Averting dry season fire outbreaks

From Lagos to Jos, Kano to Onitsha, it’s been gory tales of fire outbreaks ravaging Nigerian hence the need for proactive measures to avert the menace in the country especially as the dry season approaches, KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

In 2017 alone, statistics reeled out by the Lagos State Fire Service indicated that not less than 1,273 fire calls were received by the service.

Similarly, Kano state Fire Service in that same year, recorded 660 fire outbreaks with not less than 123 lives being lost as well as property worth millions.

While there are no accurate figures to quantify the economic losses as result of fire outbreaks, Fire Disaster Prevention and Safety Awareness Association of Nigeria has said the country has lost billion of naira and millions of lives to fire disasters.

The association explained further that the incessant fire outbreaks has equally cost the national economy about N6 trillion between 2012 and 2017.

The incessant fire outbreak in the country has led to destruction of lives and properties; just as many victims are still counting their losses.

Causes of fire outbreaks

Indiscriminate petrol storage, careless disposal of cigarette stubs, adulterated fuel, illegal connection, sub standard cables, and power surge among others have been identified as some of the causes of fire outbreaks in the country.

Experts have also identified population influx and urbanization without commensurate improvement and expansion in public infrastructure, poor safety culture, as well as wide gap in skills, knowledge, security risk management and mitigation as part of the causes of incessant fire incidents in the country.

However, despite concerns the authorities express when there are incidents of fire; government at all levels still appear to be paying lip service to these disasters.

Disturbed by the trend, a victim of fire incidence Wande Olatoye told Weekend Blueprint that apart from the fact that some incidents are self-inflicted, it is not enough for government to snub victims or not be proactive in the first place.

“I happened to be a victim some years back in Lagos but thankfully, it was only my property that got burnt and not my family as we were away in church for vigil.”

Like Olatoye, there are many victims of fire out breaks that are still gnashing their teeth over their plights raising the question of whether future fire incidents can be averted.

For the Director of Operations, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mr Dauda Yakubu, if you stop the substandard materials going to unsuspecting customers are stopped then almost 80 percent of the problem may have been addressed. Speaking in an interview with Blueprint Weekend on how dry season fire outbreaks can be be minimised he said: “If you stop the substandard materials going to unsuspecting customers, you have addressed almost 80 percent of the problem.

“Of course, we may have issues of workmanship where the wiring and other things that may not be well done. But when you look at the quality of the material and it is well done then you can be rest assured.

“Just like the steel bars, definitely, the one that is unbranded; it clearly shows that it is not from Nigeria. It is smuggled. But the one that is branded, we know the company. So, it clearly shows from even our monitoring, that our certification process is effective.”

Unity bank fire

On Monday, September 23, 2019, Unity Bank headquarters in Lagos suffered fire outbreak but was brought under control. The news of the fire incident greeted the business environment; however, the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.

The management of the bank also insisted that the fire, which razed one of the floors of the commercial bank, did not affect the banking hall and other strategic business areas.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the financial institution said the incident did not affect the “banking hall and other strategic business areas.”

The bank said the extent of the damage was being assessed stating, “We regret to inform the public that there was a fire incident on one of the floors of our head office building early this morning.

“The cause of the fire incident is yet to be ascertained but the fire service has intervened and brought the situation under control. While the extent of damage is being assessed, we are happy to note that there was no casualty or loss of life as a result of the incident.

“From current observations, however, the Banking Hall and other strategic business areas were not affected,” the bank said in a statement on Monday.

Unity Bank further stated that developments regarding the incident would be made public later. It is worth noting that fire outbreaks in recent years have also affected First Bank Of Nigeria, in Lagos, destroying ATMs and other valuables; Ecobank Nigeria headquarters; and the headquarters of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in .

Midnight fire at Katarko Market in Jos

Just last week a midnight fire outbreak at Katarko Market in Jos, , consumed no fewer than 50 timber shades and carpentry workshops.

Speaking on the fire incident, the Chairman of the Timber ‘B’ Hausa Line Association, Yusuf Aliyu, said the arrival of fire fighters around 4am helped reduced the inferno and save part of the market.

He said, “I was at home at about 1am when I received calls from different individuals that our market was on fire. In no time, I arrived at the market to see various timber shades and carpentry workshops on fire. Not less than 50 timber shades and workshops were affected and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.”

He said the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained but they traders suspect an electrical fault may have started the fire. Property worth millions of naira was lost at the same market some years back when it was gutted by fire as a result electrical fault.

