Auto-part Traders Lose Millions To ‘Strange’ Fire In Lagos

Automobile spare parts traders in Ladipo market, Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, recounted how they lost their properties worth millions to a fire outbreak they claim was staged.

After graduating from one of Nigeria’s higher institutions, Ifesinacho Peter searched for a corporate job for years. Failing, he decided to venture into selling automobile spare parts. 

“I grew rapidly on the business because I have contact with people who brought goods from Dubai. So I get a lot of goods and I sell them quickly,” Peter said.

Averagely, Peter makes above N100,000 –depending on what is sold– at his two shops in Ladipo Market, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. 

“I can make N1 million, N300,000, N25,000 or even nothing. But averagely, I make nothing less than N25,000 daily,” he added.

Unfortunately, these past years of struggle turned into smoke after he lost his two shops–stocked with goods–to an inferno that razed over 20 shops in the market on May 30.

Ladipo market is commonly known to be the biggest, cheapest, and accessible hub in Lagos for automobile spare parts in Nigeria. The market is patronised by people from all parts of Nigeria and West Africa with traders receiving deliveries from across the continent.

There is still no evidence as to the cause of the fire.

Ladipo market fire

In the early hours of Sunday, fire broke out in one of the shops located in the Alapeju section of Ladipo market. The fire, after consuming properties worth millions, was quickly put out by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and collaborators.

In a statement, the agency’s spokesperson, Nosa Okunbor, said LASEMA had responded to a distress call to save millions of properties from getting consumed with no record of fatalities.

“Timely response of the Agency to the fire outbreak reported through the Agency’s Toll-Free Emergency numbers 112/767 this morning, saved goods worth several hundreds of millions of naira from destruction at the motor spare parts market, in Mushin Local Government Area, Lagos.

“The incident, which attracted the attention of residents, also brought traders residing close to the market to their shops in order to either remove their wares or assist in putting out the inferno,” he said.

However, the Director-General of LASEMA, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said that a storey building, used for commercial purpose, was also burnt in the fire.

But despite the Agency’s report on the cause of the fire outbreak, Peter believes the fire was a planned occurrence.

“No one actually knows the cause. All I know is that the fire I saw was just like a diesel burn. Too harsh to be caused by electric power,” he said.

Millions worth of properties gone

“At this time nothing is ever too small for me. I lost close to 15 million worth of goods in my two shops,” ifesinacho lamented.

With some donations sent to him by concerned Nigerians after sharing his distress on his social media handle, Peter said that he has been able to secure another shop but goods would be a challenge because the type of goods he deals in are very expensive.

Unlike Peter, Wisdom Mmaduabuchi, who also majors in sales of automobile spare parts, lost his properties worth N9.8 million to the inferno.

“Sometimes I do sell more than N2 million worth of goods in a day. But now that business is down, I do sell like N500,000 worth or more daily.”

“I don’t know how the fire started. We  have two security men. We are trying to find out what happened but to my greatest surprise, no one can give a reasonable answer,” he stressed.

Chizobam David, another trader, said,”on Sunday morning around 9 am a call came to my phone. The caller told me that our plaza was on fire. When I rushed there, I saw that the fire was around our plaza. I stood by watching my shop burn. I have goods worth over N15 million and cash of over N200,000.”

“Some days, I carry out business worth over a million naira, sometimes N500,000 or N300,000. Where will I start from?”

This was the first time David had experienced a fire outbreak since his over seven years of trading in the market. “Nobody knows what caused the fire,” he adds.  

While the auto-part traders are still investigating the cause of the fire as well as trying to get back on their feet, Peter believes government intervention could help relieve the plight of the traders.

“The government has not done anything yet. Last time I went there, they had placed the red caution tape around the scene and afterwards started breaking the building down. That’s all that has happened. No one is investigating and our sweat will just go down the drain,” he said.

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