WITHIN the past one month Nigeria has been reeling from a whirlwind of fire outbreaks with attendant losses of human lives and property.
No less than five market fires occurred – two in Onitsha, one in Benin City and two in the Central Business District of Lagos Island.
At least, three of the market fires were caused by fuel tankers which fell, discharged their contents and ignited conflagrations of monumental disasters in Onitsha and Benin. Other tanker fires were recorded at Agulu, Anambra State; and Gowon Estate, Lagos; while another tanker fell at the entrance of the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, but was neutralised by the emergency services.
Fire disasters are normal parts of life, especially in a rapidly-urbanising world. They are often more pronounced in Nigeria at the onset of the “ember” months when the dry season is around the corner.
However, the chains of occurrences of these disasters left many concerned citizens wondering if there were no sinister portents behind them, such as possible terrorist plots or sabotage. These cannot be waved away because enemies of the Nigerian people are multiplying and moving freely from one end of the country to the other. The security and law enforcement agencies need to look into this and reassure the people.
Our people, especially handlers of incendiary vehicles, market operators and the general public need more enlightenment on fire-consciousness and safety.
The fire services at all levels should put more efforts into fire safety education, more so as they are often ill-equipped to fight these fires when they break out.
Homes and markets should be built with full consciousness of the need to protect the people and their property from fire outbreaks.
We need to pay greater attention to the very germane issue of insurance. Many traders have lost almost everything they had to market fires due to their unwillingness or inability to insure their stalls and goods.
On the other hand, many insurance companies foot-drag when the need to respond to claims by their victimised customers arises.
Our laws must be strengthened to ensure that all owners of property and goods compulsorily insure them in their own interest, and that insurance companies are strong enough to carry their responsibilities of alleviating losses.
It is inhuman and unfeeling for governments to abandon the toiling masses to their fates when disasters like fires, flooding and gully erosions deprive them of their means of livelihood.
The concept of Social Investment Programme of the current government should be extended to the amelioration of the losses that citizens suffer from natural and manmade disasters. These are the things that reassure the people that the government works for them.