The National Association of Nigerian Traders on Wednesday claimed that over N5.3tn had been lost between May 1999 and March this year by its members to various fire incidents that had affected several markets across the country.
The President of the association, Mr. Ken Ukaoha, gave the figure while speaking during a media briefing in Abuja.
He lamented that most of the markets built by governments had no form of insurance policy.
He said if the market had been insured, the losses suffered by traders would not have been much.
Ukaoha said, “Markets are constructed, and local governments collect revenue from traders without caring about the security and sustainability of their investments.
“The result is that today, no single market in Nigeria, except a few malls, is fully insured. Therefore, when there is any fire incident, the traders are left alone to suffer and bear the consequences.
“Government clears the debris and embarks on reconstruction and eventual reallocation of the shops. Often, the original owners or occupants are denied.
‘It is rather sad and unfortunate that while successive Nigerian governments have continued to chase Foreign Direct Investments even with tax incentives and other attractions, the local traders who constitute the largest domestic investors in the country are neglected while their investments are left to be destroyed by fire.
“The consequence of this neglect is that Nigerian traders, and by extension the Nigerian economy, have lost over N5.3trn to market fires between May 1999 and March 2016.”
The traders called on government to pursue the production of a national investment protection architecture with a comprehensive fire policy.
Ukaoha said, “We strongly recommend that markets construction plans must consider making provisions and installation of firefighting equipment and adequate space for vehicular movements in case of fire incidents.
“Specifically, governments and relevant agencies should ensure the installation of fire suppression and firefighting equipment such as fire extinguishers at strategic locations in the markets to confront fire incidents.”
He also appealed to the government to reorganise and retool the country’s firefighting body.
“We cannot afford to continue to waste resources on an agency that is always weak to respond to fire incidents,” he added.