Homes & Property

July 30, 2013

Disaster management: NEMA, LESAMA at war

Disaster management: NEMA, LESAMA at war

File: Collapsed building in Surulere

BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI AND MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO

*As LASEMA accuses NEMA of usurping responsibility
*NEMA official recounts arrest experience
AS cases of collapsed buildings, and fire in high- rise buildings escalate in Lagos, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency LASEMA, has accused the National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, of an attempt to usurp its responsibility of managing emergencies within the state, and cautioned the agency to respect existing emergency command structure. LASEMA, in its argument reiterated that it is unlawful for  NEMA to interfere with  its responsibility.

General Manager, LASEMA, Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu made the allegation after  the Surulere collapsed building incident that claimed five lives last week

According to him, the state emergency agency has all it takes to respond to emergency situation and rescue victims, saying;  “NEMA can only serve as secondary responder when it is called upon.”

The crisis first became apparent between the agencies at No. 29 Oloto Street, Ebute Meta, Yaba Local Council Development Area LCDA, when the Information officer of NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, was arrested and detained by men of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS made up of  Police Officers attached to and financed through  the Lagos State Trust Fund.

Collapsed building in Surulere

Collapsed building in Surulere

Again at the site of the collapsed building in Surulere, officials of the federal agency, were also evicted from the scene by RRS officers.

Osanyintolu clarified that; “It is important to define the roles and responsibilities of emergency responders for effective and efficient disaster management through proper command control chains.

“The State Emergency Management Agency SEMA, and all its primary stakeholders including the Local Emergency Management Committees are allowed to respond to emergencies/disasters in the state, while the National Emergency Management Agency, which is a secondary responder should focus on coordinating the activities of the six South-West States that make up of the zone and if need be, SEMA will call NEMA for necessary assistance.

“NEMA can never be a primary responder in all the six states in the South West zone. For example is it possible for NEMA to be a primary responder in Ondo or Osun State where their only office is located in Ikeja, Lagos State?”.

He therefore, called on South West NEMA to allow SEMA and the other stakeholders which includes the Local Emergency Management Committees in the Local Council Development Areas carry out their assigned functions as primary responders during emergency/disasters in the state.

NEMA confirms strife
NEMA, confirming the the developing bad blood between LASEMA and his agency, NEMA,  the South Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Iyiola Akande, warned that; “The clash is a thing that is brewing and we need to nip it in the bud before it escalates.”

According to him; “Officials of my agency had been repeatedly chased away from emergency scenes in Lagos by LASEMA officials while some were allegedly arrested on instruction of LASEMA officials at the site of a collapsed building.”

“This has occurred on more than four occasions in recent times as the state grapples with increasing building collapses.

“The national agency recently received a letter from the Lagos state commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed, asking them not to go to emergency scenes unless invited.

The NEMA zonal coordinator faulted the  claim by LASEMA boss that the national agency is “not supposed to be at emergency scenes except when called upon by LASEMA.

Akande also disagreed with the notion that the call to NEMA will be made when LASEMA is overwhelmed, arguing that by law, NEMA should be the primary responder at all emergency scenes.

He referred to the recent plane crash in a San Francisco airport where the US national and state emergency agencies combined efforts to rescue passengers on board the Asian Airlines flight 214 aircraft, noting that such collaboration is what NEMA and LASEMA should be doing to address emergency situations and save lives.

Quoting from the Acts establishing both agencies, Akande asked what experience LASEMA has that will make NEMA’s  involvement unnecessary in its activities.

For the records, NEMA was established sometime in 1999, while the state agency, LASEMA was launched almost 10 years after.

NEMA official recounts arrest experience
Speaking with Vanguard, Farinloye said “I was ordered to leave the site by the officers of the RRS. Despite all my plea, they said that the order was from above. And in order to ensure my safety, I left the site.”

Commissioner reacts: Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed debunked the claim, saying “I was not aware of any rivalry between the state and the federal agency.”

“There is nothing like that. I wasn’t aware of such. We are all working together. But to put the fact straight, NEMA is a secondary responder that was expected to be called by the state emergency agency. The state emergency agency is the primary responder. I don’t see why anyone should do that. I don’t know where that story came from.”