By Dr Fajembola Azeezat
Fire has been an important entity since time immemorial, although some individuals see it as spiritual, it has evolved with man from one stage of civilization to another and it sources keep increasing across decades as it can be converted from one form of energy to another.
Talking about energy, who doesn’t use fire in today’s world? Its benefit to the human race is endless from our homes, to our communities and institutions. We only get worried when it is used for the wrong purpose or mismanaged, which can leave a lasting negative effect on lives and properties, which societies might not easily recover from.
A market in my perspective is a structural and functional financial unit of every society, which steers our economy to lower or greater heights respectively. What relationship should a business institution have with fire? Symbiotic, most likely but definitely not parasitic.
Most recently, the increased incidence of fire accidents in Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria, is adding salt to the injury Nigerians are nursing from the crisis in the economy. Nigeria, just like most African countries has an almost non-functional fire-service system, it is unfortunate our country belongs to this league but the cold bites the most when the people and economy are greatly affected.
Every region in the country has a tale to tell but what is being done after every incident? What structures have been put in place to prevent a reoccurrence? What mechanisms have been adopted for fire accidents to be tackled effectively and citizens compensated fully? Questions are being raised annually by buyers and sellers in trade units.
Moreover, the most recent scenario we are still recovering from is the fire incident at the Next Cash and carry supermarket in Abuja, Oshodi market fire sequel is another one. The Emergency Management Agency in Africa’s economy hub, Lagos state, tried to put out the fire which they did but goods and commodities used in providing services were already lost to the accident in large, unaccountable figures.
In addition, another recent event was when Lagos popular spare parts market was engulfed by fire. It was noted that it brewed from one of the stores dealing in automobile spare parts at the Alapeju region of the popular market of Ladipo. Tales after tales, with the common man being the most affected by the minor and major outcomes, as well as short and long term effects of such fire incidents in Nigeria.
Furthermore, it is one thing to know the problem and causes of the problem and its another to find long lasting solutions to these problems. We all know prevention is better than cure, structures that can be put in place to prevent such reoccurrences are readily available in Nigeria and no complex skill nor supervision is required.
Firstly, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in all sections of every market to aid early detection of smoke. Secondly, sections in the market where charcoal and firewood are used majorly in merchandise should have strict rules and regulations with regards to timing of fire usage, extent of use and type of materials or goods to be used with the fire.
Thirdly, smokers should have a section in every market just like it is done in airports and some malls, where they can smoke safely and I recommend a fee should be attached, which will discourage some, if not majority of smokers, thereby reducing the frequency of smoking and number of smokers in market spaces.
Fourthly, fire prevention advocacies and workshops on fire accidents should be done monthly to educate buyers and sellers of goods and services, to refresh their minds on how to conduct themselves with fire and what is at stake if poorly managed. Lastly, every market should have a standby fire service department with skilled personnel who can handle the given machinery to put out fire and how to rescue a high number of citizens within a short period incase an accident occurs.
On the other hand, the job cannot be done soley by Government officials at the National, State and grassroot levels, but it is time for us as citizens to have more non-governmental organizations who are willing to dive into the Nigerian Merchandise system and make the market a safe haven and trading a stress-free, memorable and enjoyable activity for citizens.
I implore the Commissioners of finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to work with the heads of markets who are commonly referred to in the South-western part of Nigeria as “Iyalojas”. A good team work will surely take Nigerian trade centers to greater heights.
In conclusion, I am a firm believer of the popular saying “no Nigerian is more Nigerian than a Nigerian”. An Asian , European or Arab cannot solve issues like this for our financial institutions, our market spaces cannot not be safe to exchange goods and services if we don’t put our heads together to pave better trade polices and market structures for every region in our country. Trader or not, the mantle is in our hands to do the needful.
Azeezat is of Women in Global Health (Nigeria Chapter).