A morning fire yesterday gutted NEXT Cash and Carry mall, located along Ahmadu Bello way in Kado-Kuchi area of Jahi-Kado Expressway, Abuja.
Our correspondent who visited the scene reported that the fire raged from around 10am to late in the evening despite efforts by firefighters to put it out.
The incident provoked emotions as the company’s stakeholders count losses.
Miss Grace, an attendant at the supermarket, told this reporter that she was in the mall around 9:35am when her colleagues shouted that she should get out of the building.
“I just carried my handbag and rushed out, it was then I noticed thick smoke billowing into the sky while some sections of the mall were engulfed in fire. It’s a very huge loss.
“It took the early intervention of vigilantes and a combined team of security operatives, the police, army, and Civil Defense to prevent looters from gaining access into the building,” she said.
NEXT, was the second major supermarket after Prince Ebeano Supermarket in the capital city that has been gutted by fire in the last six months.
One of the owners of a fast food joint in the mall, who does not want to be named, complained that lack of water in the firefighters’ truck stationed at the supermarket was the reason why the fire went out of control.
“It’s by the intervention of Julius Berger firefighters truck with 30,000 litres that we began to have hope, but billions of naira have been lost to the fire,” Grace said.
A supplier, who simply gave his name as Godwin, told newsmen that he lost over N8 million to the inferno.
He said “I’m a supplier to the supermarket (NEXT). I’m a supplier of Silver Crest. What is paining me is that I gave them my goods for January and February and they have not been signed.
“NEXT doesn’t have products; MIT is just a warehouse where you bring your product. They sell for you and you give them a percentage.
“My goods that have not been signed are worth over N4.5 million. Where am I going to start from?” he lamented.
The Commissioner of Police, FCT command, Babaji Sunday, who visited the scene said contrary to news making the rounds, there was no case of looting of goods from the mall.
He said its owners and good Samaritans helped to evacuate property from the burning mall to a safe location under the supervision of security operatives.
Also, the Head of Operations of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Abuja, Mr Justine Uwazuruonye, said they are still investigating the cause of the fire outbreak
He appreciated the synergy and cooperation of security operatives in controlling the crowd and protecting property from being looted.
“Whoever you see here has reason to be here, and those you see moving the property are the owners not looters as was reported in some quarters. Nobody moved property outside this fence.” he added.
The cause of the fire has not been ascertained as of the time of filing this report.