The Federal Fire Service appears to be shifting the blame of the fire that engulfed a portion of the Ochanja Market in Onitsha that claimed many lives and millions of Naira worth of properties at the doorsteps of an angry mob that prevented fire officers from reaching and putting out the inferno.
The Police in a statement said the fire started at about 1.00 p.m. when “a trailer loaded with petroleum product lost control at upper iweka, along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Onitsha and crashed inside a pavement in between the expressway.” It caught fire and its spilled content caused the fire to spread.
However, the Federal Fire Service claims it received a call about the fire outbreak at about 2 p.m., a clear one hour after The fire started.
“The control room at the headquarters in Abuja immediately turned out the nearest Federal Fire Service Station at Asaba, Delta State to attend to the fire. Our men immediately headed to the scene but it was not possible to contend with the heavy traffic at the head bridge and behaviour of angry mob who pelted stones at them. Thus, it was not possible for the firefighters to get to the scene and fight the fire in such a hostile environment,” the Service said in its statement.
Many have frowned at the slow response of the fire-fighters in the Onitsha incident, a recurring complaint among Nigeria in fire incidents across the country.
In the statement, spokesman of the Fire Service, DSF Ugo Huan said the Controller General of the Federal Fire Service, Liman Ibrahim Alhaji is saddened by the unfortunate fire outbreak adding that his boss expressed his condolences to the families who lost loved ones and sincere sympathy to those who lost properties.
He adds, “The Federal Fire Service is committed to ensuring the safety of lives and Property, With the procurement of new state of the art firefighting trucks distributed to the 12 zones of the Service across the nation, the Service is always ready to respond to fire outbreaks and other emergencies across the nation and worthy to note that similar situations in recent past in Sokoto, Uyo, Minna, Ibadan, Osun and Lagos were prevented from escalating to a major disaster by Fire Service.
“The case of Ochanja market was an unfortunate one, as one will wonder why individuals will want to attack firefighters that came to help put out fire that was threatening lives and ravaging property.
“The Service will like to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that in as much as the Fire Service is prepared and committed to saving of lives and property in emergencies, their support and cooperation is highly needed to do that.
“We remain committed to our mandate of saving lives and Property of Nigerians and others residing in Nigeria.”