*Victims recount losses
No fewer than 42 shops located at the Student Centre of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, have been gutted by fire leading to the loss of properties worth millions of naira.
The Block D shops that were destroyed were located behind the female hostels at the Yelwa Campus of the institution.
The shops destroyed were computer business centres, barber’s shop and provision stores.
The fire, which was said to have started at one of the shops, was reportedly caused by an electrical surge.
It is not yet known at what time exactly the fire started, but many believed that the fire possibly started at about 2:00am of today (Wednesday).
When our correspondent visited the area, multiple sources in the university said that no fire service was available to help save the situation.
A source told our correspondent that the school’s Fire Service situated close to the main gate of the institution could not salvage the situation because their truck was not in good shape.
“I learnt that when the fire started, they alerted the University Fire Service but they said that the battery of the truck is faulty. They said they’ve reported to the management for a release of money for it to be fixed or for a new one to be bought but nothing was done.
“They said they kept writing to the management to release money for the purchase of a new battery, but they allegedly said that there was no money.
“They also contacted the Federal Fire Service but they said that they don’t have tyres in their truck, but I cannot verify how true that is. But it’s unfortunate that because of the ineffectiveness of the fire service, this great damage happened. I believe that if there were fire fighters, the fire would have been put out (and) these shops and properties would have been saved,” he said.
One of the victims of the incident, Pastor Alfred Joseph, who owns a computer business centre, said nothing was left in his shop.
He said that he was called by a friend and was told that his shop was totally burnt down.
“I am not currently in Bauchi; I travelled to Abuja and a friend called me this morning to inform me of the incident. He told me that everything in my shop has been burnt down.
“All my properties including photocopiers, computers, laptop, printers, stationeries, my generator and everything I have in that shop was all destroyed. It’s so unfortunate,” he said.
Joseph said losing a six-year old business is painful, pathetic and heart-breaking.
He said: “Losing a business that I have taken my time to build from the scratch for over six years is actually very painful and heart-breaking.
“If school was on session, I know that this fire outbreak will not happen. But I thank God that I am strong and I believe that God can restore even more (than) what I have lost in a very short time.”
Another shop owner, Prince Hosea Mathias, said he got a call at about 4:00am on Wednesday from someone informing him that their shops were on fire.
He said he was informed that the fire was caused by an electrical fault, “and I was also told that all efforts to get the fire service to come proved abortive; by the time I got there later in the morning, I discovered that all the shops were burnt down.”
Mathias added that, “I run a computer business centre and IT solution. I lost everything I have in my shop, computers, printers, furniture, generator, stationeries, POS machines and a lot of things.
“I graduated in 2016 from the Civil Engineering Department but since I didn’t get any work to do, I decided to start this business, although I’ve been doing this while I was in school in the hostel. So, when I graduated, I expanded the business so I can use it to support myself and people around me.
“I honestly don’t know how I feel about this incident and in fact, I have not even started thinking about it yet. I’m just trying to be strong because I don’t have any other work anywhere, this is all I have which has been destroyed by this fire.”
Efforts to get a reaction from the Vice Chancellor of ATBU, Prof. Muhammad Abdulazeez, on the incident failed as he did not pick his calls.
He also did not reply a text message sent to him on the matter.