In a spate of less than two weeks, three major fire disasters occured in Oyo state in what analysts say were avoidable incidences. BAYO AGBOOLA writes. In the past few days in some parts of Oyo state, it has been tales of anger and pains arising from series of major fire disasters recorded in various homes, public places and other parts of Ibadan, the state capital, Oyo Town, among others, where human lives were lost and property worth millions of naira were burnt to ashes.
Just last week, three children of same parents identified as Glory, (14), Samuel (8) and Darasimi (3) met their untimely death when they were burnt to death in an early morning inferno which occured at Orisunbare Street, around Eyin Grammar, Molete area of Ibadan. Fire incidences were also recorded at NTA junction area and other places where properties and shops were destroyed. The parents of the three children burnt to death were said to be away from home but locked the children inside their one room apartment when the fire suddenly broke out and consumed them.
Just last Sunday, it was cofusion again at the ancient Akesan market in Oyo town where fire caused another havoc which degenerated into protest by youths basically over the failure of the state fire service to curtail the situation despite their station in the market.
Two days before the Akesan market fire incident, there was yet another incident at a tyre retail shop in Oyo town destroying properties worth thousands of naira still with the men of the fire service no where to be found.
This apparently agitated the youths in the ancient who on sensing similar scenario in the Akesan market inferno took to the streets protesting the ineffectiveness of the fire men who stormed their station, vandalised the operational vehicles and office before the protest turned bloody leaving three of the youths allegedly shot dead by security operatives.
Makinde- not proactive – APC
The Akesan market fire incident could best be tagged one incident too many going by the reactions and counter reactions it is generating especially from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) which minced no words in accusing Governor Seyi Makinde and his administration of not being proactive to issues bothering on the lives of the peoole of the state.
In a statement signed by its state publicity secretary, Dr AbdulAzeez Olatunde, he accused Governor Makinde of finding it difficult to emphatise with the victims of repeated inferno in the state saying, ” It’s very unfortunate that this is the same Governor Seyi Makinde who was always out to be counted as the lover and defender of the masses when he was in opposition whenever such natural disasters struck in the past that has now found it difficult to empathise and commiserate with victims of repeated inferno in the state.
“It is terribly unfortunate that the inferno is following one another from Ẹyin Grammar Molete Ibadan where three kids were lost to the inferno on Friday 3rd of January 2020 to the Furniture stores around Iyaganku axis in Ibadan which was razed down to rubble by the inferno and also another conflagrating inferno that razed Akesan market in Oyo town in early morning of January 5, 2020 where millions of naira worth of goods were lost. The most embarrassing aspect of the situation is that this was how flood ravaged Olodo community in Lagelu LG of Ibadan where many lives were also lost in September 2019, yet with no word of empathy from the government led by Engr Seyi Makinde,” he said. “We would have expected the government to role out repeated sensitisation in all the media channels available in Oyo state by rolling out emergency fire service lines.
“Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) commended Oyo state government under Sen Abiola Ajimobi for many years because of his government proactiveness in dredging the rivers across the state before rainy seasons and continuous and repeated announcements of dedicated fire service lines just before the harmattan periods after having repeated stock-taking of its consumables all of which have disappeared within months of exit of APC government from power. We urge Gov Makinde to find a way of giving palliative to the victims of the inferno through Oyo State Emergency Relief Management Agency (OYSEMA) and also henceforth provide for the consumable needs by Oyo State Fire Services to be effective in their obligatory duties.”
Folarin, Dare commiserate with victims
The senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Senator Teslim Folarin on his part charged the state government to review the firefighting provisions across the state to curb the increasing fire incidents in and across the state particularly near the market places.
“I arrived London early this morning to receive the shocking news of a major fire outbreak at Akesan Market of Oyo Town. My heart goes out to those that may have lost properties and livelihoods to the inferno. It is particularly saddening due to the fact that the Akesan fire happened just days after three children lost their lives in another fire incident at Molete area of Ibadan, also in Oyo state”, he said.
Similarly, the minister of youth and sports development, Mr Sunday Dare, in a message lamented the Akesan market inferno promising to work with the state government in bringing relief to the victims saying, “The news of the inferno that destroyed the popular Akesan market in Oyo just got to me. I am deeply saddened by this disaster so early in the year and extend my condolences to all those affected. I will visit shortly and work with the state government to bring relief.
“The importance and purpose of Akesan Market as a major market with huge economic impact in Oyo state and Nigeria at large cannot be over-emphasised. The fire incident is indeed a great disaster. I will visit the scene of the fire shortly and work with the Oyo state government to bring relief to the victims.”
Group berates fire service for inefficiency
A youth group, Oyo Global Forum (OGF) in its reaction lamented that a good part of the market would have been saved if the nearby fire station had functional equipment.
OGF in the statement signed by its secretary, Mr Taiwo Hassan Adebayo said, “Tragedies struck in Oyo Town in the early hours of Sunday, January 5, 2020 as fire razed Akesan Market, the town’s main commercial centre, Only a few shops and a filling station were not affected.
“Unfortunately, the Fire service based in Oyo less than 20 metres to the market could not mobilise to stop the raging fire. The service said its equipment were not functioning. Firefighters then had to be mobilised from Ogbomoso town, 50 kilometres away after massive damage.”
State gov’t to acquire fighting equipment
Amidst reactions and counter-reactions, the state government through its commissioner for infrastructure, transportation and public works, Professor Raphael Afonja, breaks its silence on the increasing fire incidents in and across the state saying, “The government of Engineer Makinde inherited a fire service department with weakened capacity as a result of obsolete equipment.”Prof Afonja during a visit to Akesan market quickly announced that the state government would acquire 10 modern fire-fighting equipment through a competitive bidding process that would lead to the acquisition of the equipment.
“Last month, we engaged a company that would help us to refurbish some of our existing trucks including the one that was vandalised. “We are also publishing the tender request that will allow companies to bid for and supply the state with 10 modern fire-fighting trucks through an open and competitive process.”
Prof Afonja pointed out that the present administration had flagged off a process of rehabilitating the serviceable fire-fighting trucks so as to provide immediate services to the people, adding that the process of rehabilitating the inherited trucks was still ongoing when the outbreak of fire incidents occurred repeatedly.”The last time fire-fighting equipment was procured in the state was in 2006. The present government has, however, kick-started the rehabilitation of the few serviceable fire-fighting trucks. The one that was vandalised in Oyo was just repaired the day before when it developed gear problems after returning from an assignment.”
Governor Seyi Makinde in a message to commiserate with victims of Akesan Market inferno said the state government would investigate the circumstances surrounding the inferno saying, “I received with shock news of the fire outbreak at Oja Akesan in Oyo Town in the early hours of this morning. Words cannot convey my sadness at this incident and I sympathise with the victims. I appeal for calm as we investigate the circumstances around the unfortunate incident.” No doubt, the expectation is high on the need for the present administration in Oyo state to rise to the challenges; moreso in the dry season known to be prone to fire outbreak incidences. The government can put in place necessary pallative measures towards curbing the menace in and across the state pending the arrival of the 10 modern fire fighting vehicles.