Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) yesterday visited the site of a fire incident that occurred as a result of storage of firecrackers at the Ojo Giwa area of Jankara Market in Central Lagos. He described the incident as a very sad and unfortunate self-inflicted tragedy. The governor, who spoke in an interview with newsmen at the scene said: “We make rules, we break them.
All of these items are under one form of prohibition or the other and we have men and women at our various entry and exit points. “How did they get in? How did they enter? Who shipped them? Who imported them and who cleared them? Who approved them to come in? Those are very serious issues. We must also ask ourselves, must we do every business?” the governor asked rhetorically.
Governor Fashola reflected that the people must undertake a lot of soul searching and reflections on the choices they make as a people asking; “the way we do business, does it benefit all of us or do we do business without consideration for other people’s safety as long as I make money? I don’t care if people die, I don’t care if properties are burnt.” He reiterated that to make quick business, lives had been lost, properties had been lost and all of the people were in danger.
Fashola maintained that everyone must be involved in the soul-searching process underscoring that it must not be about the government alone. According to him, “as the state government continues to ramp up capacities by equipping the fire service, equipping the emergency services, setting up a safety commission, the people must now choose how safely they want to live. “There must be safety, environmental and health safety in everything that we do. We have had too many fires in the recent past and in spite of my appeals over the last two months that we are going into the dry season and that everyone must resist the temptation to keep inflammable materials in homes,” the Governor said.
Giving more insight into the gravity of the situation, the governor said two weeks ago, over a weekend of Saturday and Sunday, the Lagos State Fire Service responded to 22 fire distress calls, stressing that such number could be reduced through self-caution, saying the government could not be in peoples’ homes to check who was storing fuel or explosives. Governor Fashola said all citizens must now lead by showing some commitment to their safety, by giving a commitment that: “I will keep petrol away from my house, I will keep explosives away from my house. I will not make any illegal electrical connection. I will switch off all my electrical appliances before I leave home.”
He warned that if care was not taken, it may get to a situation where if the present trend continued, the strength of the state fire service would be overwhelmed. “All of us have a duty and I am renewing my appeal again, let us stop this dangerous businesses because once there is an error, the consequences are devastating as you see. I hope that we will restrain ourselves and get through this difficult year in some safety and adopt much more safety conscious choices as we go into the New Year,” he explained.
Also speaking on what measures had been put in place to enforce town planning laws as it affected the fire incident, the governor said when town planning laws were made and government insisted on its implementation, the government was often branded as anti-poor and a tough one. According to the governor, those who sought cheap popularity or sought to score cheap political points were often nowhere to be found when the consequences of agitations to prevent proper enforcement of regulations, law and order like in the current situation.
“Some of the people who canvass this position are not here now where people have died and they seek cheap popularity when government tries to set rules and regulation, government is seen as anti- poor but the poor people have died here and the people who have made those cases are not here now to come and pick the dead bodies. It is us who are picking the dead bodies”, he said. Continuing, the Governor declared: “The people must realise that for government, the most important thing is to keep people alive, to keep them safe. We cannot be in every home. We can only make appeals. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Where we learn about it, we will intervene and enforce”. He said people have a right to make choices but can only make such choices if they are not injurious to others and that they do not have a right to commit suicide. The Governor said the government must act very emphatically and rigorously because sometimes when people take bad decisions, the people have always had to learn the hard way.
He said on getting to the scene of the incident, the first appeal that greeted him was that he should please ban bangers, asking if government must ban what is generally agreed is injurious to health before people kept their distance from it. He added that in other societies, fireworks are also used at Christmas and New Year but is controlled and done by experts and not stored in residential buildings. The Governor charged that the people must work with the government and must listen less to those cheap populists so that the people can be kept alive, adding that keeping the people alive is much more important than anything else government does.
The Governor was received and briefed at the site by the General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency(LASEMA) Dr Oke Osanyintolu and the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, TpL Toyin Ayinde and other officials who had been coordinating rescue and fire control efforts at the site.