The December 26 banger fire explosion that rocked parts of Jankara Market in Lagos Island has drawn attention to the dire need to enforce extant laws on prohibition of firecrackers in the country. The Boxing Day inferno was, according to reports, caused by a banger thrown at a fireworks’ warehouse in the market. The explosion, which affected many buildings at Ojo Giwa and Okoya Streets, led to loss of some lives and the destruction of goods and property worth millions of naira.
It was also reported that not less than 40 people were injured in the unfortunate incident, while about 12 houses and scores of cars were razed. While Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State described the incident as a self-inflicted tragedy, the Lagos State Police Command’s spokesperson, Ngozi Braide, expressed shock at the calibre of firecrackers seen at the scene of the inferno. We condemn the avoidable fireworks explosion that disrupted the peace of residents of Jankara area of Lagos Island during the festive season.
There is no doubt that most of these bangers are under one form of prohibition or another, as Governor Fashola rightly pointed out when he visited the scene of the incident. It is unfortunate that nobody is enforcing the ban on firecrackers in the country. We recall that the Nigeria Police Force usually issues orders against the use of fireworks prior to major festivities in the country. Yet, the use of bangers at these events has not abated. Rather, their use has been intensified with introduction of high calibre crackers that sound like rifles and bombs. Apparently, nobody in the country takes the ban seriously, hence the bangers are continually imported into the country unhindered, and used at will. The ban on the use of firecrackers is obeyed more in the breach. Those that deal in the dangerous product behave as if there is no ban at all.
Banger fire in the past has caused some victims bodily injuries and set some property ablaze. Bangers have also been deployed to harass innocent people on the streets during festivities. At the heart of the Lagos fireworks’ inferno is the greed of those engaged in the business despite the prohibition order. The fireworks are brought into the country because the officers and men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) are not alive to their responsibilities. If they are diligent enough at their duty posts, there is no way traders would be so audacious to import these bangers on the scale that we have it now.
The leadership of the NCS should be worried that Customs men look the other way while deadly bangers and other prohibited items are brought into the country. Such gross dereliction of duty must be checked to avoid bringing in items that can compromise our national security. The officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force should share in this blame also. If they were vigilant enough, they would have detected the entry of these deadly weapons into Jankara and other markets in the country. In fact, the police have not been enforcing the laws on fireworks. The ban is just there on paper.
We call on the police to start enforcing this important law. The need for such enforcement has become more imperative now than at any other period because of the general atmosphere of insecurity in the country. The sound of bangers thrown these days is not different from that of gunshots. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between banger explosions and gunshots. The Lagos banger fire explosion has again brought to the fore the need to revisit all existing legislations on fireworks and make them more stringent in view of the serious damage unbridled use of banger can cause the country.
We call on the Lagos State government to institute a probe to find out those behind the importation of the Jankara bangers into the country with a view to punishing them. There is also the need to find out what some traders actually store in their warehouses. All importers of bangers at the Jankara Market should be apprehended and investigated. And all those who have violated the laws on importation of fireworks should be tried and sanctioned accordingly.
Besides, police should swoop on importers and users of bangers in all parts of the country. There should be no pretence that they do not know those responsible for the imports. Let the police rise to this challenge and strictly enforce the ban on importation and use of fireworks in the country.