BY SUNNY A. DAVID
The Federal government has assured victims of Wednesday’s fire incident at the Ochanja Market, Onitsha in Anambra State, of its support towards ameliorating their plights.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq, gave the assurance on Friday in Onitsha when she visited the market to ascertain the level of damage.
Hajia Umar-Farouq said she was pained at the level of losses incurred by the traders as well as the damage caused by the inferno.
“We are here on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, who directed that the ministry should come and condole the government and people of Anambra State, especially the Ochanja Market traders mostly affected by the fire incident.
“I came here with sadness and utmost priority. Billions of naira has been lost by this fire incident. I have directed the acting Director-General of NEMA to immediately send relief materials through the South-East Zonal office to the affected victims of the incident,” she said.
The Minister, who interacted with some of the victims, further assured that the ministry would work closely with the State government to see how they could prevent further occurrence.
“A joint committee made up of Federal and State governments will come later to assess the level of damage with a view to forestalling future incidents of fire outbreaks,” she noted.
According to her, part of the assessment would focus on prevention and mitigation aspect of disaster and response to forestall future occurrences.
In his remarks, Chief Primus Odili, the Chief of Staff to Governor Willie Obiano, commended the swift response of the Federal Government to the disaster.
Chief Odili, who took the Minister round the market in the company of NEMA and Red Cross Society officials, requested for fire trucks from Federal Government to help combat such incidences in future.
“The people of Anambra are happy that the President within 24 hours was able to deploy people that came to assess the extent of damage and to give orders that relief materials be sent down to our people.
“What happened touched the heartbeat of trade and commerce in the South-East; we are asking the Federal Government to also come to our aid in terms of fire trucks.
“We have about 20 fire trucks. About four of them came for the rescue operation. Early this morning, we had a similar incident at Nkpor (near Onitsha) and about six fire trucks were deployed within minutes, which is why we are not talking about serious damage.
“We are soliciting fire trucks; at the Ochanja Market, we need at least three. You saw how congested that market is, so we need high powered fire trucks that can deal with such fire disasters as we saw on Wednesday,” he appealed.
Responding, the Chairman of one of the affected plazas in the market, Chief Ndubisi Onuoha, commended President Buhari for condoling with them.
But Onuoha prayed that the promises made to them by the Federal Government should not be diverted.