The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, wept on Saturday when he visited the scene of the tanker fire accident at DMGS roundabout in Onitsha, Anambra State and saw the volume of books destroyed by the inferno.
“This is the destruction of a generation. My daughter bought a book here for her medical course. This was after we searched for the book in many bookshops across the country without success,” Ngige lamented.
No fewer than 10 houses and 30 vehicles were razed in the inferno.
The minister also wept over the destruction of books in two law chambers in the area.
Chief J. C. Mbanugo, Chairman of Joeson Bookshops Limited, a tertiary books dealer, whose shop was razed by the fire, told the minister he was still in a state of shock.
He said, “I cannot quantify the cost of books consumed by the fire because most of the tertiary books on display are very costly.”
Ngige, however, assured the Onitsha fire victims of the support of the Federal Government.
The minister, who described the destruction as massive, said the Federal Government would find a way to come in to assuage the pains of the victims.
“This is painful. We are all in pains and agony. What took us many years to build just vanished within few minutes. You won’t suffer alone. We shall all come in to assist. The Federal Government will come to assist through the National Directorate of Employment.
“This fire incident should not be the end of the world for the victims. I saw electronics and bookshops burnt to ashes. I also saw law chambers and residential homes burnt beyond recognition and we have a scheme under the NDE to assist in rehabilitating such victims.
“I will direct the National Directorate of Employment, which is a department of my ministry, to come down for an assessment tour of this scene, after which we shall see how we can assist in rehabilitating the victims and repair or replace their burnt properties,” the minister stated.
Ngige, who thanked God that no life was lost, accused the state government for poor fire-fighting initiative.
He condemned the situation where the state would continue to be relying on fire-fighting arrangements from neighbouring Delta State.
The minister condemned the siting of filling stations in residential areas, adding that the Federal Government would come up with a regulation to stop such act.
He advised the Department of Petroleum Resources to consider occupational safety in siting new filling stations.