As I type this firefighters are battling to put out rampaging inferno at the Kano’s major market, Abubakar Rimi Market, Sabon Gari. At the same time, similar fireballs were reported over the Birnin Kebbi major market. These cases of fire outbreaks are the latest in a series of market and school infernos recorded in the past few months in Kano and elsewhere. The nature of it, the ravenous rage with which all these infernos have gulped billions of naira from Kano to Yola, have given me many reasons to be suspicious.
Yes fire outbreaks do happen. In the past, the same Sabon Gari market has had its share of ugly infernos so also other markets such as the Kantin Kwari textile markets in Kano. Such outbreaks in the past were typically reported as mysterious fire incidents. But a little prodding would reveal that it all started from an electricity spark or from the little bonfires set by the local market security to counter the biting harmattan cold. The latter day outbreaks have more puzzling circumstances.
Appreciating the puzzle that these perennial infernos have come to be would warrant a reflection of the reported incidents within the past few months. Between November last year and January this year, seven boarding secondary schools were affected by fire outbreak in Kano state. Seven students died in total and nine student hostels were lost to the incidents. Now, this figure is high even at the peak of harmattan, the season most associated with fire disasters. But curiously, six out of the seven incidents happened at daytime, when students had left their dormitories for classes.
In late December, the furniture section of Sabon Gari market was gutted by fire. On the night of January 3, the old Yola township market lost its significant part to mysterious inferno, causing losses amounting to several millions of naira. The same week, two more markets – Ngugore cattle market and the Numan market, in the same Adamawa state, were similarly affected.
Stalls numbering about 500 were reportedly burnt down by a fire disaster at the Kaduna Railway market on January 26. A few days later, the oldest Kano market, Kurmi, had its share of the disaster. Then on February 18, just about 40 days ago, Kano residents woke up to the catastrophic fire incident at the multibillion naira Singa provisions and food stuff market.
All those costly fire outbreaks happened within the space of three to four months. I have taken time to recount all these incidents to refresh our memory and set the ground for the grand poser: Could all this be normal?
The primary thing to consider is the timing, the climatic factors that are closely related with fire outbreaks. Every harmattan season, the fire service and the emergency services embark on mass mobilisation on how to avert fire disasters. They do so because the season is prone to fire outbreaks for a number of reasons. But this is not harmattan. No one would set bonfire now under the extreme heat of Yola or Kano to regulate the temperature. And when you have billows of fireballs from hostels at the time students were in class, what would it have been?
It is about time the authorities concerned beam a strong searchlight on deeper roots of this disaster that is degenerating into a perennial occurrence. It is not enough to have a shabby and routine clichéd report after every incident; give out some little handouts to the traders who would now be left to their own devices to pick the pieces of their shattered lives, and wait for the next disaster to happen.
I have shared my personal fears on these incessant outbreaks privately. I fell it is time to share it out since the incidents are becoming more rampant, rather than declining.
I fear for economic terrorism, and I strongly suspect it. In the wake of Boko Haram’s barbarous campaigns around 2013, I took interest in researching about the terrorism in contemporary time. From an AQIM online magazine I read about the next phase of the war then, the advocacy for “lone jihad”. It was not only admonition but also strategy complete with what to do and how to do it. These tactics range from, in the title of one article in there, “How to produce bomb in your mum’s kitchen” to how to cause road accidents or ambush. The idea is, as the magazine repeats item after item, “Do what you can do wherever you are”. The target was just how till kill the other, or cause any form of loss.
When in April 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conspired with his brother Tamerlan to attack the Boston marathon, the inspiration was that of the lone jihad advocacy. The same pattern is being uncovered with the last week attack in Brussels.
This strategy is especially advocated by terrorists when they are under pressure. The objective is what the aggregate of individual little attacks can cause.
With serious deflection in ranks, break in command chain and little resources, our own home grown terrorists can as well go the lone jihad way. After all, as sadists, terrorists delight is in causing harm in whatever way. This is however not to draw up conclusions but just an opening out of a possibility for investigators and security organs.
Around January, a Facebook friend posted about ten pictures of cars burnt over the night within two days in different locations in metropolitan Kano. One common and very curious feature of all the attacks was there was no break-in, no lifting of anything, only arson. Who could it be? Your guess is as good as mine.
Abdulaziz is on Twitter as @AbdulFagge