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Tag Archives: Environment

Fire Outbreaks and Need for Action.

By Mbakaan Linus

kano-fire

Billows of smoke becloud the skylines creating a fuzzy and hazy atmosphere. At a closer look, a high rise is engulfed in a wild inferno. Nothing could be salvaged. Three lives are reportedly lost and properties worth millions destroyed in the process.  The victims are crying, mourning and helpless.  Neighbors and a few good people are helping to salvage the situation. It is useless. A loud explosion is heard. The building is finally engulfed in unquenchable flames.  An hour into this bizarre and solemn atmosphere, the fire service truck pulls up whirling its red lights accompanied by siren. The crowds boo them as they jostle to fight an outbreak that is an hour too late. This scene describes a typical fire outbreak on any given day in Nigeria.

What is a fire outbreak and how can it be prevented? What preparations have we put in place as a people to contain fire outbreaks in Nigeria?

Fire outbreak is a dual word description for a single incidence; Fire on one hand and outbreak on the other. Fire is defined as the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat, light and various reaction products. Outbreak on the other hand is defined as a sudden violent spontaneous occurrence usually of an undesirable nature.

Put together, technically, fire outbreak can be defined as a sudden violent and spontaneous occurrence of rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process leading to the release of excessive combustible heat.

 

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Fire outbreaks occur for various reasons. They could be natural or unnatural. Natural fire outbreaks arise through Acts of God like lightning and thunderstorms, upsurge in electricity, volcanic eruptions etc. Unnatural causes could be attributed to Arson, carelessness and negligence or a fault in electrical connections etc.

Regardless of the cause of fire outbreaks, their occurrences are a dozen for a dime in Nigeria. A day hardly passes without one hearing of one case of fire outbreak or the other. The media is awash with stories of deadly fire outbreaks often caused by most avoidable reasons.

In Kano State alone, no fewer than 123 lives were lost and 1, 721 lives were saved from the 660 fire outbreaks recorded across the state from January to December of 2017.

According to the  Fire Disaster Prevention and Safety Awareness Association of Nigeria Incessant fire outbreaks has cost the national economy about N6 trillion in the last five years, with major cities like Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt , Abuja experiencing serious consequences of the scourge.

Experts in Fire and Disaster Management say the losses could be more as no valid Fire Statistics Database exists. For instance, the Kano market fire alone was estimated at about N2 trillion worth of goods which was lost to a single fire incidence”.

These perennial fire outbreaks poses serious threat to the national economy, as it leaves enormous material damage, injury to persons and disruption of economic and commercial activities of the people affected.

The economic implications of fire outbreaks to investment and growth of the nation cannot be over emphasized. The high incident rate of market fire in particular has serious economic consequences of depriving families of shelters, trader’s means of livelihood, investors of properties, lives lost etc.

Fire fighting in Nigeria and the present efforts in containing fire outbreaks is significantly challenged at all levels. These challenges include poor firefighting equipment and vehicles, weak and sub standard training, infrastructural decay including bad roads, low safety awareness on the part of citizens etc.

At the federal level, there is tremendous improvement in the funding and equipment holding of the federal fire service, the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari has for the first time invested substantially in the infrastructure and equipment for the federal Fire service.

The State and Local level fire service is clogged in the old ways. Fire service is more or less placed at concurrent list, which mandates the Fire service to be under the jurisdiction and control of the states.

“The major challenge is how to redirect the mindset of the state governors and their Parliaments to also see the need to invest in the fire sector. Unfortunately, all attempts to make this possible have never been successful except for some few states that are making some efforts.

In view of the above, the following are the recommendations:

  • There is need for the Fire Service in Nigeria to be overhauled, re-engineered and repackaged and to actualize this phenomenon, a situation whereby all Fire Services in Nigeria (states and federal) come together as one unified body and under one umbrella would be a step in the right direction as it will enhance uniformity as well as ensuring standard in the service.
  • State Parliaments increase budgetary allocations to State Fire Service in order to improve service delivery across Nigeria
  • Amend the legal framework to allow Private Fire Service providers to intervene in fire service delivery across Nigeria
  • Constant training and retraining of fire service personnel across Nigeria
  • The need to involve the Civil Society intervening in Fire and Disaster management towards the  sensitization and awareness creation of the masses on safety measures

In conclusion, fire outbreaks in Nigeria have assumed a disastrous proportion which can be described as an emergency situation. All hands must be on deck to reduce to the barest minimum the incidences of fire outbreaks and its attendant losses.

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Benue: When Floods Occur

By Laz Mom

Floods occur in Benue routinely. Between the years 2000 and 2017, five cycles of flood have occurred with grievous effects.

