By Kemi Olaitan
Pandemonium erupted Sunday in the ancient town of Oyo following an early morning fire that razed the larger part of the ancient Akesan market with the men of the nearby fire service unable to curtail the situation.
THISDAY learnt that the situation got awry when angry youths vent their anger on the men of the fire service who attributed their incapacities to non-functional equipment.
It was gathered that the youths in their hundreds stormed the fire station, burning tyres and in the process attracted the attention of the security officials who were said to have used live bullets on the protesters, killing three people in the process.
To battle the raging inferno, a reinforcement of fire fighters were mobilised from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and Ogbomosho, a distance of more than 50 kilometres away.
Although, the source could not give the exact identity of the security operative who fired the shots that killed three of the protesting youths, an operative of the state-owned anti-crime outfit codenamed Operations Burst were fingered as the suspect.
When contacted on the development, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Gbenga Fadeyi, denied that the bullets fired by the police killed the protesters, stating that investigation is ongoing to unravel the culprit.
He nevertheless assured the people that more men have been drafted to the scene of the fire incident to restore normalcy and help put out the fire out completely.
But worried by the development, a youth group in the town, Oyo Global Forum, said a good part of the market could have been saved if the nearby fire station had functional equipment.
While condemning the government for not providing the necessary equipment for the fire fighters to work with, especially in the present particular season, the group also kicked against what it described as disproportionate use of force in response to angry residents by the security operatives which led to the death of three innocent and harmless youths.
The group, in a statement signed by the Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Hassan Adebayo, said it would demand from the government due compensation and rebuilding of the market.
The statement read in part: “Tragedies struck in Oyo town in the early hours of Sunday, January 5, 2020, as fire razed Akesan Market, the town’s main commercial centre, almost entirely and the police killed at least three persons protesting failure of the fire service. Only a few shops and a filling station were not affected.
“Unfortunately, the Fire Service based in Oyo and just less than 20 metres to the market could not mobilise to stop the raging fire. The service said its equipment was not functioning. Firefighters then had to be mobilised from Ogbomoso town, 50 kilometres away, after massive damage.
“We condemn this failure of government service. But more concerning is the disproportionate use of force in response to angry residents who were protesting at the gate of the fire service near Akesan in Oyo.
“Ogbomoso firefighters are currently fighting the fire and we hope it is stopped before further damage.
“We sympathise with our people, particularly men and women trading at Akesan. It is a sad way to start the year.
“In due course, we will be demanding that Oyo State Government should compensate the traders and rebuild the market, while also enforcing stricter safety standards across the state. We will also not allow the police to get away with the killings in Oyo.”