Yemi Adodo was asleep at 2 a.m. in his home in Surulere, Lagos, when the ringing of his phone nudged him awake.
“Your shop is burning,” the caller at the other end said.
Before he could respond, the line went dead.
Mr Adodo said he quickly put on some clothes and dashed out of his house, towards Apongbon where his shop is located under the bridge.
“Immediately, I heard the news, I jogged from my house in Masha to the Island. Most of us at the extreme could not salvage anything. The fire was just sounding ‘gbim gbim,”” Mr Adodo, 56, a cobbler, said.
A fire had broken out at the popular Apongbon market. The cause of the inferno, which forced motorists heading towards Lagos Island to experience hours of gruelling gridlock, is yet to be ascertained.
The Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) has advised motorists heading to the Island via Eko Bridge to use alternative routes.
The state government had also shut the bridge and gave the traders a 48-hour quit notice to evacuate their makeshift shops and containers.
As of Friday, PREMIUM TIMES observed that some parts of the area were still burning as scavengers dug their way through the rubble. Clouds of smoke still hung in the air, and a part of the bridge has been cordoned off after the heat of the fire damaged it.
Mr Adodo told this newspaper that the government fire operatives, alongside fire officials from the United Bank for Africa (UBA) fought to quench the fire that lasted for many hours.
Witnesses said that two fire fighters and one trader fainted while combating the inferno.
The ever-busy section of the bridge has been reduced to ashes as many traders wondered where to start from.
Adekunle Omooba, an electrician, lost two shops in the inferno.
Mr Omooba said he did a “night watch” on the morning of the incident. He claimed the fire started from a trader’s shop that sells ‘chemical tablets.’
“Where do we start from? I lost two generators, more than 20 televisions belonging to customers. I could not salvage anything because of the smoke.
“By the time the fire operatives came, it had expanded. The fire started at 2 a.m. I lost between N450,000 to N500,000.”
He said he has been frequenting the place because he doesn’t have most of his customers’ contacts.
“I have TV sets that are as old as two years that customers are yet to claim,” he said.
“It is painful but I’m thankful that nobody died.”
Mr Adodo, who has been doing business in Lagos Island for more than 15 years, said immediately he got to his workplace, due to the thick black smoke, he could not enter his shop.
However, he helped his fellow traders,those whose shops were still accessible, to evacuate their goods.
“I left my former place because of a fire incident about 15 years ago. We lost billions here,” he said.
He said that a few minutes after he got there, he saw some scavengers trying to make away with some of the items but he had a “fight” with them and sent them away.
Toyin Kofoshi, the market leader, said she lost two shops to the inferno.
“The debt is too much and we don’t know where to start from. I’m not happy with the incident. It is sad,” she said, shaking her head.
When asked to do a rough estimate of her loss, she said “we thank God. It is a lot of money. I Iyaloja (market leader), Kososhi market (the name of the market) appeal to the government to please help us.”
She noted that she didn’t receive any quit notice letter but heard on television that the federal government has given them till the end of the month to evacuate the area.
Before the arrival of the market leader, this newspaper spoke with another leader in the nearby ECOWAS Market, Toke Dosumu.
“The market is basically foodstuffs, sugar, butter, cake accessories. It could have been worse if not for the intervention of LASEMA and UBA,” she said.
“We want the government to show us mercy. Some of the traders are widows, breadwinners in their families. Some traders have goods as high as 70 million, 30 million.”
At the market on Friday, traders were seen standing, some were sitting and watching as their container shops were being taken into a nearby truck in what seemed like an evacuation move.
As Mustapha Eyitayo, an executive member of the Kososhi market and drink seller, sat to speak with this newspaper, some passersby stopped by to show concern and pray for him over the loss of his shop and goods.
Pointing toward the eight freezers he couldn’t salvage, he said, “It was around 2 a.m. The heat was too much so I could not go in, I had to wait. I was perplexed.
“Each freezer contains drinks of N45,000, then bottled water 13 packs, that’s N21, 000.”
The incident occurred days after Sikirat Suenu had just been put to bed. Mrs Suenu and her friend, Fatimo Bakare, both of them drinks sellers, said they lost all their freezers which they described as “cold rooms.”
They appealed to the government to come to their rescue and make provisions for another area where they can engage in their trade.
Mr Adodo said the most painful experience was losing his equipment and the material he bought a week before the incident.
He said following the incident, a customer that gave him two pairs of Italian shoes for repairs had been “disturbing” him. Mr Adodo said he had explained to the customer about the incident but he wasn’t having it.
He told this newspaper that he came to the area to meet with the customer. As of 4 p.m. on Friday, he was still waiting for the customer, uncertain about the final outcome.
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