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Do you know the magnitude of fire in Nigeria?

Ikeddy ISIGUZo

THIS will be of fires, identified, and particularly the unidentified ones that gut our country. We are not about attending to them since they are not among the three most important things to Nigeria – the President’s London medical trips, oil and gas, and elections.

Nothing stops any of them from running on schedule and without hitch if we concentrate on the expenditures, and not the tardiness that billions spent on them, some say wasted, have failed to redeem.

The President must travel to London, the crude oil, stolen and all is accorded primacy, the same treatment that elections get, in our almost 24-year-old nascent democracy demonstrate their importance.

On Wednesday there was a real fire in Lagos. An early morning fire burnt the national secretariat of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL. The secretariat is part of the Humanity Centre, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Ijaye Bus Stop, Ijaiye-Ojokoro, Lagos, which also has the secretariats of some other civil society organisations.

Chairman of CACOL Mr. Debo Adeniran had an interesting conversation with the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, when he reached it about 4:29 am, maybe a time too early to manage an emergency.

“I personally called the emergency number around 4:29 am and I was expecting to be attended to as someone who urgently needs help but unfortunately despite the claim that they now have improved response time to emergencies, they were asking if I am at the scene of the incident,” Adeniran said.

“I told them the place is our office and we don’t sleep at the office, they further asked what the magnitude of the fire was and how sure am I that the fire is really burning the building.”

Until this incident I did not know that among the civic responsibilities of anyone reporting a fire were to judge its magnitude, possibly predict the chances of it spreading, and reaching a decision whether that fire was an emergency in sense of an incident worth disturbing the early morning sleep of emergency officers.

For you to approach the emergency service please ensure the fire is of mature magnitude. You call when the fire has established its magnitude by its ferocity.

The next question encapsulated how inconvenienced the officer taking the 4:29 am call was. “Are you sure the fire is really burning the building?” It was too early for a building to burn. And if it must burn it better be “really burning”.

Why didn’t the fire choose something else that would not force a call so early?

Before Mr. Adeniran called, residents of the estate and the manager of the burning building had called. LASEMA did not did consider fire emergency enough. The callers believed there was a service that would attend to them. They had every reason for their optimism.

Five days before CACOL burnt, Lagos State had at an elaborate ceremony commissioned 62 new fire trucks. A major national newspaper was impressed by the event that it headlined its report, “Lagos State Gov Commissions Bespoke Firefighting And Safety Trucks”.

Could it be that the equipment were commissioned but not yet for use? Were the speeches about the improved response time of LASEMA for a future when the tricks would be in use? Or was the Governor campaigning?

Engr. Tayo Bamgbose -Martins, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, said the collaboration with a company that assembled the trucks was “to transform the Lagos State Fire Service into a fast, efficient, and effective agency”.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu arrived the event clad in Fire Brigade attire, inspected the 435 newly graduated firefighters, as the fire truck builders boasted, “there is nothing like this anywhere on the continent of Africa”, as the trucks were manufacturing to the specifics and needs of Lagos State.

Only five days after, all the speeches proved nothing. Did the promoters of the huge investments in fire trucks also train the officers who expected the public to know about the magnitude of fire?

The Lagos example is apt for the recency of the incident as well as the commissioning of the new equipment. Many States have emergency services by name. Here is a State that one, invests in it and indications are that the staff understand emergencies differently and would not want to be bothered.

A fire must have appropriate magnitude for those new fire trucks to move. They are not built for wasted trips which must be prevented by being sure that the “fire is really burning the building”.

Many fires assault our citizenship each time we attempt to access government services. There are no alternatives. Only governments provide these services. Officers meant to provide the services see their positions as opportunities to extort the public, humiliate people, or simply ignore them.

The public health services, passport, driver’s licence, national identity card, voter’s card stand out in this regard. There are stated no ways of accessing the services. Where there are, they are mere words.

People can wait for hours at these places without anyone attending to them. They could spend days going to the same places without anyone explaining the progress, if any, with their matters.

Senior officers to whom complaints can be made are absent from duty for days. If you were to meet them, they propose some of the most depressing solutions to issues. Sometimes they refer people to touts who are their unofficial cohorts.

These fires burn without anyone asking about their magnitude. They are burning our people. They are some of the burdens we bear living in Nigeria.

Like in Lagos, why would governments provide services without any qualms whether the people get the services or not. What are the consequences for failing to provide these services?

.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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