Over 20 shops filled with artworks were destroyed in the fire at the Abuja Arts and Craft Village Friday night, Mr Kanayo Chukwumezie , president of the African Arts and Cultural Heritage Association said .
Chukwumezie told the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Abuja that the disaster caused a loss of over N400 million .
“We have not ascertained the cause of the fire . When the fire started and the first two shops were burning , our members wanted to rush in to stop the fire , but the security at the gate by National Council for Art and Culture ( NCAC) prevented them .
“Before the Fire Service arrived , almost all the shops were burnt: they were only able to extinguish the smoke.
“Artworks and other products for Christmas sales worth over N400 million were burnt to ashes ,” Chukwumezie said .
He said that the NCAC had promised to put in place a fire service unit at the village to ensure prompt response to fire incidence “but nothing was done .
“We use to stay in the village over night, but when they told us to stop staying there and promised to provide security and anti -fire measures, we stopped staying overnight .
“If we were allowed to be staying overnight , this fire accident would have been controlled by those around .
“We appeal to the NCAC to come to the aid of those that lost their means of livelihood in the inferno ,” he said .
Meanwhile one the victims of the fire , Mallam Mohammed Lawal said he left the village around 8p . m . on Friday .
“I was called later around 10 p .m . that the village was on fire . Before I could come back, serious damage had already been done .
“I believe if we were allowed to be staying overnight , such an incident would have been controlled before it caused havoc , ” Lawal said .
Another shop owner, Mr Kennedy Idowu said he lost everything to the inferno including new art works and crafts for December sales .
“All , including the one I had before now were burnt to ashes . It’s so unfortunate. I am devastated now , where do I start from ?” .
A security guard at the gate , who pleaded anonymity , told NAN that the fire service was contacted immediately the fire started .
“Some people attempted to come in, but we were afraid of hooligans using the situation to loot and steal items from the shops .
“However , some of us attempted to control the fire , but it got out of our control because the shops ’ roof was made of dried grass ,” he said .
Efforts to get the reactions of officials of the NCAC were not successful .