A devastating fire broke out at the Ojoto market in the Mile 2 area of Diobu, Port Harcourt on Thursday night, resulting in the destruction of over 200 shops and properties worth millions of naira. The incident occurred around 9:15 pm, after most of the traders had closed for the day.
Although the cause of the fire could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report, eyewitnesses revealed that it may have been sparked by an electrical issue when the public power supply was restored that night. Some witnesses also mentioned that cooking activities in the market could have contributed to the fire outbreak.
A female eyewitness, who wished to remain anonymous, recounted, “There was no light that night. So as soon as the light came on, we saw an electric spark. They said some people were cooking inside the market. So, as soon as that electric spark happened, the fire started in that shop. Before you know it, there was fire everywhere. All the shops burned down.”
The incident caused panic and confusion among the traders and residents living nearby. Some traders rushed to the scene in an attempt to salvage their goods, but their efforts were in vain.
The fire service arrived at the scene over an hour after the incident, around 10:42 pm. However, angry youths reportedly chased them and threw stones at their vehicles. The Chairman of Ojoto Market, Arinze Akupue, condemned the attack on the firefighters and clarified that nothing was removed from the market. He explained that he had contacted the state fire service upon receiving the report of the fire, but was directed to the Federal fire service as the state fire service was unable to respond.
Akupue further debunked claims that petroleum products were being stored or cooking activities were taking place in the market at the time of the fire outbreak. He also mentioned that hoodlums looted the market and attacked the firefighters, causing damage to the fire truck and forcing the firefighters to seek refuge at a nearby police station.
The Chairman appealed to the state government to assist the affected traders in rebuilding their livelihoods. The Commander of the Federal Fire Service in Rivers State, Abdullahi Alfa, confirmed the attack on his men and their truck, describing it as unfortunate. He reiterated that their mandate was to save lives and property, and they were not responsible for causing the fire. He expressed concern about the repeated attacks on firefighters and the challenges they faced in carrying out their duties.