Effective regulatory agencies critical to mitigating disasters — Adejola
Chief Executive Officer, Surveillant Fire Limited, Mr. Jumade Adejola, told MARGARET MWANTOK in this interview that the huge amount of money lost yearly to fire and sundry accidents can be curtailed through increased safety awareness.
Considering the number of lives lost around the country in emergency situations, it’s safe to say that the country’s emergency preparedness is highly suspect. How can we expeditiously remedy this situation?
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) needs to be adequately funded for effective performance. What I proposed at a time was for us to have emergency centres in all local governments areas in the country, or at least 10 centres in each geopolitical zone.
Emergency preparedness is not supposed to be reactive, but proactive. In other words, we should not wait for disaster to happen before making a move.
Most of our airports today do not have very effective emergency systems because their equipment are outdated, and the few capable hands that are available are over-stretched beyond their capacity.
Away from the airports, there is what we call spreader and cutter, which aids evacuation during road accidents, but how many states in the country can boast of this very important equipment when it comes to rescue situation?
Also, look at the flooding that took place in Abeokuta, Ogun State a few months ago. There was no quick response, which would have mitigated the damage and loss of lives, or are we saying that Ogun State does not have enough resources to set up emergency centres across the state?
The country must be losing so much to fire outbreaks and other forms of accidents. Can you estimate how much is lost yearly?
What we lose yearly I may not be able to quantify, but the question to ask is this, why do we as a people have to wait for the government to remind us to do the right things to preserve our lives and properties?
If I buy a new car today, why must it be the government that should remind me to insure the vehicle, or even get a fire extinguisher? Behaving this way does not make any sense to me as a person.
Our failure to do the right things at the right time is part of the problems that we have as a nation. So, I think what we need apart from the enabling environment to do the right thing is appropriate legislation because government still needs to be hard on people to get result.
Fire outbreaks are still commonplace in households, but the one in industries and manufacturing complexes are really worrisome. Are businesses not supposed to have standby firefighting equipment?
It is unfortunate that most business owners are not pre-emptive when it comes to the issue of safety, especially fire in manufacturing plants. It is even more worrisome when viewed against the background that foreigners run most of the manufacturing companies. If our regulatory agencies visit these factories to see for themselves, they would have sanctioned most of them, but most times they don’t. When there is a fire outbreak and there are no safety equipment, the lives of workers are twice at risk. Look at what happened at the Ikorodu factory that many lives were lost the last time.
What worsens fire situation in some of these manufacturing plants is the fact that they lack fire equipment, and where there are equipment, they are not adequately maintained. So, if regulatory authorities take their functions seriously and sanction those that are found wanting, then fire incidents in these places would be reduced or totally eliminated.
The recent tanker fire incident on Otedola Bridge is also one of those accidents that should have never happened if regulatory agencies did their jobs well. We have bodies that have the responsibility to certify such articulated vehicles to prove that they are roadworthy. So I ask, where are they with so many tankers that are not fit to be on the road carrying fuel all around. If that ill-fated tanker had been spotted and stopped from carrying fuel around, those lives would never have been wasted. Again, this is why I say that agencies that are tasked with these kinds of functions must take their jobs seriously.
Vision Zero seeks to eliminate accidents or reduce it to the minimal. What much of it is known in the country?
Vision Zero was a programme that emanated from the Singapore World Safety Conference in 2017. Like you said, it has the vision of eliminating or greatly reducing in accidents across the globe. This can be achieved by increasing the level of safety awareness and safety precaution.
For instance, in the 1990s there were two incidents that involved high-rise buildings in Lagos State. Over the years, there has been gradual increase in the number of high-rise buildings across the state, which is also encouraging, but is the state also doing enough to ensure that safety regulations are not discountenanced? The state must demand for a comprehensive safety blueprint before approving any new building project if it is serious about ensuring the safety of lives and properties.
It is common knowledge to conclude that if everyone takes safety precautions in all that we do, there would be minimum accidents in the state and by extension the country.
It is also very important for states to do a comprehensive safety auditing and come up with suitable programmes to address safety in their domain. All over the world, fire engineering, for instance, has its own sector and is treated very seriously.
Safety should not be hidden under Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) because that is why fire engineers don’t have a strong voice in Nigeria and are never given the opportunity to contribute as contractors in jobs involving safety matters, but as subcontractors.
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