We lost life investments to Oil Mill market fire – Rivers traders

Some traders at the Oil Mill market in Obio/Akpor Local Government of Rivers State, which was recently destroyed by fire, tell DENNIS NAKU about the loss of their goods worth millions of naira, among other issues

Ann Ezeji (lost trailer load of yam)

What goods were you selling before the Oil Mill market was destroyed by fire?

I was selling yam tubers.

How long have you been in the business?

I have been doing this business for more than 25 years. They call me yam bulldozer. I travel to the North; Taraba State, Abuja to buy yam. I travelled to Plateau State to buy yam and ha stored them for sale before the fire destroyed all of them.

What is the quantity of the yam you bought?

I chartered a trailer load of yam worth N1.9m. The expenses I made on the road to come back to Port Harcourt was N106,000. I loaded the goods (yam tubers) on Monday. My two shops were loaded. Unfortunately, on Saturday, everything got burnt. You can see it for yourself. I am a widow; I borrowed money from people to do this business. After selling, I usually take my profit and pay back those who lent me money. That is how I have been doing since 2017 when my husband died.

My husband was sick for 13 years. He was admitted at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, now Rivers State University Teaching Hospital before he died. After I buried him, I began to take loans to start this business. So, right now, the debt on my head because of this fire incident is worrisome. I don’t know where to start. How will I return the N1.6m to those who lent me money?

How do you intend to start again?

That is why I am begging Nigerians to help me. Let our Governor, Nyesom Wike, come and help me and my fellow traders. Women are suffering.

How did you hear about the fire?

I am a Sabbatarian. I don’t sell on Saturday. It was people that called me on the phone, saying that I should come to Eleme junction. They didn’t even tell me that the market was on fire. I told them I was on my way to church. They said no, don’t go; just rush down to the market. That was how I came here. Reaching here that day, I fainted when I saw my shade (stall) destroyed by fire. They rushed me to hospital. Since that Saturday, I have taken drip. I am still taking drugs.

I am begging our governor to help me so that I can remove this debt on my head. It is only this debt that I am begging the governor to assist me to pay. He is trying in the state, doing good things. I plead with him to extend his kindness to us.

Beatrice Okocha, widow with six children (Lost four bags of garri)

How did you hear of the fire?

That day they shifted the election. I was at home when they called me that my bags of garri and my shade were on fire. When I rushed here, everything in my shade was burnt.

Have you found out what caused the fire?

I don’t know. I was just at home when they called me to tell me that my shop had been gutted by fire, and I rushed to this place.

What else do you sell apart from garri?

I sell only garri. Four bags of garri from my shop were completely burnt.

What other commodities are sold in this market?

Some of us sell garri, but others sell fish, yam, oil, crayfish, Okrika (secondhand clothes), charcoal, everything.

 What was your reaction when you came and saw your goods and shop on fire?

I cried, but there was no way to enter the fire to bring out the garri. These are goods I take from people to sell and pay them their money. I am a widow; it is 13 years now since my husband died.

How many children do you have and how have you been coping?

I have six children. I have been struggling, borrowing money to add to my little profit to buy more goods and sell. That is how I have been managing and God is helping us.

How do you intend to start business again?

Anywhere, the local government, our governor or anybody that God touches should come and help. That is my appeal.

Chioma Arungwa, mother of five (Palm oil trader)

How long have you been in palm oil business?

I have been in the business for almost seven years.

How did you hear about the fire?

I usually go to Church on Saturdays; I don’t sell on Saturdays. It was my neighbour that came to the market who told me that the market where I do business was on fire. I rushed to this place. When I got here, I saw that all my oil in plastic containers, melon and other things I sell got burnt. I didn’t believe it. I started crying. Fellow women held me and told me that it was not death. They consoled me and told me that since I was alive, I could still start business again.

How have you been coping with your children?

I have been thinking how I will get money now to start again, feed and train my children, especially with this money scarcity problem we are facing.

How many children do you have?

I have five children. All of them are in secondary and primary school.

What kind of help do you need to start the business again?

The most painful thing is that my five containers of palm oil, pepper, melon, and ogbono got burnt in the fire incident. But when they were writing names, I begged them to write my name. They said I was not selling palm oil. Even people from this community were telling them that I sell palm oil, they didn’t listen. I don’t know if they think I was lying. Look at my shade here; it was burnt.

That is why I am begging our governor to help us. Since he came to power, he has been doing well in education, roads, flyover and other things. Let him also help us like he is helping people who lost their property to fire.

Evelyn Ilozulike, mother of five (lost N300,000 worth of garri)

How many children do you have?

I have five children. They are still very young.

How did you hear about the fire?

They called me while I was at home saying that all my goods in the market were destroyed by fire. I live very far, but I was able to get here to see what happened. I couldn’t even rescue any bag of garri. See some areas are still burning as we speak (pointing to a smoke). I had seven bags of garri here, all got burnt.

What is the value of the seven bags of garri that you lost?

It will be over N300,000, because garri is very expensive now. That is why I am crying because most of us take these goods on credit and after selling, we pay back those who gave us the money after taking our profit. There is no money now in Nigeria; I don’t know what to do and I have high blood pressure already, and it really disturbs me.

What was the level of the fire when you came?

The intensity of the fire was high. Even this high-rise building (pointing at a building); as you can see, all the walls were affected. Everywhere was hot with smoke. You would not even be able to come close when it was raging because of the heat of the fire. People ran very far because it was as if there was something exploding.

Where do you live and how much transport do you spend getting here daily?

I live at Igbo-Etche. Every day, except Sunday, I pay N800 to and from my house to go to market and sell what my children and I will eat.

In what way do you want to be assisted?

Any kind of help I see now will be a big relief to me, and I will appreciate it. The first person I will beg is our Governor, Mr Project, Nyesom Wike. Please come and help me and my fellow traders. This market is the only business we use to take care of our children. So, let our governor come to our aid. We also appeal to Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere of OPM to help us. The governor and the pastor have been working hard and helping people.

Rose Sunday, mother of seven (garri trader)

How many children do you have and what are they doing?

Only one of my children is a generator repairer. The others are at home. I don’t have money to send them to the university. But two of them are married now.

How did you hear about the fire?

At about 7am that Saturday, I just finished bathing and dressed up my husband who has been down with stroke. After doing that, I went to the market. On my way, from afar, I saw huge smoke. The tricycle driver that was taking me to the market told me that the Oil Mill market was on fire. When I got here, I was shocked. Before I knew it, I was on the floor crying and thinking of the seven bags of garri that was in my shop. All got burnt; I even collected some on credit. I wanted to enter the fire, but people held me back. I was just hearing them telling me, ‘Madam, why do you want to kill yourself because of worldly thing’. Look at my basin, chairs, garri, everything got burnt.

How long has your husband been sick?

Since December 31, 2022, he has been sick, and he is not doing anything. All these my fellow market women know about his condition.

In what way do you want to be assisted?

I am praying that our able governor should remember us at the Oil Mill market, which fire destroyed or even anybody that wins the election too should help me because I don’t have anybody to help me. It is only God that I depend on. I am praying that if the government can help me, I will be happy. I don’t want this thing to make me develop high blood pressure or even die. I beg the governor to help us in any way he can. God will bless him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *