Gov. Wike Promises To Rebuild Burnt Fruit Garden Market
Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has promised to commence soonest, the rebuilding of the popular Fruit Garden Market gutted by fire, Thursday night. The market is located at Kaduna Street, in the D-Line area of Port Harcourt.
He spoke when he visited the burnt market with some members of the State Executive Council (SEC) last night to inspect the burnt market. Properties worth millions of Naira were lost to the fire.
There were reports that personnel from the state fire service did not respond to emergency calls on time which caused the fire to spread throughout the market, burning all shops and wares.
The governor expressed dismay that some youths in the area attacked personnel of the Rivers State Fire Service who had come to put out the fire.
The youths who were angry that the Fire Service officers came late pelted them with stones and in the process damaged the windscreen of the fire fighting vehicle. The state’s fire service personnel were said to have fled from the scene for fear of viciously attacked.
Governor Wike admonished: “Nobody is happy. I am not happy. You people should not have pursued those who came to see what they can remedy. As if to say: “You people didn’t do your work. It is not proper. Now, you see what you action have caused. You don’t use anger to solve problems.”
“Traders who have not done anything wrong have lost their businesses. It is a lost to the state. We will look at the immediate and remote causes to ascertain what happened. And see how we can support the traders who have lost their shops and wares and rebuild the market immediately.”
Director of the Rivers State Fire Service, John Chukumachi, denied insinuations that his men didn’t respond on time after they received distress calls from the affected traders because they had all gone home in compliance with the seven days warning strike embarked upon by the organised labour to press home it’s demand for a new enhanced national minimum wage.
He stated that they responded as soon as they were contacted but regretted that an angry mob pelted them with stones when they arrived at the market and damaged the windscreen of their truck.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Emeka Onowu, has condemned the attack on the personnel of the fire service who had arrived at the Fruit Garden Market to put off the fire.
“We apologize to the traders. We sympathize with them. We all know that there is strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. It’s a nationwide strike. The fire fighters are under the civil service union.”
He stated: “Although, they are not supposed to go on strike because they are involved in essential services, I think some of them took advantage of the strike and were not around. But 15 minutes later, they arrived the venue of the fire incident.”
Onowu lamented: “They should have allowed them to salvage whatever they could. The damage would not have been this much. But they were lynched when they arrived. They damaged the truck; smashed the windscreen; and they had to escape from the scene to save their lives.”
Soalabo West, a lawyer and former Governorship aspirant of the PDP sympathized with the traders: “My heart goes out to all who have lost properties and livelihoods in the recent fire that mysteriously engulfed the Fruit Garden Market over the night.”
“It’s a shame that in a modern city like Port Harcourt, we still have markets in ramshackle shanties without public utilities and emergency response systems. There is really nothing like the Rivers State Fire Service as referred to by the Governor and his Commissioner for Special Duties. What we have is a ragtag army of untrained starving men who have neither the skill nor the equipment to fight any serious fires. The people know this and that’s very likely the reason they chased them away when they arrived when the fury of the fire was nearly spent.”
This is a wakeup call for the local government State Government authorities to stand up to their responsibilities to our people. Ordinarily, a forward-thinking responsible government should not wait until lives are lost and properties destroyed from easily foreseeable incidents like this before building new markets. But that is what we are saddled with in Rivers State. We definitely can do these things better and differently.