The authorities should enforce the fire codes and regulations

Alarmed by the spate of market fires in the country, the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs) has expressed concerns that trillions of Naira worth of goods and property are lost annually to these tragedies. Indeed, we have had more than enough fire outbreaks that ought to have warranted the entrenchment of various forms of mechanism by the operators of these markets to reduce occurrences. Most irksome is that some of the incidents culminating in colossal damage were caused by the careless attitudes of individuals. What compounds the tragedy is that in many of the instances, authorities only offer sympathy visits and pronouncements of support, which were hardly backed up with concrete measures. Perhaps what makes these losses haunting is that most traders do not insure their goods.  

Many of the fire outbreaks have been linked to factors such as fuel storage, power surge, illegal connection of electricity, carelessness due to lit matches or forgotten candle lights, stoves, cookers, and gas cylinders in the markets as well as ignorance of safety procedures. Beyond the usual lamentations, it is imperative to ask whether serious consideration is ever given to the inevitability of fire outbreaks in many of these markets and indeed in private and public buildings. In many countries, it is not just enough to design and construct buildings, it is also important to make allowances for a possible outbreak of fire by ensuring the availability of fire-fighting equipment in such facilities. Making such allowances is indeed part of urban planning. 

We are aware that such codes and regulations are also available here, but they are rarely enforced. Indeed, in many markets, there are limited access points through which fire fighters and emergency personnel could gain entrance to put off fire before it spreads. Yet, what all the recent developments point to is that there is a need for better appreciation of the challenge posed by fire outbreaks so that the authorities can begin to fashion how to deal with them.  

  To reduce the increasing regularity of fire outbreaks and the attendant dangers to lives and property, it is important to step up advocacy on the issue; conduct regular fire drills in markets and other public buildings; enforce existing fire codes and raise the profile and the resources available to our fire services. It has also become increasingly important that traders should get their shops and goods insured. That is the only way they could recover goods lost to fire disasters.

The Controller General, Federal Fire Service, Jaji Abdulganiyu has been proactive in public enlightenment campaigns. “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,” Abdulganiyu wrote in a recent newspaper article. “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 call on the federal, state, and local governments to come up with sound and effective mechanisms to protect our markets from fire incidents. Stringent measures should also be put in place to punish any individual or group which carries out any activity resulting in an inferno.

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