Fire razed goods worth millions of naira at Next Cash & Carry Supermarket located at Jahi District in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja on Sunday.
The inferno which caused pandemonium in the area was said to have started around 9: 00 am. It razed the entire building but no life was lost in the incident.
The supermarket, which is arguably the biggest in the nation’s capital in terms of size, is owned by a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.
Obi is also a former vice presidential candidate who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 elections.
Some residents blamed the late arrival of the firefighters, who were alleged to have arrived at the scene one hour after the distress call, for the extent of the damage.
SaharaReporters gathered that some workers of the supermarket were in the building as early as 8: 00 am in preparation for business.
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It was learnt that the workers were still preparing when suddenly they noticed that there was a fire on the first floor of the building.
The workers in an effort to salvage the goods tried to use some of the fire extinguishers inside the building but were shocked to discover that they were expired.
An eyewitness told SaharaReporters that the fire started around 9:00 am and that all efforts made by the staff members and sympathisers to prevent the fire from spreading were unsuccessful due to the intensity of the fire.
It was also gathered that an attempt to activate the in-house standby fire truck belonging to the supermarket to put out the raging fire failed as the staff could not find the key to the truck.
A sympathiser said to be among the first responders and identified as Austin Daniel said firefighters and others emergency teams arrived at the scene when the entire building had gone up in flames.
He said, “I have a barbershop close to this place and when we got to this place to help them to remove electronics, particularly Plasma Televisions and Home Theater, the firefighters had not come. The reason why the fire spread to the other side is that the firefighters came late.
“Some people came to loot but we stopped them with the help of vigilantes.
“Those firefighters came about one hour after they were called and some of their trucks that first got her did not have water, it was here they started looking for a fire hydrant to fill their tanks.
“Even the fire truck that was parked at the back of the building could not be used because they could not find the key. The fire extinguishers are not working too. It was only air that was inside when we tried to use them.”
However, four persons were arrested by the police for looting at the scene.
The Director-General of FCT Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA), Abas Idris, said they had not been able to ascertain the cause of the fire but an investigation had commenced.
He also debunked the insinuation that there was massive looting at the building when the fire broke out. He said those seen moving out trolleys were the workers of Next Cash & Carry and not looters.
He said, “We got the distress call and immediately activated all the responders who have been here on time, especially the security agencies to cordon off the place to avoid looting and they were here, including the police, civil defence, and Department of State Services (DSS).
“I was here around 9:00 am before the responders came and it was well coordinated and we did not allow anybody to come in.”
The FCT Commissioner of Police, Babaji Sunday was also at the scene to assess the extent of the damage.
The responders sighted at the scene include FCT firefighters, FEMA, Nigeria police, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Julius Berger Fire Service, and DSS.
As at the time of filing this report, no fewer than 15 fire trucks had been deployed to the scene to put out the raging fire.
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