Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue has offered N50 million to victims of the Tuesday fire incident that gutted down parts of the Makurdi modern market.
Ortom, who visited the market on Wednesday, said that the gesture was to help them to “restart something”.
“Billions of naira have been lost and traders have been reduced to zero level. It is very painful,” Ortom told the traders.
Ortom lamented the magnitude of damage caused by the inferno and sympathised with the traders over their losses.
He also regretted the frequent fire outbreaks at the market as well as the Gboko and Wadata markets, declaring the Tuesday disaster as “one incident too many”.
“Government will have to take proactive steps to end the ugly trend. We understand that there are issues between the market and the host community.
“We will set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the immediate cause of the fire. If there are technical or man-made issues, we will find out and look at how the market can be resuscitated to benefit Benue people.”
The governor also called for a quick resolution of lingering Union issues that were affecting the smooth operation of the market, urging leaders to “talk with each other”.
Earlier, Mr Emeka Ofoegbu, Secretary, Board of Trustees (BoT), of the Makurdi Modern Market, had said that losses incurred from the incident were “massive”.
“The cause of the fire is yet unknown, but the losses were very massive. Two blocks, comprising 100 shops each, were razed down,” Ofoegbu said.
“I had closed from the market at about 6:00 p.m. when someone called to inform me that the market was on fire.
“I quickly rushed back and, on arrival, found overwhelming flames. I mobilised some boys who fetched water to put it off while awaiting men of the fire service who took long in coming.
“It is really surprising that the security men did not know how the fire started. I am still in shock,” he said.
Another trader, Mr Onyema Umeh, who also spoke, said that he was able to remove some of his goods before the inferno razed down his shop.
“The fire was so sudden and the flames were much. A lot of my wares went with it,” he said.
Mrs. Veronica Obi, who sells clothing materials, said that she could not recover anything from her shop before it was reduced to ashes.
“All my wares have been reduced to ashes. I cannot even say how much I have lost,” she said.
Chief Sule Abenga, Chairman, Makurdi Traditional Council, who decried the massive damage by the inferno, said that the incident had slowed down the economy of the state.
Abenga appealed to the traders to be patient and wait for the state government’s response to the incident. (NAN)