When flooding comes, its usually with sorrows, tears and blood. The floods often leave in their wake, monumental losses in billions of naira and the displacement of hundreds, sometimes, thousands of families.  Most families never really recover their losses. For example, most of the victims of the 2012 floods have not yet recovered and might never do so.

The recent floods have reportedly destroyed properties and farms worth over 15 billion naira and displaced over 120,000 families across 6 local government areas with Makurdi being the worst hit. As at the time of writing this piece, there are over 15,000 families taking refuge in various camps set up by the Benue State Emergency Management Agency.

Floods occur in Benue especially Makurdi, the State Capital due to several factors. Some of these include, the city’s topography, the river that runs through the town, poor drainage facilities, the release of Lagdo Dam from Cameroun which flows into the River Benue, climate change and many more.

However, the recurrent decimal resulting in these continued disasters would seem to be Government’s failure to institute preemptive measures against the ravages of the floods. Over the 5 cycles of massive floods that have overrun several parts of the state in general, and the state capital in particular, there appears to be no tangible efforts by the Government to build a drainage system that channels waters from streams, culverts and other sources into the river. Perhaps this absence of an effective drainage system could be singled out as the most damning reason why Makurdi continues to play the hapless victim of terrible floods year in, year out.

Following the floods of 2012, it was widely reported in some quarters that, a contract was awarded for the construction of just such a facility to channel waters from various sources across Makurdi into the River Benue. This contract was said to have been valued at 1.4 billion naira and paid up at the time of award.  Five years after, there is no drainage system in place, no cessation to the damage caused by floods.

When floods occur, Government establishes camps for the Internally Displaced victims to take refuge in. These camps become a Mecca of sorts for many, including those hitching a ride on the predicament of others to make a quick buck. Philanthropists, charity organizations, both local and international, as well as various government organizations and even the entertainment industry make haste to identify with the victims. Bags of rice, blankets, toiletries, detergents and other commodities worth billions are bought and distributed to the IDPs. All these acts of charity and concern for the vulnerable by Government are at best media hype and at worst some macabre window dressing. The handouts do not actually fill the long-term needs of those who have lost, perhaps, all their earthly belongings in one fell swoop.

 

Mini Estate In Makurdi

So now the question begging for answers is: what is the solution to the problem of perennial flooding in Makurdi?

True concern would be for the state government to ensure that the damage caused by floods in the state are reduced to the barest minimum. This, we believe, could partly be achieved by ensuring that a proper drainage system is constructed in Makurdi which happens to be perched on the river banks. If reports making the rounds that the award of a contract for the construction of a drainage system is true, then it behooves the Government to hold the contractor(s) responsible for the project to account for the monies collected as a matter of urgency. If however, this claim is spurious, then the state Government should commence the design and construction of a drainage system in earnest.

Secondly, Makurdi is situated in a valley on the banks of a major River. This means the town is ordinarily water logged and swampy. The town’s master plan has clearly mapped out waterways and channels and red flagged such areas against residential buildings. The Ministry of Lands and Survey, the government agency in charge of allotting plots to citizens has been most flagrant in allotting plots in these red flagged zones. Currently, residential homes have been built on water ways and channels regardless. These structures not only obstruct the natural course of water channels, but also mark the residents out for victimhood once floods occur. New residential areas like Nyiman Layout, BIPC Quarters, Kucha Utebe/Judges Quarters axis, etc. are amongst the areas where most of these infractions have occurred.

Thirdly, the effect of the global climate change and the consequent distortion of the natural order of things, occasioned by excessive rainfall, heat, and overflow of Rivers etc. must also be taken into account.  The campaign for preparedness against the effects of climate change has still not sunk into the consciousness of either the Federal or Benue State Governments resulting in knee jerk reactions in the face of disasters such as this. There is need for a proper scientific approach which will also involve some form of public awareness creation to sensitize people about their own responsibilities to protecting the environment as well as the attendant consequences of neglect.

The following short-term strategies might also be beneficial in the long run:

  • Culverts and gutters constructed along all streets and lanes that will ultimately connect to the central drainage system thereby channeling waters from various sources directly into the river.
  • Early warnings from meteorologists and emergency agencies should be taken serious and adequate preventive measures put in place.
  • The dredging of the River Benue should be carried out with every sense of urgency
  • Proper documentation and compensation of flood victims to enable them pick the pieces of their lives up especially Women.
  • Proper environmental impact assessment carried out

If all the above recommendations are properly implemented besides the construction of a drainage system in Makurdi and Benue State in general, when floods do come, the toll they take could be less grievous.

……. Laz Mom is a Program Director with Lawyers Alert

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Governanace, Human Rights

 

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