One of Abuja’s top-rated departmental stores, the Next Cash and Carry, located in the Jahi area of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, was yesterday razed by fire, destroying valuables worth billions of naira.
Though the cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained, firefighters from the Federal Fire Service, FFS, battled in vain to put out the inferno.
The fire was said to have started some minutes before 11 am yesterday.
Spokeswoman of the FFS, Ugo Huan, who confirmed the incident earlier, yesterday, urged motorists to consider using alternative routes.
“Next Cash and Carry Store in Jahi, Abuja is currently on fire. The Federal Fire Service has turned out firefighters to the scene, who are currently fighting the fire. The public are to take note and avoid that route,” she said in a text message to Vanguard.
FCT launches probe
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, said it would investigate the circumstances surrounding the inferno.
However, the in-house firefighting truck was said to have developed a fault and could not be used, leaving the facility managers to wait for emergency services to turn out.
FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, who expressed sadness over the fire incident said the administration would commence a probe of the incident.
The minister in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Anthony Ogunleye, also commiserated with the management and staff of the supermarket and the FCT business community over the unfortunate incident.
The statement said: “The minister commended the FCT Fire Service, the Federal Fire Service, the Fire Service Departments of the Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Guards Brigade and Julius Berger Nig. Plc responded with their fire-fighting equipment.
“He equally commended the FCT FEMA, the National Emergency Management Agency, security agencies, and other responders for their efforts in containing the blaze.
“Malam Bello also assured that a thorough investigation will be conducted to ascertain the cause of the fire incident in an effort to prevent a reoccurrence in any other business establishment within the FCT.”
Also, Director, Forecasting Response Mitigation in the FCT Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Mrs. Florence Wenegieme, said the agency received a distress call around 9:45 am and a team was immediately dispatched to the location.
She quoted the Director-General of FEMA, Alhaji Abbas Idriss as dismissing reports of looting at the premises.
On the cause of the fire, Idriss said investigations were ongoing to ascertain the immediate cause of the fire.
He further said that no life was lost to the incident neither was anyone within the premises injured.
Idriss appealed to business owners in the territory to factor in the risk element in their business plans, noting that fire trucks were hampered by limited access within the shopping mall.
Meanwhile, the FCT Police Command has arrested three suspects who attempted to loot items at the Next Cash and Carry Mall.
A statement by DSP Josephine Adeh, FCT Police PRO said, “The suspects who made attempts to cart away goods from the store and were promptly arrested include (1) Ali Audu aged 18 Years; (2) Yahaya Yunusa aged 20 Years; and (3) Sahabi Abubakar aged 20 Years. Today Sunday, 26th December 2021, (yesterday) 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 the ground.
“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 Commissioner of Police FCT Command, CP Sunday Babaji, psc, also visited and is currently on the ground at the scene alongside the Minister for State, FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, for an on-the-spot assessment and supervision of activities at the scene.
“Investigation is currently ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire. So far, no casualty has been recorded.”