WILD fire is not a natural disaster associated with Nigerian clime yet fire incidents at both her public and private facilities have continued to threaten her environmental and economic stability to a worrisome level in recent time.
During dry season, especially harmattan periods, there is usually an increased awareness campaigns and cautious calls to citizenry to be wary of how they handle inflammable items both at home and public places by governments and authorities concerned. These may serve as clarion calls for not-too- careful individuals to be more mindful of how they go about with elements likely to spark off unexpected fire incidents within their surroundings.
Ironically, cases of fire outbreak across the country now seem to be at a very alarming level, requiring emergency approach in addressing the scourge. In the last five months alone, Lagos State has recorded monumental losses arising from fire outbreaks, such that in the first week of year 2020, 39 fire incidents had been recorded according to Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Adewale Ahmed.
On November 11, 2019, Idumota section of Balogun Market, in the Island of Lagos was caught in flames. The damage that attended that incident left many traders openly wailing, with Lagos State Governor almost weeping on arrival at the scene.
Fresh in the series include; gutting of Sabo Market located along Sagamu Local Government Area in Ogun State and the nearest neighbourhood of Lagos State, just two days before the tragedy turned to Balogun.
Anambra House together with Arosiloys plaza, Sunny Lands plaza and five other buildings along Sumni Adewale Street, behind Martins Street at the popular Balogun Market in Lagos State all suffered ill-fate of colossal magnitude from unsolicited conflagration. Timber Market in Mushin was equally razed seven days before the Balogun incident.
In Kwara State, the Kwara Market at Berger was gutted in December, 2019. In Kano State, Kofe- Ruwa Yan Roji market was gutted by fire in January, 2020. In Oyo, Akesan Market was razed by fire in the same January, 2020. In Enugu, Ogbete Main Market was torched in January, 2020.
In Anambra State, the story is not different. From October, 2019, when a tanker laden with Premium Metric Spirit (PMS), spilled its content and sparked holocaust along Iweka Road down to Ochanja Market, the floodgate of fire disasters seem to have opened.
In the litany of inferno associated with the state between October 2019 and February 2020, there have been further tanker explosions at Omagba area of Enugu – Onitsha Expressway, Amawbia Junction on January 14, 2020 as well as Agu-Awka, all in Awka, six days later.
Fairly used Auto Spare Parts Market in Obosi, Anambra State joined in the rank of fire gutted areas on January 11, 2020. Two storey buildings at Olive Crescent in Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government Area on January 27, 2020 was also torched while at Obi Okoli Avenue in Awka, residents are yet to recover from the shock of fire incident that ravaged the area on the same January 27, 2020.
Unarguably, the mentioned incidents are a few of the myriads of fire incidents that had hounded the society. The reality here is that the development cuts across the country and cannot be said to be a peculiarity of a particular region.
It is a common knowledge that when such incidents happen, they come with monumental losses that may in some cases run into hundreds of million-where the extent of damage is calculable. In extreme cases, irreparable losses do occur, as several lives had been recorded to have been lost at such ugly situations.
In the case of Obosi Spare Parts Market fire incident, a supposedly wealthy man (by average Nigerian standard), identified as Goddy could not bear the sight of losing all he laboured for in life to furious inferno; he collapsed and died in the process.
In the Balogun incident, about three lives were reported to have been lost. In Ochanja Market fire, a young woman and her child were roasted to death on the spot.
The woeful trajectories of these incidents are their perennial characteristics that create inevitable de ja vu. Suffice it to say that the primary factor that had occasioned the regular occurrences is attributable to dry season.
This, as a matter of fact will continue to come and go. The question is, would the Nigerian society embrace and adopt the season as that of mayhem and harvest of deaths?
Now that it is known that the Nigerian climes are seriously challenged by dry season fire outbreaks, what preventive measures are on ground to mitigate that?
While many schools of thought hold that the services of fire fighters should be scaled-up, it is important to tackle the menace from the basics.
Nigerians should be cultured on careful mannerism in living with friendly but dangerous element such as light. When there is sustained orientation on handling hazardous elements such as electrical appliances, fires from organic and inorganic materials both at home and in public places and likely control measures in occasional fire outbreaks, there is tendency that rate of occurrence could reduce and fatality brought to barest minimum, with or without prompt arrival of official fire service men at fire incident scenes.
When basic education disposes Nigerian child to effective precautionary measures against inflammables as well as techniques in fighting it in the event of outbreak, the society is taking steps in halting colossal damage ubiquitous fire outbreaks are costing the country.
It is time that fire safety measures become part of civil structural designs requirement in Nigerian urban development schemes. Suffice it to say that approvals for both private and public buildings must be in line with national fire safety models. Citizens must be made to understand in the simplest form the operations, so as to go through the necessary steps with less difficulty.
A Public affairs analyst and civil engineer, Chijioke Okechukwu believes that it is possible to have firefighting installations in every house just as plumbing facilities are installed. “It is a matter of policy and willpower to execute it. I think it has come to a point priorities are rightly placed in this country. The economy cannot grow with wasteful channels every where. What is being lost on account of fire disasters can be effectively utilised in developing other necessary sectors.”
It may not be in the interest of Nigeria to engage in damage control when situations can be preventable in the first instance. If including fundamentals of fire outbreak control as part of civic education in school curriculum can internalise the culture, why beckon doom with its negligence? The task at this point ought to be inculcating this culture on citizens outside the formal system. To this end, the onus is on National Orientation Agency to ensure that awareness campaigns carried in that regard permeate masses’ consciousness.
That public and private housing facilities should as a matter of rule primarily contain separate emergency water channels cannot be more apt than now, given the challenges fire outbreaks continue to mount each passing day.
Nigeria has lived long with poor response time of fire fighters to fire scenes and the cumbersome accessibility into fire accident scenes due to obstructions that characterise the environmental structure. A new urban planning and development initiative is imperative at this point. To achieve any meaningful goal in this wise, the development policies must be simplistic, affordable and practicable.
The country cannot afford to play the ostrich while its treasures continue to dwindle on account of known factors. All hands must therefore be on deck to steer Nigeria off this challenging terrain and save citizenry from unwarranted woes of this pitious phenomenon.