The Rivers State Civil Society Organisation has criticised Governor Nyesom Wike over his N500m pledge to affected traders and rebuild the Sokoto Central Market, which was gutted by fire.
The state Chairman of the group, Enefaa Georgewill, said though there was nothing wrong for anyone to commiserate with victims of disasters, but there were a lot of pressing issues begging for attention in Rivers State.
The River State Government pledged the sum of N500m to support its Sokoto State counterpart in rebuilding the market, just as Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State donated N30m to the victims of the inferno.
Part of the N500m, according to Wike, who visited Sokoto on Wednesday, is meant to support the victims of the disaster.
Affirming that whatever affects Sokoto also concerns Rivers State, Wike said, “My administration will do all it takes to ensure that the affected market is reconstructed and becomes functional.
“A situation where the means of livelihood of the people of Sokoto State, the drive of the government to improve the people’s lives and a broad spectrum of socio-economic wellbeing of many people will be affected does not augur well for development and progress.”
Earlier in his remarks while conducting Wike and his entourage round the market, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, explained that the market had 16,000 shops out of which about 60 per cent were affected by the inferno.
He said when the fire broke out, the entire state government apparatus and some Federal Government agencies were mobilised to bring it under control.
Georgewill, however, stated, “We see it (pledge) as pure act of wickedness for the governor to have ignored a lot of salient and pertinent issues in the state and pledged such huge amount of money to citizens of another state.
“It is more like the proverbial refusal to remove the log in your eyes but instead attempt to remove the speck in somebody else’s eyes.
“We have the case of the Orashi region that has been ravaged by flood. Governor Wike did not make any response and there is no well-coordinated distribution of relief materials to the people.
“We are in a state where pensioners and retirees are complaining that they have not been paid their gratuities since he assumed office as the governor of Rivers State, and he is going to donate N500m to citizens in another state.”
The CSO leader added, “We are talking about a state where since the inception of this government, we have not witnessed bursary paid to Rivers students, which is the culture and tradition that previous governments had followed.
“We are talking about a state where even the minimum wage has yet to be fully implemented, because workers are still grumbling. A whole lot of issues need to be attended to.
“As far as we are concerned, what the governor has done by that pledge or donation is mere eye service and unnecessary politicking.”
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday, bemoaned the fire incident at the Sokoto Central Market and sympathised with the victims.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled: ‘President Buhari sympathises with victims of Sokoto market fire incident, calls for improved safety standards’, the Buhari said he was moved by the fate of the victims.
Shehu quoted the President as saying, “I am deeply moved by this fire incident, because of its huge adverse impact on the economic life of the people, who struggle daily to earn a living.
“To see your investments go up in flames is particularly painful, and I sincerely send my heartfelt sympathy and solidarity to all the victims and pray to God to replenish your losses.”
While directing federal aid agencies to respond to the urgent needs of the victims, Buhari called on market authorities to train traders and facility managers in basic safety precautions to forestall frequency of fire outbreaks.
“Once the traders are trained in the risk factors, it will go a long way to minimise the frequency of fire outbreaks at business places,” he added.
One of our correspondents reported that barely 24 hours after the incident, trading activities resumed outside the market.
While those affected were counting their losses, traders who were lucky to salvage some of their wares, set up makeshift stalls around the market and were displaying their goods for sale.
Also occupied by the traders were the median of the Hajiya Halima Road and the Central Motor Park’s second gate, while the pavement of the Aliyu Joodi roundabout was not spared.