No fewer than eight lock-up shops were gutted by fire on Tuesday in Itam Market, in the Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
We gathered that goods estimated at millions of naira were consumed by the inferno.
Our correspondent, who visited the market, learnt that the cause of the inferno had yet to be ascertained as there were no electrical connections in the market.
Two of the shops were reportedly razed before the arrival of men of the state fire service.
A trader, Mr Nwabueze John, who deals in stationery, said he lost everything to the fire, which started around 9pm.
He said, “I left the market around 7pm and by some minutes past nine, one of the security men called me that my shop has burnt down. I rushed down to this place immediately; I was devastated when I saw everything in my shop was gone.
“Fire service people were here when I came, but I couldn’t remove even a pin from the shop. Honestly, I don’t know where to start from.”
Another victim, Aniekpeno Akra, while bewailing the incident, told journalists that he got a similar call from people, but on arrival, the damage had already been done.
Our correspondent reports that heaps of burnt grains, tins of tomatoes, heaps of books and other metals were seen at the scene of the incident.
The Chairman, Board of Trustees, Traders Forum Association, Godwin Ebong, said the union had commenced investigation into the incident.
He said, “Till now, we cannot ascertain the cause of the fire; we have conducted our internal investigation and we have not discovered the source. We are still hoping that few days from now, we will find out what happened.
“About eight shops were affected, but two were critically affected. If you see shops, there are no electrical connections to say maybe wires sparked and caused the fire. Occupants of some of the shops sell grains, like rice, beans; the other one sells stationery.”
Also, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Trade and Investment, Mr Idorenyin Raphael, confirmed the incident, adding that he immediately called the commissioner for works and fire service, who in turn ordered his men to the scene.