For some unscrupulous elements who took advantage of the fire that razed Ekiosa, one of the biggest markets in Benin City, Edo State capital on Sunday, to loot the wares of some hapless traders, the fear of Ayelala deity is the beginning of self-preservation. This is because barely 24 hours after juju priests from the dreaded Ayelala shrine invoked curses on the culprits at the behest of the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare 11, they have started returning items they stole from the market to the palace of the Oba.
The President, Market Women Association, Blacky Omoregie made this known when a delegation from the Oba of Benin paid a sympathy visit to the market. According to Omoregie, several items ranging from bags of rice, roll of wrappers, cartons, and gallons of vegetable oil, goats and others have also been dumped at different parts of the market square. The market women leader said the reason they invited the dreaded Ayelala was due to similar incidents at Satana and Oliha markets, as well as Uwelu spare parts market which were gutted by fire between August and December thereby causing many families untold sufferings.
According to Omoregie, “they have started returning our stolen goods as we invited Ayelala people to place curses on those behind the series of pains being inflicted on market women and other traders in the state. Those who are putting fire on our markets should be arrested and those using the opportunity to steal our goods in the market will no longer be free this time”. Gentle Imuetinyan Usoh, one of the affected traders who was able to recover part of his goods as a result of the step taken by the Palace, commended the invitation of juju priests, stressing that more of their stolen goods would be recovered in no distant time. Usoh said “since ayelala was called into this market fire incident, we have started getting back some of our stolen goods.
Succor came for the unfortunate traders Monday when the governor, Godwin Obaseki visited the scene of the market fire to assess the magnitude of damage and commiserate with the victims. Obaseki announced a lifeline of N100 million to cushion the effect of the incident on their businesses and promised to rebuild the market with all safety measures put in place to avoid future occurrence. The governor who had accused members of the defunct Edo People’s Movement of complicity in the spate of market fires in the state reiterated his allegation, stating that suspected arsonists working in cohorts with unscrupulous politicians have been responsible for the recent fire outbreaks in markets. While lamenting that different markets in the state had been gutted by fire within a short period, he attributed the development to the “antics of the enemies of the state”.
According to him, “They say they want to shame us; they tried other tricks but did not succeed. They say they will cause havoc during this Yuletide, but their plans will fail. You cannot tell me that the fire on the 6th floor of the EDPA building was an accident. It is a clear case of arson. We had passed the market to Edo Central Senatorial District. We got to hear about the fire at about 10 am. The Fire Department was sent in from the University of Benin (UNIBEN), but the people attacked them. Last week, when a similar incident occurred, firefighters came in to quell the fire in Oliha market and the people chased them away. There is a pattern to what they are doing. They should try whatever they like, but we will continue to work for the people of the state; they cannot remove us from Edo”.