UGANDA, Jinja | Real Muloodi News | Last week, a fire burnt down 25 stalls in Napier market, in the Southern Division of Jinja City. The fire broke out on the night of Wednesday April 6th, affecting mainly grocery stores and live chicken kiosks.
Eyewitnesses say that one of the walls in the market collapsed on lockups containing gas cylinders, rupturing them.
The leaking gas sparked off big flames of fire which spread to the neighbouring stalls.
Musa Bakaki, a trader in the market says that there were communication gaps and delays in alerting the police. During this period, the fire was spreading to other areas within the market.
“It was a big blast with huge volumes of smoke concentrated within the gas cylinder shop. We had anticipated that it would be contained. However, it later on produced big flames of fire and we only contacted police when the fire had widely spread already,” he said.
This is the second fire in the Napier Market within two months. The other was in February 2022, when a fire broke out in the clothing section of the market and burned down many stalls.
The police authorities reported that the fire resulted from an electric circuit due to poor connection.
James Mubi, the Kiira Region Police Spokesperson, said that none of the vendors sustained physical injuries.
He said they deployed a team of fire experts in the market to investigate the cause of the fire and compile a report.
Lawrence Ssemaganda, the Aldina Cell, Local Council 1 Chairperson asked the responsible government authorities to find ways of constructing permanent structures in Napier Market, which he says will limit the number of fire outbreaks.
However, Jinja City Local Authority does not have room in the current budget for the contrition of permanent market structures. Therefore, the City would need to find alternative means to fund such an endeavour.
While the responsibility for city planning and management activities such as market maintenance falls on the shoulders of city authorities, they often lack fiscal capacity to execute.
One way city authorities can raise the necessary revenues for a project like this is through taxation, with property rates being a particularly important tax for contributing to local budgets.
Property rates (property tax) is a tax on all immovable property or buildings that are used for business, including houses rented to tenants. However, the tax does not apply to residential dwellings in which the owner resides, or to vacant land.
The Jinja City Authority is currently undertaking property valuations of commercial properties in the city, with a view to levy property rates over the next five years.
The valuation activity has already commenced in Jinja City, and will span a three month period. The goal is for the city to begin to collect revenues from the exercise from July 1st this year.
USAID is supporting Jinja City’s property valuation project, as part of the Domestic Revenue Mobilisation for Development (DRM4D) programme. The programme is also supporting similar valuation exercises in 9 other are former municipalities that recently attained city status; Mbale, Soroti, Hoima, Fort Portal, Arua, Mbarara, Masaka, Lira and Gulu.
Fire outbreaks in markets are becoming common. In March 2019, there was a fire outbreak in the Amber-court Market in Jinja City, where some of the vendors broke down as they watched their merchandise perish.
“What am I going to do? That was the business which was sustaining my family,” cried one of the vendors.
Other markets in Jinja City that have been gutted by fire before are Napier, Karibu-Karibu, Loko, and Masese landing sites.
Early this year, traders lost millions in the Elegu Market fire at the Uganda-South Sudan border market in Elegu Town Council.
According to eyewitnesses at that time, the fire started at around 1:00 a.m., destroying property worth millions of shillings.
Brenda Aromorach was at the scene and she said that the merchandise could have been saved if the firefighters had reached the scene on time.
READ MORE LIKE THIS: