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Lagos: Collective efforts in proactive emergency response 

By Jide Olaniran

The Dosunmu market inferno where fire gutted 14 buildings and four structures collapsed as a result has again brought to the fore the question: When will enough be enough? As a state – and by extension a country – we cannot continue to lose lives and property to needless fire incidents that are caused by acts of negligence.

As I watched one of the victims of the Dosunmu fire on television reduce a disaster that could have been prevented by the various business owners to monetary compensation they are expecting from the Governor after he paid a visit to the site to inspect the extent of damage done to the place, I realised that the citizens appear to be ignorant of how disaster management or prevention is a collective responsibility of the government and the people.

Quoting Idayat Alison, one of the victims of the fire incident: “We are just begging the government because right now we are penniless, my sister Morufat Alison…. she lost three buildings and her husband lost a building, this is too much .. it is not something we planned for …. We just begged the government, Federal government, Lagos State, they should just help us… they shouldn’t give us fake promises, they shouldn’t say something and later abandon us on the side, they should do something for us, whatever they say, they should do it.  They shouldn’t give money to the landlords, they should give it to we, they can help the landlord but we that are shop owners and keepers, they should help us. We are writing names every day…we don’t want our names just thrown under one office… we want you to work on it and give us something …please help us”. 

I believe Alison is speaking the minds of her fellow traders who are affected by the inferno because there is an idea that the government has a bottomless financial purse that can take care of a loss incurred from a fire incident, caused by the mishandling of flammable materials in an area where residential buildings are converted into storage for hazardous materials and there is no punishment for flouting building and safety standards. 

It is also quite shocking to discover that most of these traders do not insure their businesses against any eventuality because no attention is paid to hindsight; to them everything should left to providence or government benevolence

According to the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service: in 2021, there were 1,195 distress calls, resulting in 76 lives lost and N11.95 billion worth of property in flames, by 2023, these figures rose to 2,537 distress calls, 82 casualties, and N25.37b worth of properties lost, also in the first three months of 2024, a total of 747 incidents have been recorded as fire outbreaks continue to pose a challenge to the development of the state especially in markets and business districts.

To bolster the effectiveness of the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service (LSF&RS), the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration established six new fire stations and built three in the last one year in all the divisions of the state, adding 62 state-of-the-art firefighting equipment in a bid to improve the state’s Emergency Responders System to reduce casualty figures and losses resulting from disasters.

On human capacity, the government recruited 435 new fire officers to boost the personnel in the LSF&RS, one of those recruited is the hero of the tragic helicopter crash on Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja on 1 August 2023.

The governor had visited the scene of the crash where he met the hero Asije Bright and made the decision to offer employment to the young man who demonstrated exceptional bravery during the incident. Asije Bright who played a crucial role in the initial response to the crash has since undergone rigorous training to become a firefighter in the LSF&RS.

It is obvious to the cynics that the LSF&RS is a reference point in emergency response and disaster management as it has over the last 12 months intensified fire safety advocacy amidst ongoing emergencies. The service, led by Magaret Adeseye, has embarked on an awareness campaign and comprehensive sensitisation to major markets on Lagos Island like Mandilas via Broad Street/Marina, Balogun, Ereko, Martins, Idumota and its suburbs as well as markets on the mainland like Tejuosho-Surulere, Ladipo-Mushin, Owode-Onirin, Chemical Market, and Ojota.

Industries and corporations in the state are not left behind in the campaign for fire safety as LSF&RS officials are engaging different sectors of the Lagos economy to foster a public-private partnership to minimize fire outbreaks which is inimical to the state’s development. 

In the same vein, the Dosunmu market inferno has necessitated the launch of an extensive plan to bolster fire safety measures in markets across the state as LSF&RS, in conjunction with relevant government agencies responsible for building control and permits, will enforce proper safety protocols.

The measures expected to be put in place are:

1. Appointment and training of Fire Safety Marshals in all buildings.

2. Mandatory provision of fire extinguishers in every shop.

3. Inspection and maintenance of electrical wiring by certified professionals.

4. Enforcement of proper storage procedures and installation of fire detection and suppression systems.

5. Regulation of generator placement to prevent on-site fuel storage.

6. Prohibition of fuel storage within buildings.

7. Strict oversight on storage of combustible materials, with permits required.

8. Implementation of a whistleblower mechanism for reporting violations.

Aside from the measures aforementioned, LSF&RS will be organising The Lagos International Fire Safety Conference in June 2024, a three-day hybrid event for governmental and private sector stakeholders to come together, brainstorm, and devise solutions to mitigate fire disasters in the state.

Just as the governor has announced the closure of the Dosunmu market until the safety of all structures and compliance with regulations are enforced, the citizens should also be reminded that safeguarding lives and properties is a collective effort of the people and the government of the day.

The development of Lagos is a collective effort.

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