Aliyu said many poles and other electrical appliances in the market were dilapidated and needed to be replaced for safe power supply. He called on state government and the Jos Electricity Distribution Company to come to their aid.

Fire claims septuagenarian, 4 grand children

Also, recently, a 70-year-old woman died alongside her four grandchildren in a fire incident in Biagbini Community, in Ese Odo Local. Although, the cause of the inferno, which engulfed the septuagenarian home, was yet to be ascertained, it may not be unconnected to electrical faults.

Victims of the fire incident were identified as Moyo Jide, and her four grandchildren, Jennifer, 3; Gbana,7; Bigdaddy, 5; and Wisdom, 9.

 As the sad occurrence continued to generate emotions, the Governor of the state, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN) ordered an unfettered investigation into the incident to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the fire.

 “The incident is sad. It is particularly pathetic that a 70-year woman and her four grandchildren were victims of the inferno,” the governor said in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation in the state, Donald Ojogo.

“The state government shares in this agonizing moment that has inflicted an indelible pain in the hearts of relations, friends and acquaintances of the departed.

“Whether this incident was avoidable or not, it has once again brought to the fore, the need for all to be vigilant and mindful of our environment at all times,” the statement said.

Mother losses six children in Lagos

In a related development, at Abagbo village, Takwa Bay Island in Lagos state, six children; Folake Ogundiya, 13; Abigail, 8; Daniel Bakare, 6; Chidinma Achomye; Nnamdi Achomye, two; and one-year-old Khadijat were burnt beyond recognition in a fire incident.

According to a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Bala Elkana, the mother of the children, Florence Asoye, had left them in the care of one Suliat. The PPRO said Suliat locked the children in the room and left for an unknown destination.

“On August 7, 2019, around 10.30am, the Takwa Bay Police Station received information that there was a fire incident at the Abagbo village, Takwa Bay, on August 6, which claimed the lives of five children from the same family. A team of detectives led by the Divisional Police Officer visited the scene.

“In her statement, the mother of the victims, Florence Asoye, stated that she left home around 6.30pm to the Takwa Bay jetty only to come back to see her room completely razed. She said she left her children in the care of one Suliat, who locked the children in the room and left for an unknown destination.”

Abuja transmission substation destroyed

A 45MVA transformer located at a transmission substation in Abuja has been destroyed by a fire outbreak on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

The substation operated by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is located at the 132/33 kilovolts (kV) Apo transmission substation in Abuja.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), which feeds directly from the substation to supply the end users, said the fire was brought under control.

AEDC in a statement said its team worked with the TCN engineers to absorb the load on the 45MVA transformer.

Also confirming the incident, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the fire had been extinguished with plans underway to redistribute power to communities served by the burnt transformer.

BUK accounts unit razed

The accounting unit of Bayero University was engulfed by fire on July 16. According to the Principal Assistant Registrar of the university, Lamara Garba, the fire affected vital documents in the office.

He told journalists in Kano that the incident occurred at about noon but was put off by the university’s fire service, adding that no life was lost.

Garba said the Deputy Vice Chancellor (administration), Professor Haruna Wakili, had visited the scene and commended the university’s fire service for its quick intervention.

Safety Code to the rescue

Expectation is for safety code to be enforced in all public buildings as contained in the national fire safety code.

Many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when as a way of reducing the incidents of fire outbreaks. The federal government had approved the National Fire Safety Code and  expectations is that the code, which spelt out what should be considered when planning commercial, residential, or any other type of building. However, this expectation may have been dashed with ineffective implementation of the code.

In particular, experts have said that though the fire safety code does exist, not many are familiar with the provision of the code and so cannot act on it and as a result, the country have continued to in cure huge human and material avoidable loss as a result of fire out breaks.

As Fire Service Spokesperson became evasive

Unfortunately, efforts to make a stakeholder and Fire Service Public Relations Officer in Abuja to speak on measure in place by the organization towards averting endless fire outbreaks in the country was futile as at the time of filing this report.

The spokesperson of the Federal Fire Service neither picked our reporter’s call nor responded to his text message.

 Going forward

For some stakeholders, regular sensitization was key to curbing incessant fires in the country. This is as there have been renewed calls for the federal and state governments to adequately fund the fire department and emergency agencies.

At this juncture, it would not be out of place to advocate that it is high time Nigerians began to imbibe culture of insuring properties in order to lessen the damage, calamity, agony and depression that usually characterized the aftermath.

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