A midnight fire Thursday consumed goods and properties worth millions of naira at the annex office of the Akure South Local Government secretariat in Akure, the Ondo state capital.
The burnt shops, located a few metres away from the palace of the Deji of Akure, Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo, could have been saved but fire fighters said they did not have fuel in their vehicles to drive to the location of the tragedy.
Sahara Reporters learned that no fewer than 30 lock-up stores and offices were destroyed by the heavy midnight fire. Computer accessories, electronics and office documents were among the properties and goods lost to the inferno.
Our correspondent gathered that the fire broke out from one of the shops around 1:30 am and spread to the other adjourning shops.
Several sources said that the fire was caused by power surge in one of the lock-up stores in the annex office of the local government.
Recounting her loss to SaharaReporters, Mrs. Funmilayo Abayomi, one of the affected shop owners, said the damage to her shop was worth more than N500,000.
She blamed the officers of the State Fire Service for their late response to the fire incident, which could have been averted.
"I received the call around 12:30 am that my shop was on fire and by the time I rushed down, everything had already burned into ashes," she said.
"My colleagues and I lost computers and documents to the fire. In fact, we tried to reach the office of the State Fire Service but they were not responding to their calls till the shops and offices got burnt. It was later that some fire service officials from the airport showed up when the whole place had gone up in flames."
Elizabeth Orogun, President of the Association of Office Documents and Computers in Akure, described the fire incident as very unfortunate. She called on the state government to come to the aid of the affected shop owners, who have no other means to feed their families.
"Those who were living around here said they heard a spark from one of the shops and it snowballed into a heavy fire," she said.
"And by the time people around here raised the alarm to the fire service, they could not respond on time, only for them to call and tell us they did not have fuel in the vehicles.
"It was unfortunate that we lost all the properties here in the shops and stores to the fire incident that could have been averted. But now it has happened and we are begging the state government to please come to our aid because this is the only source of income for us and our family."
Tuyi Adekambi, one of the youth leaders in Akure, decried the scale of the fire and the damage to goods.
Adekambi also pleaded with the government to equip the state fire service in order to avert any future occurrence in the state.
"For almost three hours, the fire service couldn't get to the place of the fire incident and it would have snowballed into the Deji's place," he said.
"Government should be in a position to purchase vehicles for the fire service for each senatorial district in the state in order to use it for the comfort of the people. My call to the state government is that they should not come here and make promises that would not be fulfilled; let them attend to those who were affected here by fire."