The burnt section of the Edo State Ministry of Education, Benin About 20 office apartments where certificates and examinations records of the primary school and Teacher Training Grade two leaving certificates were kept were destroyed.
Mostly affected by the fire were the exams and records offices where Primary School Leaving Certificates belonging to the defunct Bendel State, now Edo and Delta states, were kept.
The certificates affected were said to be dated back to the Mid-Western region period as well as those of the present Edo State.
Eyewitness account revealed that the fire began from the last floor but for the timely response of Edo state fire service and Nigerian army school of supply and transport the building would have been completely destroyed.
The Edo state Commissioner of Education, Washington Osifo described the incident as a national loss, adding that all unclaimed certificates that dates back to the mid-west region were all burnt, he however said that he suspects foul play as there was power outage throughout the night ruling out electricity which is usually blamed for fire outbreak.
He said, “I want to say I don’t know why it is happening at this time, though there is no time that is good for anyone to experience what he/she has laboured for to be destroyed by fire.
“We are disheartened to know that the educational records dating back to the time of Mid-Western region to date were destroyed. I was not even born then. I met these records here.
“Yesterday before the close of day’s work these records were here. Today, I woke up with the intention to begin from where I stopped and this is what I saw. The records are no more. What that means is that anything that is binding now as far as education is concerned in the state is affected. Both primary and secondary records in Edo State are here. With this fire outbreak, there is a total disconnection now.
“Even those who are in the tertiary institutions who still have their primary school leaving certificates here can no longer lay claims to such certificates. It is sad. They should be sad, Edo people should be sad, I am sad and humanity in general should be sad.
“A panel of inquiry would be set up. Its mandate would include investigating the causes of the incident. It must find out why, how and when the fire started,” Mr Osifo said.
The Public Relations Officer, Edo state fire service said due to their prompt intervention the fire has been put out and destruction was reduced to the minimal, adding that though the last floor is completely burnt the other floors were not affected.
An eyewitness said he suspected that the fire was man-made and premeditated because it started from the section were records are kept, stressing that investigations should be carried out to ascertain the cause of the outbreak.
The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole during an on-the-spot assessment of the extent of damage described it as a case of arson, adding that he will setup a commission of enquiry into the cause of the early morning fire disaster.