There was pandemonium in Oyo town on Sunday after police allegedly killed three people who were protesting the inability of men of the fire service to curtail an early money fire that razed the larger part of the ancient Akesan market.
According to reports, the situation became ugly when angry youths vent their anger on the fire service, who attributed their inability to put out the fire to non-functional equipment at their disposal.
The youths in their hundred had stormed the fire service station to protest the inability of the men of the fire service to put out the fire . The situation caught the attention of the security operatives who were said to have used live bullets on the protesters, killing three people in the process.
Although, identity of the security operatives who fired the shots that killed the three people could not be ascertained, it was gathered that operatives of the state owned anti crime outfit, Operation Burst opened fire on protesters at the gate of the fire service station.
The development led to the protesters making bon fires on major roads within the town.
When contacted, the Spokesman for Oyo State Police Command, Olugbenga Fadeyi, denied that the police shot at the protesters, adding that he would intensify investigations to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of the three people.
He assured that more men have been drafted to the scene to restore normalcy and help put out the fire.
Meanwhile, an Oyo town based youth group, Oyo Global Forum, said a good part of the market would have been saved if the nearby fire station had functional equipment.
In a statement signed by the Secretary of the group, Mr Taiwo Adebayo, the group kicked against what it described as disproportionate use of force in response to angry residents by the security operatives that led to the death of three innocent and harmless youths.
While condemning the government for not providing the necessary equipment for the fire fighters to work with, especially during the harmattan season, the group said it would demand for compensation from the government in order to rebuild the market as soon as possible.
The statement read in part: “Tragedy struck in Oyo town in the early hours of Sunday, January 5, 2020, as fire razed Akesan Market, the town’s main commercial centre, almost entirely and the Police killed at least three persons protesting the failure of the fire service. Only a few shops and a filling station were not affected.
“Unfortunately, the fire service based in Oyo and just less than 20 metres to the market could not mobilise to stop the raging fire. The service said its equipment was not functioning. Fire fighters then had to be mobilised from Ogbomoso Town, 50 kilometres away, after massive damage.
“We condemn this failure of government service. But more concerning is the disproportionate use of force in response to angry residents who were protesting at the gate of the fire service near Akesan in Oyo.
“Ogbomoso fire fighters are currently fighting the fire and we hope it is stopped before further damage.
“We sympathise with our people, particularly men and women trading at Akesan. It is a sad way to start the year.
“In due course, we will be demanding that Oyo State Government should compensate the traders and rebuild the market, while also enforcing stricter safety standards across the state. We will also not allow the police to get away with the killings in Oyo.”
The fire was said to have started around 1 a.m. with no one able to ascertain the cause of the fire.