The government of Oyo state has said it will probe the circumstances surrounding the fire incidents that occurred at Sango Alaro plank market twice in three days. The infernos resulted in loss of properties worth several millions of Naira, but there is more to the story.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi made this known when he paid a visit to the market which got burnt first on Christmas day, while another part was also razed in the early hours of December 28.
The second incident affected over 300 shops, goods worth millions of naira, 50 sawing machines and three vehicles unlike the Christmas Day inferno that affected mostly plank sellers.
The governor was represented by the Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Mr. Yomi Layinka; the Head of Service, Mr. Soji Eniade; a former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ismail Olalekan-Alli; a former Special Adviser on Political Matters, Dr. Gbade Ojo; and a former Special Adviser on Security, Mr. Segun Abolarinwa, among others.
Addressing newsmen after the delegation had inspected the burnt sections of the market, Layinka expressed concern that the market could record two fire incidences within three days.
Describing Ajimobi as peace-loving, the Governor’s spokesman said it cherished peace and anything that would make life more comfortable for the people of the state, adding; “This is a state where everybody has the right to live and trade within the limit of the Constitution.”
The government delegation appealed to the people, particularly the traders and members of the affected community to remain calm and shun any untoward act.
Tension is mounting in the plank market as many believed that some people might have intentionally burnt the market to avenge Christmas day’s incident.
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 out of the community.
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.
The state government has constituted a six-man panel of inquiry to investigate the two fire incidents that gutted the Sango Igbajo Plank Market on Christmas Day and Monday, which traders attribute to sabotage. The panel has the state’s Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Mr Wasiu Gbadegesin, as the chairman while the Director, Administration and Supplies in the Governor’s Office, Mr. Paul Oyekunle, is to serve as secretary.
A statement from the office of the Secretary to the State Government named the other members as the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Lekan Busari, the Permanent Secretary, Lands, Housing & Survey, Mr. Babatunde Ladipo; the Acting Permanent Secretary, Environment and Habitat, Mr. M. J. Akinlabi; and the State Director of Fire Services, Mr. Kareem Oyekunle.
The panel was mandated to examine the immediate and remote causes of the fire incidents, assess the extent of damage and loss to traders and recommend appropriate action(s) to check re-occurrence. The panel was also directed to proffer any relevant or suitable advice to the state government that would serve the best interest of the stakeholders. The panel has two weeks to submit its report.