Goods worth billions of Naira were destroyed in a fire outbreak that engulfed the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket building in the Jahi area of Abuja.
An eyewitness and one of the cashiers of the supermarket, Ogochukwu Aniekwe, told our correspondent that the goods destroyed by the inferno were worth billions of Naira.
She also disclosed that the fire started from an electric spark from a Christmas flower around 8:00 in the morning that later spread to other places.
Other eyewitnesses said when the fire started, there was no fire service around for almost an hour as the fire service facilities in the shopping mall developed a fault.
Another eyewitness, Joseph Ola lamented that the firefighters did not arrive at the scene on time.
The Coordinator, Abuja Municipal Management Council (AMMC), Umar Shuaibu said the fire incident was reported to the appropriate authority late, hence the escalation of the damage.
Shuaibu said: “The fire was reported to us late. We had to leave whatever we were doing to save the situation.”
But the Director-General of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Abbas Garuba Idriss said: “We got the distress call around 9:00 in the morning and immediately we activated all the respondents who had been here on time, especially the security agencies to cordon off the place.”
Idriss, who could not ascertain the cause of the fire, officially debunked the rumour that there was looting during the fire incident.
“The story of looting that you saw online is false. The people that you saw were the members of staff of NEXT cash and carry trying to move their goods from the inferno. This is normal, people are always eager to push fake news. Nothing has gone out of these premises. It is a big store, a lot of losses have been incurred but we cannot really ascertain what has been lost for now, but I am sure the owners will give details of that later. We will further investigate this incident. No casualty. We cannot say the cause of the fire.”
Commissioner of Police FCT, Sunday Babaji also said the security agencies arrived in good time.
The Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello expressed shock and deep sadness over the fire incident.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Anthony Ogunleye said: “The Minister, on behalf of the FCT Administration and the entire residents of the FCT, commiserates with the management and members of staff of the supermarket and the FCT business community over the unfortunate incident.”
Also yesterday, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command confirmed the arrest of three people over an alleged attempt to steal during the fire incident that engulfed the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket at Jahi District of the FCT.
The suspects are Ali Audu aged 18 Years; Yahaya Yunusa, 20 and Sahabi Abubakar, 20.
According to a statement by the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Josephine Adeh, an investigation is currently ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Adah said so far, no casualty has been recorded.
She said: “Today Thursday, December 26, 2021, at about 11:15 a.m. there was a report of a fire outbreak at Next Cash and Carry Supermarket at Jahi District of the FCT.
“Upon receipt of the information, a team of Police officers attached to Mabushi Police Divisional Headquarters responded swiftly to the scene where a concerted effort of the Federal Fire Service, FCT Fire Service, Julius Berger Fire Service and members of other security agencies were deployed to manage the situation, minimise damage, extinguish the inferno and ensure the maintenance of law and order.
“Well-meaning members of the surrounding communities came out en masse and helped in evacuating goods and other valuables from the supermarket to a safe location within the area with the supervision of police officers of the command that were on the ground.
“This is contrary to the news getting the rounds as there is no successful case of looting or carting away of goods from the store. The suspects who made attempts to cart away goods from the store and were promptly arrested include were Ali Audu, 18; Yahaya Yunusa, 20; and Sahabi Abubakar, 20.
“The Commissioner of Police FCT Command, CP Sunday Babaji, psc, also visited the scene alongside the Minister for State, FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, for an on-the-spot assessment and supervision of activities at the scene.”