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Traders lose everything in massive inferno that engulfed Maiduguri’s Monday Market

27 February 2023
Reading time: 8 minutes

Devastated traders try desperately to retrieve valuable wares worth hundreds of millions but end up getting severely burnt and not being able to retrieve anything because of the furious flames.

Traders and businessmen wailed and screamed as they watched their wares, shops and properties burning to ashes in an inferno that engulfed Maiduguri’s popular Monday Market in the early hours of Sunday, February 26.

It has been estimated that goods and properties worth hundreds of millions went up in flames in the blaze. The market was largely razed to the ground, leaving nothing but huge piles of ashes.

Although the inferno started at about 2am, witnesses said firefighters arrived at the market only at about 7am. They spent most of the morning battling to contain and extinguish the blaze.


Mohammed Ali, a trader, told RNI that the fire broke out at about 2am in the market.

“Shops, properties and wares worth millions of naira were burnt to ashes. I lost my shop and all my goods in the fire. Nothing is left. Right now, no one can measure the extent of the valuable wares and properties that were burnt. Only Almighty Allah knows.

“Some of my fellow traders whose shops were on the outskirts of the market were able to retrieve some of their goods. But those of us who had shops inside the market have lost everything.

“We are dismayed that the firefigters arrived so late at the scene. They came at about 7am but still they battled to quell the inferno because it was so massive. It was still burning out of control when they arrived. We even observed our dawn prayer at the scene and then struggled to help save some of our colleagues’ property from the fire and to safeguard what little remained from thieves.

“One of our colleagues lost his life when he was shot by a security agent at the Monday Market bridge. Security operatives were shootings into the sky to keep people – even the victims – away from the blaze. One of the bullets hit our fellow trader and he died on the scene.”

Ali said many men were burnt and injured at the scene, as well as one woman.
“For now, the entire market is surrounded by security operatives and no one is allowed to go near. Up until now, we still do not know what caused the fire.”

Trader Mam Modu said: “The fire broke out in the early hours and, as soon as we heard it, we rushed to scene. Some of us were in cars, some on bicycles, some in tricycles [keke napep]. Others were just running as fast as they could to get to the scene. Some were barefoot. They did not even have time to put on their shoes.

“But, by the time we arrived at the market, the enormous blaze was already out of control. We could not save out shops and property, let alone even think of trying to quell the flames. Even firefighters were struggling to put out the blaze. Even they couldn’t do it immediately. It took hours to put it out.

“The fire was an inferno. It was massive and very frightening. The air was black with smoke. You could hear some wares exploding as they burnt. Around us, people were coughing and spluttering from all the smoke. Some people were holding handkerchiefs and cloths over their nose and mouth.”

Modu told RNI that most, if not all, the shops in the market had been burnt to ashes.

“This terrible inferno has affected many, many traders and businessmen. Some of them tried to get to their shops to save and retrieve their wares. But they ended up getting severely burnt. Other people were injured by security operatives who were trying to get people away from the fire. Some people collapsed at the scene, either fainting or because of an illness, such as a heart attack or stroke. I even saw a dead body at the scene.

“No one seems to know at this stage what caused the blaze. Some are saying that it was politically motivated, especially as it happened so soon after the general elections. But I don’t think anyone knows for sure.”

Alhaji Bana, a resident of Hausari, an area that is very close to the market, said he and other residents were “seriously frightened”.

“You cannot believe the enormous clouds of smoke that were bulging into the sky. The air was thick and black from the smoke. We could hear things smashing in the raging fire inside the market. Some residents even took their families and fled from the area. I think they were concerned that the fire could spread and burn down their houses.

“We first noticed the fire at about 3am but we couldn’t do anything to stop it because it was so massive.

“Some residents remained in their homes to safeguard their houses and possessions from potential thieves. Many of the men sent their wives and children to relatives and friends so that they would be safe.

“No one around here has ever witnessed such a massive and frightening fire. Even the strongest and bravest among us were terrified.”


Some traders were so angry about the inferno that they started vandalising public property in protest against the slow response of firefighters. The traders vandalised many vehicles, attacked and injured people, including a woman journalist who works at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
The reporter, Pauline Kuje Vana, said she and the crew of NTA were attacked by aggrieved traders while they were filing live coverage of the blaze. Protesting traders were aggressive and attacked them, injuring Vana and destroying cameras and other equipment. Vana is receiving treatment at the 7 division of the Nigerian Army hospital in Maiduguri.

Abdu Umar, the Borno State commisioner of police, confirmed that security agents had been deployed to the scene to prevent looting by hoodlums and to stop the aggressive and violent behaviour of some of the traders. He said their behaviour had worsened an already extremely volatile and traumatic event.


Borno State governor Babagana Umara Zulum reacted quickly to the blaze that largely razed the Monday Market by soon announcing – in a statewide broadcast – that he had approved a ₦1 billion emergency relief fund to provide urgent support to victims, pending an assessment of the horror incident.
Zulum addressed the people of Borno State in the Kanuri and Hausa languages on state television.

“My fellow people of Borno State, we woke up today with an incredibly sad and unfortunate fire disaster at the Maiduguri Monday Market. This is most unfortunate but we believe that this is decreed by Allah. Inna lillahi Wa inna ilayhi raajiun [‘To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return’].

“I feel deeply pained by this incident and I know how painful it is for anyone to work hard over years to build his or her business and then end up losing that investment in seconds. I really feel the pain of everyone affected.

“I commiserate with all of you. I kindly and most respectfully urge you to be calm and patient. I know how bad you feel and insha’Allah [God willing], the Borno State government is already taking the following measures to ameliorate the situation:

“1. I have approved the release of ₦1 billion as emergency relief for us to quickly support victims of the disaster because we know that some of them might even have difficulty surviving in the next few days. Many rely on daily business at the market to feed their families and themselves;
“2. We are setting up an assessment committee which will comprise respectable individuals from our society, including representatives of the victims, for us to speedily assess damages and make a comprehensive list of those affected and their losses. I will also be holding a meeting with the leadership of the market and representatives of victims;
“3. I am going to see Mr President [the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari] and seek presidential intervention on how to get support for victims;
“4. We will also reach out to other humanitarian establishments to seek help; and
“5. Insha’Allah, we will be taking firm measures towards preventing the reoccurrence of another fire disaster that has happened in previous years.
Zulum said he was respectfully appealing for everyone to remain calm.
“I know how you feel. I feel your pain and we will support you in whatever way we can, insha’Allah.

“In the meantime, I urge us not to politicise this unfortunate incident. I recognise that the incident happened at a political time, but we all know the Monday Market has, unfortunately, faced fire disaster previously. This is extremely sad and we will find ways to ensure that another fire disaster will never happen again. We will work together to ensure this, bi iznillah [with the will and permission of the Almighty Allah].”

Meanwhile, His Royal Highness the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Ibn-Garbai Elkenemy, visited the scene of the fire on Sunday to sympathise with the victims of the “unfortunate incident”. He urged the people and particularly the victims of the fire to accept what happened as an act of God. He assured traders that he would call on the federal government of Nigeria to assist those who had lost almost everything in the inferno.


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