Ayodele Samuel, Lagos written for Peoples Daily Newspaper (Weekend edition 4-6-2013)
It's becoming a double tragedy for the people of Kara Village, popularly called Zaria Estate a border snub between Lagos and Ogun densely populated with Hausa traders dealing in cow and other food stuff business.
A major 'clearing house' for food stuffs coming into Lagos from the Northern Nigeria, Kara village is located opposite the cattle market,under the inter-access bridge (long bridge) along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
Last Wednesday night, Kara village was visited by fire destroying properties worth millions of Naira as well as valuable materials including cash, however Ogun State government denied begin aware of the existence of more than 7,000 residents under the bridge.
The inferno also did not leave until after rendering about 5,000 residents homeless, they live in shanties built with planks and rusted zinc which added the spread of fire as the entire place was burnt to ashes, the state Authorities insisted that the displaced persons and occupants of the razed Kara village are not legal occupants but it will in any case provide necessary support to the internally displaced persons.
According to eyewitness the fire started on Wednesday evening around 7p.m from a charcoal fire being used to fry fish by an Egbira woman, who sells food in the village and was further inflamed by a powered generating set that was nearby..
"I noticed that the groundnut oil she was using to fry the fish was too small, while the charcoal fire was raging. I called her attention to it but she wouldn't listen. That was where the fire eventually started from."
Efforts of men of the Lagos State fire service who reportedly got to the scene about three hours after the fire started with only one truck, could not douse the raging inferno after they exhausted the tanker, they drove back to get more water but the fire eventually razed the entire settlement.
Thou no life was lost, many victims of the disaster said they lost everything to the dangerous visitor, most Hausa traders who are famous for not keeping their money in the banks remains the worst hit.
Engineer Yomi Olugbodi, operates three shops in the village, one of the shops was filled with crates of eggs and soft drinks, while he just bought a new deep freezer a few days ago and stocked the shop with other goods, his wife sells food at the other two shops said he lost everything to the fire.
"Honestly, I can't quantify the loss. I kept about N450,000 in one of the shops that was burnt. I bought the portion of land that I built the shops on. Everything I have laboured for in life is gone. I and my wife were not even around when the incident happened. I only came back to see everything burnt to ashes. Where do I start from now?" Olugbodi told our reporter.
Fatimah Jabah who deals in clothing and textile said she lost all her wares and a cash of N400,000. "I'm even confused now. I don't know what to say. All my wares and money are gone," she cried.
Kola Akanmu, a supplier of water and drinks in the market said he lost all his sources of livelihood including N100,000 cash said, "We thought we could easily put out the fire. All our effort was abortive as the inferno spread further. If I had known, I would have gone to evacuate my things. I am in deep trouble now because I don't know what to tell people from whom I just got goods which I am yet to pay for."
While the Ogun state Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development; Engineer Bayo Faari who visited the scene expressed his surprise for such a densely populated community to exist under a major inter-state access bridge, residents in the community however faulted Faari's claims, insisting that they have always participated in elections in the state and also paid taxes to the state government.
"we always vote during election, everybody in Nigeria knows Kara market, government officials even come to buy cows here, so how come the commissioner said he's not aware of our existence," a resident who would not give his name queried.
Thou victims of the disaster where seen registering their loses in a disaster relief form from the Ogun State government, the south-west coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Iyiola Akande has asked for more synergy between the two states in the case of such disasters.
Akande noted that though the scene of the incident falls under the purview of Ogun state but more accessible to Lagos.