On October 2, a fully loaded Sienna bus plunged into Ososa River, along Sagamu-Ijebu-Ode axis of Lagos-Benin expressway, Ogun State. It has been a month now and none of the 10 occupants of the vehicle has been found, even though there is credible evidence that the bus is in the river.
The collective efforts of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Ogun State Traffic Compliance and Enforcement (TRACE) Corps, the police and locals did a little to effect a rescue.
Clement Oladele, the Ogun State Sector Commander of FRSC, attribute the failure to continuous downpour around the axis. He said the level of the river waters has risen to the degree that made it difficult for divers to continue the search for the accident victims.
In October 16, a fully loaded tanker fell along Up Iweka road, spilling its contents and eventually gutted fire. For hours the fire raged through lives and property with devastating freedom emanating from the lack or inefficiency of Emergency Services.
It was full of preventable losses. The gory images of a mother and child burnt beyond recognition, 40 houses, 500 shops, and goods burnt to ashes tell tales of carefree emergency services provision by the state government.
Forty eight hours after the disaster, another tanker fell, giving another test to the state’s fire service – but once again, they helplessly failed. These two incidences don’t only expose the rot in Nigeria’s emergency services; it tells how vulnerable Nigerians are in the face of disaster. It was reported that since 2013, Anambra State’s budget for fire service has not gone beyond N3 million, the highest has been in 2019, which has N3, 638, 250. And many other states don’t have a better story.
It is not just a problem of providing fund for emergency services, it is a problem deeply rooted in the thinking of policy makers. Infrastructural developments in Nigeria, like roads and buildings have little or no consideration for emergencies.
Most Nigerian roads don’t have alleys where a motorist can pull over in case of emergency; and public places, buildings, are developed without consideration that may be fire outbreak, flood or a need for an ambulance. Therefore, preventable disasters become overwhelming due to mainly two factors; poor town planning and underfunding of emergency services.
Unfortunately, only a few states in Nigerian feel the need to develop a system that will ameliorate the situation. Even disaster prone states don’t see any need to do better.
In April, a fuel tanker fell and gutted fire in a busy road in Ibadan, killing scores and injuring others. The most disappointing part of the incident was that there was no ambulance to convey the injured to the hospital. Commercial vehicles were used to move the wounded to the hospital, aggravating the pains on their bodies torn by fire.
There has been a glaring display of inadequacy in every case of emergency in every Nigerian state. From the provision of ambulance services to every other needed tool; it has been a “you are on your own” condition. For instance, in Lagos, there have been instances of fire outbreak where first responder-firefighters got the location only to ask the victims where their water tank is.
A mortifying display of unpreparedness that has been aiding the prevalence of preventable cases of tragedy: To make matters worse, they are not serving as warning examples to other states.
In the aftermath of Anambra’s tragedy, everyone was expecting the state government to make a holistic reform announcement on the emergency services of the state. Instead, the Anambra state Government announced restriction of movement of tankers during the day, a perceived solution to fire outbreaks that results from falling petrol tankers.
The State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. Don Adinuba, said the restriction will commence on Saturday, November 2, the tankers are only free to move from 8:00 p.m to 5.00 a.m.
“Following the incessant collapse of trucks carrying petroleum products in Anambra State in recent times, including one which happened in Onitsha on Thursday. The Anambra State Government has decided to restrict the time which vehicles laden with petroleum products can move in the State.
“With effect from Saturday, November 2, 2019, such vehicles can be allowed to move within Anambra State from only 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
“The restriction is to enable agencies like the Anambra State Fire Service, the Nigerian Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Civil Defence, the Anambra Traffic Management Agency and indeed all other security, law enforcement and safety agencies to respond effectively and in good time to emergencies created by such accidents,” he said.
Many believe that the statement reeks of inadequacy and unpreparedness for emergencies excused with the activities of the day.
Tankers fell mostly because of bad roads, and the fire becomes devastating because the State’s Fire Service is not equipped to quench it. So the solution proffered by the State is more like shifting the time, in case fire is going to break out from a fallen tanker, let be by 8:00 p.m. to 5: a.m.
The incessant cases of preventable cases of disaster in Nigeria is mortifying and devastating, and the cost of repairing the damage is always higher than the cost of preventing it. Therefore, the government should provide facilities needed to contain emergencies, and rehabilitate already existing infrastructures in anticipation of the inevitable – emergencies.