Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Barely a month of the catastrophic incident that claimed lives and destroyed properties worth millions of naira in Onitsha, political pundits have continued to trade blame, as counter accusations rend the air.
While the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) through its state publicity secretary Hon Chinedu Nkwonta says APGA won’t join issues with political parties seeking for notice over the Onitsha market fire disaster, the All Progressives Congress (APC) through the state publicity secretary in Anambra Hon.Okelo Madukife accused government of being insensitive to the plights of the victims of Onitsha market fire.
Also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through the state chairman Hon.Ndubisi Nwobu accused the state government of not being proactive in combating fire outbreaks in the state.
In their separate remarks with our correspondent in Awka, the APC and the PDP seemed to concur that the response of the state government to the fire incident at Onitsha was not satisfactory enough because of what they saw as a reactive approach to the situation.
Hon. Madukife said that the APC might institute an independent probe panel to ascertain the remote causes of the inferno at Ochanja market, noting that the party’s position was borne out of the state government’s purported inability and reluctance to probe the fire incident.
Madukife stated that rather than set up a panel of inquiry into the root causes of fire in the market, the state government was busy accusing people of political criminality, saying that the state government has not investigated the fire incident ever since.
The APC state publicity secretary saw the alleged Fire Victims Fidelity Bank Account opened by the state governor as a scam, pointing out that Governor Willie Obiano was a Director in the aforesaid bank and that such move would amount to a wild goose chase.
He also observed that the governor set up a certain panel to look into the Onitsha market fire, mentioning only the Deputy governor’s name without mentioning the names of other members of the said panel.
He equally faulted the state government’s decision to arrest members of the press who investigated the fire incident.
The APC clearly pointed out that collating the names of the victims of Onitsha market fire was merely addressing what he saw as palliatives even as he made reference to an alleged 70 persons that died in June 2015 near the same spot that the petrol tanker exploded at Upper Iweka about a month ago.
He therefore stressed that government also set up a panel to probe the incident but according to him, the said panel didn’t come up with any report, stressing that the present state government was running a speculative government.
Madukife explained that as the only opposition party in the state, it behoves on the APC to provide an alternative government and that if the present state government failed to set up a panel of inquiry into the cause of the fire, the APC may be compelled to approach the court to set up an independent panel to probe the Onitsha market fire.
Ndubuisi Nwobu, the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra, said that it was not the PDP that ignited the fire that razed Ochanja market.
He said it was rather unfortunate that the fire burned for a very long time and when the state fire fighters came to the scene, they could not extinguish it because they were incapacitated.
Nwobu who explained that the first cardinal responsibility of government was to protect the lives and property of the citizenry, wondered why the Onitsha market fire was allowed to burn from about 12:30 pm to about 5 pm without the state fire service responding to the situation.
He said the PDP didn’t say there should be no fire-fighting equipment in the state and that it was equally laughable that a city like Onitsha where every government in power generated a lot of income does not have a standby fire station.
According to him, “This is not the first time this fire incident happened in Onitsha. Another one happened in Awka and still this government did not deem it fit to be prepared ahead of time to be proactive about fire incidents.
For a period of 5 hours, people were losing their houses and their properties and you expect them to be happy about it. They say the opposition is politicising it; what is there to politicise?
One, the government was not proactive. Two, the government did not react very well to the fire incident and three, the government didn’t show empathy to the victims of the inferno.”
Nwobu therefore maintained that party leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party only showed empathy to those whose means of livelihood and properties were burnt to ashes, stressing that that there was absolutely nothing wrong in a Senator of the Federal Republic saying that she would provide 3 fire trucks for the market and also foot the medical bills of those injured in the inferno.
He said there was also nothing wrong in Chidoka and a host of others opening up a fund for the fire victims. That the PDP was not interested in politicising anything but only displayed an uncommon affection for those affected by the fire disaster.
The Anambra state PDP chairman however admonished the present administration not to wait until when a disaster occurs before relevant decisions would be taken to ameliorate situations, noting that revamping the state fire service for more prompt response to emergencies were salient issues that should have been addressed before the outbreak of the Onitsha market fire.
On the other hand, Chinedu Nkwonta, the state publicity secretary of APGA in Anambra, who saw the terrible fire incident as a major setback for a state known for all things positive, maintained that the APC does not exist in Anambra state.
Nkwonta explained that the APC and other opposition elements want to drag Anambra state backwards and the state government according to him, can not bandy words with elements who virtually have nothing to offer the citizenry.
He said Governor Willie Obiano, who is the chief mourner and first victim of the fire incident, has done everything humanly possible to assuage the feelings of those affected by the inferno.
According to him, the state governor has set up a number of committees to investigate remote causes of the fire disaster and that the Deputy-Governor was the chairman of one of the committees, noting that as a strateg, governnent was not expected to reveal its modus operandi or names of committee members to anyone.
He said they were investigative committees and the expectation was that the committees will come up with findings on the root cause of the Onitsha market fire disaster.
The APGA state publicity secretary wondered why opposition elements in the state will not wait until the panels finish their jobs and produce reliable information on the fire incident adding that APC and others were just seeking for attention.
Nkwonta said, “Let me remind APC and other political parties that the lives lost were lives of individuals not necessarily from Anambra state but resident in Anambra state. My state government is doing everything within its power to make sure that their pains are mitigated to the bearest minimum.
“I don’t know what they want us to say. I don’t know if they want to imply that a Governor who is developing Anambra state from the basis does not feel the pulse of the people. The Governor was hurt over what happened and has released all the cylinders of operations to make sure that victims were taken care of and also ensure that an unfortunate occurrence does not happen again .
^People talk about propaganda but let’s leave that in the hands of the panels but we are working hard as a government to make sure that such avoidable incidents doesn’t happen again in Anambra not even during our tenure.”
On the issue of the All Progressive Congress threatening to institute an independent panel to probe possible causes of the Onitsha market fire, the APGA spokesman said APC was only seeking for notice and that the truth remained that APC does not exist in Anambra state.
He said the APC does not have a councilor anywhere in Anambra state and that the party was trying every means possible to attain relevance in the state even though he made it clear that APGA will continue to rule Anambra state to the chagrin of antagonistic political parties.