Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
– Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Fate is not what drives men to their conditions or situations, but decisions and actions, or lack thereof. The ubiquitous and perennial market fires in Nigeria are mostly caused by poor design, mismanagement and greed. And the toll would keep rising, unless we face these simple truth, if the case of the fire that gutted Kano’s Abubakar Rimi Market (better known as Sabon Gari Market), penultimate weekend, is anything to go by.
Said to have started in the wee hours of Saturday last week, from just one shop, the inferno raged on for hours, and by the time it was finally extinguished Sunday evening it has, according to The National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA], gutted about 3,800 shops, because the access road was blocked by hundreds of wheelbarrows chained together for the night. The market traders’ association estimated property losses at over N2 trillion, adding that over 75 per cent of the market has been burnt. Given the usual habit of many traders, especially of northern extraction, of keeping their cash in their shops, we could be safely assume that the losses were much more, amounting to almost half of our Federal Budget.
All these are before adding the tens of thousands who have illegal kiosks, “attachments”, stalls, tables, sheds and what not, who daily make a living from this market. Many more have shops and stalls elsewhere and use the market as a convenient wholesale source, often getting these goods on credit from its bigger shopkeepers. Then there are food and “pure water hawkers, potters, mobile barbers, shoe-shiners, nail-cutters and other “service providers” who make their daily bread from the market.