A fire outbreak that engulfed the high-end Next Cash and Carry Supermarket in Kado district of Abuja on Sunday destroyed goods valued at billions of naira.
The inferno started before the mall which was closed for business for the Christmas Day holiday opened for business in the morning.
The fire raged and caused a thick pall of smoke that could be seen from far distances in the territory.
An eye witness recalled that for nearly an hour there was no emergency response to douse the fire before it engulfed the entire mall. He attributed it to the faulty fire service facility in the mall.
However, after spreading for hours, fire fighters from the FCT Fire Service, the Federal Fire Service, Fire Service Departments of the Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Guards Brigade and Julius Berger mobilised to the scene and put the fire under control.
The Director, FCT Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Forecasting Response Mitigation, Mrs. Florence Wenegieme, told newsmen that a team was sent to the scene after the agency received a distress call around 9:45 a.m.
Although no casualty was recorded, many looters were seen prancing about the mall to loot several household goods like mattresses, electronics, groceries, food packs, bottles of wine and champagne, exotic fragrances and other items.
Some of the looters were seen tugging at the goods while some simply stuffed the items into trolleys which they pushed into safety before the arrival of security operatives.
However, the Director General of FEMA, Abbas Idriss insisted that there was no looting as being speculated and circulated on social media.
Idriss told reporters that the perceived looters were actually staff of the shopping mall trying to salvage goods by using trolleys.
He added that no lives were lost to the fire neither was anyone within the premises injured.
He appealed to business owners to factor in risk element in their business plans, noting that the fire trucks were limited by access within the shopping mall.
One of the victims of the fire, Promise said he lost goods worth more than N12 million to the fire. He attributed the incident to the defective fire equipment at the mall.
Meanwhile the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has expressed shock and deep sadness over the fire incident that engulfed the Next Cash and Carry Supermarket.
In a statement issued yesterday, Bello commiserated with the management and staff of the supermarket and the FCT business community over the unfortunate incident.
He assured that a thorough investigation will be conducted to ascertain the cause of the fire incident in an effort to prevent a recurrence in any other business establishment within the FCT.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Police Command yesterday said it had launched an investigation into the fire incident.
Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu and the FCT Police Commissioner, Mr. Sunday Babaji, also visited the scene of the incident for an on-the-spot assessment and supervision of activities at the scene of the fire incident.
A statement issued by the command explained: “Today Thursday, 26th December 2021, at about 1115hours, there was a report of a fire outbreak incidence at Next Cash and Carry Supermarket at Jahi District of the FCT.
“Upon receipt of the information, a team of police officers attached to Mabushi Police Divisional Headquarters responded swiftly to the scene where a concerted effort of the Federal Fire Service, FCT Fire Service, Julius Berger Fire Service and members of other security agencies were deployed to manage the situation, minimize damage, extinguish the inferno and ensure the maintenance of law and order.
“Well-meaning members of the surrounding communities came out en masse and helped in evacuating goods and other valuables from the supermarket to a safe location within the area with the supervision of police officers of the command who were on ground”, it said.
It added: “This is contrary to the news making the rounds as there is no successful case of looting or carting away of goods from the store.
“The suspects, who made attempts to cart away goods from the store and were promptly arrested include Ali Audu, 18; Yahaya Yunusa, 20 and Sahabi Abubakar, 20.
The statement said “investigation was ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire. So far, no casualty has been recorded.”