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NEXT staff express worry over job losses

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FOLLOWING the fire incident at a popular supermarket NEXT Cash and Carry in Abuja, former employees have expressed anxiety on the way forward and narrated their experience since the fire outbreak.

Victoria Ihedimma, who worked with the company before the unfortunate incident, was on her way to Imo State for the Christmas holidays when she heard the news of the fire.

“I was on my way to the village when the incident occurred. I’m still devastated. I later heard the insurance people said it would take about a year to rebuild. I don’t know how we’ll cope before then,” she said.

Ihedimma, who does not hold a university degree, said she is stranded in the East as she is unsure of her next line of action if she decides to return to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“I am not a graduate. I don’t know where to start from and that is the reason why I have not come back to Abuja. People with certificates have not gotten jobs, imagine how difficult it will be for me. If I had known this would happen I wouldn’t have travelled down with the little money I had,” she said.

A mother of three, she is worried about her children’s education and how to cope with the cost of rent during the year.

Another worker who did not want his name in print told The ICIR that he had begun the new year in search of another job, as he could not continue to wallow in the shock of the fire.

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“As I speak to you now, I’m heading out to see if I can get something else doing. Going by what we’ve heard from the insurance people, it will take about a year before this place begins to operate again. How else do we survive before that time?” he asked.

A visit to the supermarket painted the picture of an ongoing demolition site with the company’s security men, manning the entrance to the building.

Demolition ongoing at Next Cash and Carry

While the security men seem lucky to still have their jobs, even they are apprehensive about the future, as their positions are most likely temporary arrangements.

One of the security men, who identified himself as Christian, expressed his anxiety in an interview with The ICIR.

He noted that the insurance company may begin rebuilding in a few weeks, and most of the security officials may be forced to stop working by then.

“They said by the end of the month, insurance may take over and they’ll bring their own security men. I heard they would leave only about five of us in the security department to work with their own men. I don’t know who will stay or leave,” he said.

He also told The ICIR that the management would meet with employees to address their concerns, but was not sure when the meeting would be held.

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The fire incident that destroyed the supermarket occurred on Boxing Day,  December 26, 2021.

The FCT Fire Service, Federal Fire service, fire trucks from Julius Berger and the Nigerian Navy had arrived at the scene to put out the fire while the Police were at the scene to secure the area.

Well-meaning residents of the neighbouring communities had also assisted in moving what could be salvaged from the fire.

The ICIR made efforts to reach the management of the supermarket to ascertain the extent of the damage and next steps to be taken by the organisation.

The General Manager of the company Neil Pape, could not be reached at the time of filing this report, but, in a statement released after the incident, Pape said the company had about 1000 direct staff and 3000 vendors who have now been affected by the disaster.

The ICIR also contacted the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Command Josephine Adeh for information on the cause of the fire.

Adeh said the fire department had yet to brief the police on the cause of the fire, as investigations were still ongoing.

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“The Fire Service officials have not relayed the cause of the incident to us yet,” she said.

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