Kayode Olawuni

Properties worth hundreds of millions of Naira were lost following an inferno that engulfed the popular Oja Tuntun (New Market) in Ile-Ife, Osun State in the late hours of yesterday, Tuesday 1st of December, 2020.

The fire, Ife City Blog gatherd, broke out at around 11pm and ragged throughout the night leaving behind griefs-ladden tales on the shopowners as the day broke. When visited the seen around 10am this morning, sympathisers were seen trying to put out the still burning fire to forestall further escalation to the other wings of the market. 

While the cause of the incedence is yet to be ascertained as at the time of filling this report, sources at the scene however alleged poor response including a claim of 'lack of water' from the fire service personnels as being responsible for the escalated damage. Others alleged a refusal on the part of the market security officers to grant entry to rescuers.

When contacted, an Official of the Ile-Ife branch of the State Fire Service, Lagere who spoke on the condition of anonymity expressed sympathy with the victims but faulted a claim of water shortage from the department. He, on the contrary, blamed much of the devastation on the hostile attitude from some angry sympathisers at the scene. 

"Water is the last thing a fire service will ever claim to lack. We received a distress call to the effect of the incedence but we unfortunately lacked the machinery to swiftly respond from our station as our two vehicles were currently disfunctional. We however immediately called for assistance from our sister fire stations which are the Obafemi Awolowo University and the OAUTHC fire stations and they urgently responded", the source said.

When the team were exhausted of water on the first round, the source further explained, the vehicles went for a refill but upon their return they were attacked by some angry sympathizers, reacting from a perceived feeling of faulted response from the team which forced them to run from the scene.

When contacted, the Commander, Ife Area Command Headquarters of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Commander Akintilebo Akinwumi, while sympathizing with the victims acknowledged the role of the Security personnel as alerting agents in situations like this but disagreed on putting the entire blame on the security agents as according to him, they are not trained for such engagements.

"I personally called one of our officers attached to the OAU who alerted the Fire Service on Campus and they responded. We tried our best. It is an unfortunate scenario and we sympathize with the victims", Commander Akintilebo concluded. 

Meanwhile, the Osun State Government has reacted to the incidence. In a press statement signed by the State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Alhaji Tajudeen Eniafe Lawal, the State government expressed regret over the incidence and called for more safety measures. Alhaji Eniafe, while sympathizing with the victims on behalf of the State government emphasized the preventable nature of the such incidents.

He advised for such safety measures like putting off fires, oil lamps and ensuring that all flameables are never at a point they can be ignited.

The Honorable Commissioner however condemned the alleged attack on the fire personnel by sympathizers, advising citizens against such acts as it is capable of affecting the lives of the officers in the course of discharging their lawful duties, while assuring those affected that the state government shall take necessary steps to assess the damages and facilitate appropriate measures to mitigate the effect of the damages and prevent a reoccurrence.


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