Disasters in different sectors of the economy have indeed assumed an alarming rate. In Nigeria today, there is barely a day without one incident or the other, and there is no better time for the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPoN) to take a good, hard look at how to further improve safety in Nigeria.
Memories are bugged with carnages of countless lives killed, and billions of naira are lost in properties destroyed in these incidents. These could have been prevented should the right people armed with proper knowledge are supervising the safety processes.
This is a fact as we can recount numerous road accidents, collapsed buildings, infernos at homes, organizations and at tank farms that awash the media.
A report from World Health Organisation (WHO) adjudged Nigeria as the most dangerous country in Africa with 33.7 deaths per 100,000 populations every year. According to the report, one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria. A conclusion drawn by Nigeria watches states that next to Boko Haram insurgency, road accident is the second highest source of violent death in Nigeria.
Hardly a week passes without news about such cheap and mostly preventable deaths. For instance, within a period of 20 days between March and April 2014, there were three such mishaps which claimed about 150 lives. First, a commercial boat capsized on a canal at FESTAC Town in Lagos, claiming the lives of 18 passengers.
The same month, a passenger boat capsized in the waters around Cross River State, killing about a hundred people. And on April 2 in Majidun River, Ikorodu in Lagos, a passenger boat hit a solid object in the water, upturning and throwing all its 28 commuters into the open sea. The victims included some pregnant women and a young man and woman whose wedding was just a few days away.
Attributed causes of accidents on our waterways are collision with hard objects submerged in water and the authorities are quite aware; other causes of accidents are poor vessel maintenance, over-speeding, poor lighting during night voyages, overloading of boats, collision with another vessel as well as navigational and human errors. But what have been done about these?
What about deaths from building collapse? An estimated 500 lives, including women and children are believed to have been lost over the last few years.
At different times, there have been reported cases of collapse of either completed or under-construction buildings, some of which had high number of occupants when they caved in. The Lekki Gardens building collapse seems to be the recent in Lagos.
In the case of fire, hundreds of lives have also been lost and property worth billions damaged over the last few years. Quite recently, about 70 people tragically died in the Onitsha tanker fire that occurred after the fuel laden truck lost control as a result of brake failure. This perhaps could have been prevented had the vehicle undergone necessary checks to ensure safety.
In a recent study to value the cost of damage done by fire alone, the Lagos State government estimated that properties worth N54billion have been destroyed in the state due to fire incidents in the last three years.
The report indicated that majority of the fire cases were completely avoidable, if strong fire preventive habits had been in place.
The consequence of the countless dangers compiled above is the near absence of safety standards in most areas of public exposure in Nigeria today. But we cannot continue to run our affairs like that. A federal law, crafted in the ISPoN Act has stipulated the objectives and duties of safety professionals governed by the Institute of Safety Professionals in the country.
As the national safety management regulators, the professionals represented in every facet of Nigerian economy by reason of ISPoN Act 2014 has a great role to play in advocating for implementation of standards for the industries they work, either as consultants or staff.
Other issues bothered on the location of power lines in public places; advocating and educating for state laws needed to limit the movement of articulated trucks in urban areas to late night times; ensuring environmental protection agencies have a strong enforcement unit to ensure that pollution from generators and industrial plants are kept at safe levels, amongst others.
Above all, ISPoN needs to ensure that professionals who man critical agencies of government at all levels, whether in enforcing compliance with building codes or in ensuring road and maritime safety, must not only be alive to their responsibilities, but must at all times hold responsible officers in charge of safety.
Our perspective is simple: Whichever way we look at it, the string of untimely, and sometimes brutal, deaths from preventable causes that have become our lot as a nation in recent times is a sad commentary on the value we place on human life in Nigeria.
ISPoN going by the provision of the Act, ISPoN Act 2014, section 3(i), has the power to regulate the practice of safety management in Nigeria. It is expected that the institute should buck the unsavory trend by according priority to empowering her professionals with adequate knowledge and best practices.
Consequently, the role of ISPoN is the creation of more awareness, certification and creation of competency in safety profession. ISPoN presence need to be felt at the workplaces, where the level of safety awareness has to be intensified and every professional armed with adequate knowledge of what to do in their respective workplaces. You would agree that in some of these places where these accidents happen, they do not even have a safety consultant; most of the workers do not have induction before the work starts.
We join those who called in desperation to ISPoN and other well meaning safety professional bodies to uphold the mandate given to them to regulate and manage safety in Nigeria. They should implement a strong political framework to stir the professional in place to actually implement a safe workplace where ever they represent.