Friday and the other that occurred early yesterday.
The governor declared: “We will not tolerate this kind of situation; arson is not what we must allow in any community within the state. This government holds preservation of life and property dearly.
“This is a state where everybody has the right to live and trade within the limit of the constitution.
“Security operatives have been put on the red alert to guard the market to prevent further losses.”
The Chairman of the market association, Oladipo Faseyitan, said the first incident was caused by a gas explosion from a nearby building. The second, he claimed, could have been caused by a group of people, who claimed to be the land owners.
He explained that his members had been battling land owners, who wanted them ened out of the community.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Sango Police Station, Mrs. Joyce Maiyaki, said the police had been providing security in the area.
She praised the fire service for its prompt response in putting out the fire.
One of the elders of the Ibadan Timber Dealers Association, Sango branch, Ibadan, Olayinka Ojo, said the first incident was as a result of a burning gas cooker thrown into the market from a neighbouring house.
He noted that the second incident was suspicious owing to the information available to them.
Ojo, however, ruled out a crisis situation, noting that the elders and executive committee were working to ensure that things did not get out of hand.
He added that they were waiting on the next line of advice from the government.