Over 20 shops filled with artworks were destroyed in the fire that ravaged the Abuja Arts and Craft Village Friday night, Mr Kanayo Chukwumezie, president of the African Arts and Cultural Heritage Association (AACHA) said.
Chukwumezie told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja that the disaster caused a loss of over N400 million.
“We have not ascertained the cause of the fire. When the fire started and the first two shops were burning, our members wanted to rush in to stop the fire, but the security at the gate by National Council for Art and Culture (NCAC) prevented them.
“Before the Fire Service arrived, almost all the shops were burnt: they were only able to extinguish the smoke.
“Artworks and other products for Christmas sales worth over N400 million were burnt to ashes,” Chukwumezie said.
He said that the NCAC had promised to put in place a fire service unit at the village to ensure prompt response to fire incidence “but nothing was done.
“We use to stay in the village over night, but when they told us to stop staying there and promised to provide security and anti-fire measures, we stopped staying overnight.
“If we were allowed to be staying overnight, this fire accident would have been controlled by those around.
“We appeal to the NCAC to come to the aid of those that lost their means of livelihood in the inferno,” he said.
Meanwhile one the victims of the fire, Mallam Mohammed Lawal said he left the village around 8p.m. on Friday.
“I was called later around 10p.m. that the village was on fire. Before I could come back, serious damage had already been done.
“I believe if we were allowed to be staying overnight, such an incident would have been controlled before it caused havoc,” Lawal said.
Another shop owner, Mr Kennedy Idowu said he lost everything to the inferno including new art works and crafts for December sales.
“All, including the one I had before now were burnt to ashes. It’s so unfortunate. I am devastated now, where do I start from?”.
A security guard at the gate, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that the fire service was contacted immediately the fire started.
“Some people attempted to come in, but we were afraid of hooligans using the situation to loot and steal items from the shops.
“However, some of us attempted to control the fire, but it got out of our control because the shops’ roof was made of dried grass,” he said.
Efforts to get the reactions of officials of the NCAC were not successful