The Edo State Government has shed more light on the activities of suspected arsonists, working in cohorts with unscrupulous politicians under the aegis of the disbanded Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), to sabotage markets in Benin metropolis and the state government.
The State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, said this when he led members of the state executive council to inspect the extent of damage at Osa market (Ekiosa) and the Edo Development Property Agency (EDPA) after the Sunday, December 22 inferno.
He said that the incident was not an accident, but the handiwork of arsonists out to sabotage markets and discredit government.
The governor, who approved the release of N100 million to compensate traders whose goods were destroyed in the fire incident, noted that it was unfortunate that different markets in the state have been gutted by fire within a short period, a development he attributed to the antics of the enemies of the state.
The governor said intelligence reports indicated that some people who are disgruntled over his reforms and programmes targeted at improving the welfare of the people, were behind the recent infernos in markets.
The governor decried the new dimension of fire incidents in the state, where these suspected arsonists, prevent firefighters from gaining access to markets being gutted by fire.
He said the fire incidents were politically motivated by the disgruntled politicians, who had vowed to make government unbearable for him.
According to him, “They say they want to shame us; they tried other tricks, but did not succeed. They say they will cause havoc during this Yuletide, but their plans will fail.
“You cannot tell me that the fire on the 6th floor of the EDPA building was an accident. It is a clear case of arson. We had passed the market to Edo Central Senatorial District. We got to hear about the fire at about 10am. The Fire Department was sent in from the University of Benin (UNIBEN), but the people attacked them.”
“Last week, when a similar incident occurred, firefighters came in to quell the fire in Oliha market and the people chased them. There is a pattern to what they are doing.
“They should try whatever they like, but we will continue to work for the people of the state; they cannot remove us from Edo,” he said.
He asked the market women association to submit a list of traders whose goods were burnt in the market so they could be compensated, adding, “The traders should come up with a list so we can assist you to start again. The money will be given to you through Sterling Bank.”
The governor said the market would be rebuilt from early 2020, while a section of it would be cleared for the traders to use as a temporary arrangement.
He added that the state government has decided to take over the security of markets from local councils and would work with market associations to secure markets, noting that markets without fire extinguishers and borehole would be shutdown.
Responding to the proposed security framework for markets, the Edo Commissioner of Police, Mr Lawan Jimeta, said he would deploy his men to ensure the success of the arrangement and provide the needed strategic backing.