In this article, the Controller General of the Federal Fire Service, Engr.Jaji O.Abdulganiyu proffer the way forward to curb incessant fire outbreaks in our markets.
The sands of history have impressions of hazardous fire footprints in very copious measures and with each experience comes records of organic, economic and social losses. It is pertinent to note the obvious fact that Firefighters risk their lives almost always to prevent these from happening by protecting lives and property. This is what actually informs the mandate of the Federal Fire Service which is to ensure safety of lives and property by extinguishment, control and prevention of fire outbreak through Regulation, Training, Enforcement, Public Enlightenment Programmes and impact reduction during emergencies through adequate preparedness.
When I assumed office, I made it one of my top priorities to carry out enlightenment campaigns in public spaces across the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT, which I have already begun because I believe that fire prevention is easier, safer and cheaper than firefighting. So far, we have been on National Tv and many radio stations through our Public Relations creative channels back-to-back, running our enlightenment campaigns through interviews.
The Inspection Investigation and Enforcement department has also taken the campaign to the grassroot practically, carrying out drills and lecturing the general public in public places e.g., markets, malls, etc. The schools’ outreach and education unit in collaboration with Secondary School Education Board, too has been running the “catch them young” campaign in secondary schools to intimate and prep the younger minds about fire prevention and fire protection. The NYSC is also not left out, because the collaboration the Federal Fire Service has with it is working out a more efficient and effective feat towards raising a society of well enlightened and responsible young adults about fire safety. The list is longer but for considered constraints, I will rather we pause.
Verified Statistics shows on good authority that in recent times, Nigeria, as a country has suffered incessant fire and related disasters resulting from a few major causes. Some of the fire outbreaks on record are the Singa market fire in Kano, Monday Market fire in Maiduguri, Tejuosho Market fire in Yaba, Ajegunle spare part market in Lagos State, Onitsha Drug market fire, all of which occurred within the space of just five months. This is highly lamentable and I commensurate deeply with victims of such hazards hoping they are able to recover and find some respite from well-meaning individuals, family and friends.
It is not uncommon to find arsonists as brains behind some of these fires and where it is so, it is condemnable and I am sure the law shall catch up with those who may still be on the run as some have been used as deterrents in previous cases.
With the exception of arson, fires in the market place are largely as a result of human error or carelessness. To be very specific, poor housekeeping/handling of electronic and electrical devices is the number one cause of fire hazards. It will be wise to note and be cautious of this because the resultant of ignoring this point has led to colossal damage of property and in many cases loss of limps lives.
The engagement of quacks in the installation and maintenance of electrical fittings, gadgets or devices; overload of sockets; leaving electrical appliances plugged in and unattended after close of work; unapproved building plans and lack of examination and proper supervision before, during and after any building construction; etc are the most likely reasons there are incessant fire outbreaks in market places based on experience and statistics.
The design of our markets was originally at least near perfect and allowed access roads for cars to drive through, but the abuse of infrastructure have resized the allowable space for firefighting trucks to drive through or manoeuvre. This poses another big challenge to a quick firefighting response.
Only a few traders and shop owners are enlightened and cultured enough to appreciate the importance of obtaining and installing fire protection devices like hydrant, water sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, etc. Hence, the need to continually enlighten them to build and develop a safety culture.
In the near future, collaborations shall be worked out between the Service and the Market Associations in providing a functional fire station domiciled in the premises with a Firefighting truck or at least Rapid Response Trucks that would be manned by our men.
I appeal to both the Private sector and State Governments, Area Councils and Market Associations to ensure that these Fire stations are built to standard and operated based on globally acceptable modus operandi. The Federal Fire Service is willing to train the market security guards as fire wardens at the National Fire Academy so that first aid firefighting can be learnt and prep them for eventualities relating to fire hazards. We have had such collaborations in the past and I believe this one will not only work out well but be outstanding too.
Finally, let me use this medium to call on Nigerians to support the Men of the Service and desist from obstructing or attacking Firemen while discharging their statutory duties. In case of fire and other related emergencies please call 08032003557