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Borno State traders suspicious about four fires that broke out during election time and gutted their shops and stalls

20 March 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Having stocked up on goods for the holy month of Ramadan, traders were left with nothing as four fires ripped through markets in Borno State.

Roaring fires that gutted four markets during the election period have perplexed some traders and residents in Borno State who believe the timing of the blazes is suspicious.

Others said the fires were destined by Almighty Allah and should be accepted as such.

The first and fiercest fire broke out at Maiduguri’s Monday Market. It began in the early hours of Sunday, February 26, the morning after the presidential elections were held.

A second fire broke out at Maiduguri’s largest perishable goods market, the Gamboru Market, at about 2pm on Saturday, March 18, while residents were queueing to vote in the gubernatorial elections.

Earlier that day, at about 9am – as voters gathered to cast their ballots – a third fire gutted parts of the Biu Central Market in the local government area of the same name.

The fourth fire broke out at the Ngomari bus-stop market in Maiduguri in the early hours of Sunday, March 19, the morning after the gubernatorial elections.

In all four fires, shops and stalls were gutted. Most of the traders – many of whom were internally displaced persons (IDPs) – lost everything. Goods worth millions of naira were burnt to ashes. The shops and stalls were packed with goods that the traders had bought and stocked ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which starts tomorrow evening.
Isa Bukar, a resident of Biu town told RNI that the fire began in the morning just as most people were queueing to vote.

“The fire razed many sections of the Bui Central Market to the ground. The timber section was the worst hit. Many traders lost their shops and property worth millions of naira. Residents of Biu worked with firefighters to extinguish the blazing market.

“We have not been told what caused the outbreak. Most people believe it was destined by Almighty Allah. We hope the government and maybe some philanthropists will help the traders who lost everything in the fire,” Bukar said.

Aliyu Isa, the vice-chairman of the Biu Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Biu, said they were alerted about the fire at about 9am.

He said it took many residents, CJTF members and firefighters to quell the flames.

“The fire started in the morning and we got to the market at about 9am. People were already queueing to vote. It disrupted voting in areas close to the market as frightened residents ran to help put it out. The fire was particularly fierce in the timber section which was completely burnt to the ground. Other sections were also burnt. The whole market needs to be rebuilt.

“Once the blaze was under control, residents returned to their polling unit to cast their votes.”

Baba Gana Usman, a trader who lost everything in the fire at Maiduguri’s second-biggest market, the Gamboru Market, which was almost completely gutted, told RNI that the fire broke out at about 2pm just when many residents were voting.

“When we heard about the fire, we left the polling units and rushed to the scene. It is the largest perishable goods market and, unfortunately, the fire was already blazing. Most traders, the majority of whom are IDPs, lost everything. A few of them, helped by residents, managed to get some of their goods out.

“By the time we arrived at the market security operatives had surrounded it and they refused to allow us access because the fire was just too ferocious. Most of the shops and stalls were completely gutted. My shop burnt down and I lost everything. I am in shock and I do not know what will happen now. If I don’t get help, I will have nothing for my family.”

Usman said many residents and traders had worked with firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

“It took a lot of time and effort from everyone to put out the fire. But most of us lost everything. We are pleading with the government, humanitarian agencies and philanthropists to help us rebuild and restock our shops. We cannot do this on our own. Without help we will not be able to cope.”

Abatcha Tazarche, also a trader at Gamboru Market, said: “The fire was massive and disastrous. It engulfed the market just at a time we were casting our votes and queueing at various polling booths. By the time we got there, the fire had mostly gutted the place. Hundreds of shops and stalls were burnt to ashes.

“I and most of the traders lost property worth millions of naira. Most of us had bought a large amount of goods and stored them in our shops and stalls. They were packed full of stock because we were preparing for the holy month of Ramadan which starts tomorrow evening. But all our goods just went up in flames.

“We believe it was destined by God and we could not escape it no matter what we could have done. We are praying the government will come to our aid.”

A fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning at the Ngomari bus-stop market in Maiduguri where many shops were burnt down to ashes. Traders said the fire started about 2am. They told RNI that they did not know the cause of the fire but said many of them had lost their only means income.

Residents and traders were particularly perturbed and panicked about the fires, especially the inferno that had gutted the biggest market in Maiduguri – the Monday Market – in the early hours of Sunday, February 26, the day after the presidential elections three weeks ago.

Incredulous spectators told RNI they were suspicious that there were four fires at four markets during election time. Others were more philosophical, saying the fires were destined by Almighty Allah and they just had to accept it.


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