Edo State, APC trade blames over incessant end-of-year fire outbreaks in markets

The Edo State government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state have traded blame over the causes of fire incidents in marketplaces following the recent fire incident that gutted many shops at Lagos Street market in Benin City.

At about 7 pm on Tuesday, fire gutted the market and destroyed goods and property worth several millions of naira.

Reacting to the fire incident, the Edo Media and Publicity Committee of the APC Presidential Campaign Council on Wednesday lambasted the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government for not finding a lasting solution to the regular fire incidents, which ravaged major markets in Benin City, particularly at the end of every year.

A statement signed by John Mayaki, chairman, of Edo Media and Publicity Committee of the campaign council accused the state government of “unconscionable negligence, especially on the issue of incessant fire incidents reducing people’s livelihoods and means of economic survival to ashes.”

Mayaki urged the people of the state to punish the People’s Democratic Party-led government in the state with their votes in the 2023 general elections.

But, at a press briefing with newsmen in Benin City on Wednesday, Chris Nehikhare, Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, accused the opposition party for being the brain behind the incessant yearly fire incident in market places in the state.

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Nehikhare recalled that prior to the 2020 gubernatorial election; Eki Osa, Santana and Oba Markets were set on fire.

According to him, “In fact, traders in Ekiosa Market told journalists then that the fire was the handiwork of mischief makers, at a time the APC was aggressively looking for ways to blackmail Governor Godwin Obaseki and dent his popularity ratings weeks before the election.

“It would interest you to know that since after the last gubernatorial election in Edo State, there haven’t been market fires.

“The Edo State All Progressives Congress has confirmed our strong suspicion that they are responsible or at least complicit in the Lagos Street fire of yesterday and similar fire incidents that have happened in eve or during electioneering campaigns season in the past, in our state.

“The coincidence of the timing of these unwarranted fires is cause for concern. The Edo State government strongly believes that the APC must be involved”, he said.

The commissioner, who called on security agencies in the state to as a matter of urgency to invite the leadership of APC in the state for questioning, also warned collaborators to desist from such crime.

While noting that arson is a crime punishable by jail term, he opined that both the sponsors and perpetrators are equally liable.

He also advised youths in the state not to allow themselves to be used to sabotage “our mothers and fathers in the markets and in the larger society.