To curb fire incidents, the Lagos State Government will soon begin the enforcement of a directive prohibiting locking of street gates, Safety Record Newspaper can report.
The Director General of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Hon. Hakeem Dickson gave this indication on day two of the maiden Lagos State Fire Safety Conference jointly organised by the commission and Safety Experts Limited, the Fire Safety Administrator for the state, and held from October 16 to 18.
Dickson stated that indiscriminate locking of street gates aside being an infringement on freedom of movement of residents was also an unsafe act as it could prevent fire trucks from having quick access to burning buildings located inside gated streets.
He said, “No more locking of gates. The law even states that if you are going to be locking gates, there must be someone stationed there to open the gate but sometimes that person must have gone to sleep. And that might be another difficult thing.
“And they always tell you that don’t enter by 1 o’clock at night because by 12 o’clock we’ll lock the gate.
“It is automatically against the law. Stand on your right; you have freedom of movement and whatever time you choose to come home is your business. Nobody should lock your gate…It is part of safety.”
The Governor Babatunde Fashola administration in 2009 issued the directive to, among others, facilitate the work of emergency and law enforcement agencies.
Dickson said embarking on the enforcement of the ban would help the government prevent incidents like the Grenfell Tower fire of London from happening in the state.
The safety commission boss also took a swipe at companies with bad house-keeping practices operating within the state, stressing that they were a major stumbling block to the state’s drive to effectively manage industrial fire incidents.
“This year, there was a fire in a big company (in Lagos). LASEMA (Lagos State Emergency Management Agency) could not get their hose close to where there’s fire; likewise the fire service.
“They were able to enter the premises but there were so much goods all over and where they (emergency services) wanted to tackle the fire was by the door.
“We had to climb and climb on so many things,” he stated.
Dickson said that the state was fine-tuning a comprehensive fire audit programme to check the recurrence of such incidents.
The director general also revealed that the state government would in January 2018 commence the arrest of vendors selling their wares on the highways in the state as they were constituting safety risk.
Dickson further disclosed that the state would no longer allow itself be blackmailed into not taking appropriate actions to protect residents against fire and other threats to their wellbeing.
Meanwhile, a leader of the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSC) Enforcement team, Mr. Olusoji Olaopa, has identified undue political influence as the leading impediment to workplace health and safety policy enforcement in the state.
He disclosed this at the conference themed, “The Economic Effect of Active and Passive Fire Prevention in Lagos”.
Olaopa, who delivered a lecture on the enforcement function of the commission, revealed that Nigeria was rated poorly in workplace death prevention due to inadequate enforcement.
He said, “Lagos State Safety Commission and other enforcement regulatory agencies want to do their jobs but there are lots of barriers, and one of them is political influence.
“This is Nigeria; many things happen. If I come to your organisation and find a lot of safety infractions, by the time I give you a notice – abatement or prohibition notice – the next thing most of us will do is find the DG’s number, commissioner’s number or call somebody in the House of Assembly…
“For those that do not understand the importance of health and safety, the next thing you hear is a call from the powers that be.
“This impunity must stop in our country if we want to get to where we need to get to in terms of safety.”
Mr Gbenro Adu, the Chief Executive Officer of LAGO International Limited, a safety consulting firm, harped on the need to imbibe a fire safety culture to accelerate socio-economic development in Lagos and Nigeria in general.
He urged the nation to strive towards creating its own safety standards like the developed nations of the world have done.
In a chat with Safety Record Newspaper, the Conference Convener, Mrs Debbie Windele, said the conference was organised as a result of fire safety audits carried out on different sectors in Lagos and to holistically tackle rise in high-profile fire incidents across the state.
Windele, who is the Managing Director of Safety Experts Limited, the Fire Safety Administrator for Lagos, added, “We found out that the fire safety arrangements were not in place, and when they’re in place, they’re inadequate.
“Because of the statistics and information that we had, DG decided that we needed to educate people on the need to have adequate fire safety arrangements in place.”
She further disclosed that after the conference organisations in the state would be inspected to ensure their facilities’ fire safety arrangement meet up to the safety commission’s standard on fire safety.
According to her, different high-profile players in the state’s socio-economic space were represented in the conference, including banks, manufacturing companies, oil companies, among others.