Agencies to prosecute offenders as fire destroys 225 shops in Lagos

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Afeez Hanafi

Emergency agencies in Lagos State may henceforth prosecute residents and shop owners for fire incidents resulting from a breach of the safety rules, City Round has learnt.

At least 225 shops, two warehouses and three residential buildings were destroyed by fire in different parts of Lagos State within four days, spanning Monday to Thursday.

The affected places were Agboju Market in FESTAC, Alade Market in Shomolu, Omididun off Ricca Street, Lagos Island and Iga Idunganran, also on the island.

At the Agboju market fire which occurred around 2.30am on Monday, 96 lock-up and makeshift shops were destroyed; 94 shops razed in Alade Market on Tuesday while four apartments and a shop were completely burnt on Omididun off Ricca Street the same day.

On Thursday, fire gutted a three-storey building in Iga Idunganran and spread to adjoining structures, destroying two warehouses for baby things and 34 shops. The second and third floors of the building including a building belonging to a bank were partly burnt while.

Although no life was lost in all the incidents, valuables running into millions of naira were lost to the inferno which had crippled the traders’ means of livelihood and left them in distress and displaced the affected residents.

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The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Olufemi Damilola Oke-Osanyintolu, blamed the fire incidents on carelessness and disregard for safety on the part of the shop owners.

He said, “At Alade Market, the way wires in the shops were connected was awkward. In addition, someone (a shop owner) stored a petrochemical substance in his shop. They can’t continue doing the same thing and expect a different result.

“We have carried out a lot of sensitisation. We won’t fold our arms and continue to see this menace. We are going to prosecute if necessary. We have a safety commission team that is going round the state. Anyone that stores petrochemicals in their shops and runs afoul of the state laws will be dealt with accordingly. We are partnering the Ministry of Justice on the enforcement. However, the advocacy will still be on.”

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The LASEMA boss said the risk of fire outbreak had become higher as a result of the dry season, warning people to always turn off our electrical appliances when not in use.

He added, “People need to have fire extinguishers at home and in their shops. There are different fire extinguishers such as ball fire extinguishers. When there is an increase in temperature in an environment and it results in fire, it will burst and automatically put out the fire.”

The Acting Zonal Coordinator, South-West Zonal Office of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, told our correspondent that investigation linked the fires to negligence and unsafe practices.

“For instance, Alade and Agboju market fires were alleged to have been caused by power surge. We always advise people that whenever there is outage, all electronics should be disconnected,” Farinloye said, adding that people need to be safety conscious.

On the Lagos Island incident which occurred on Thursday, he said an occupant of the three-storey wanted to refuel a generator that was on when the fire sparked off.

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Farinloye noted, “Most of the warehouses were built without cause for ventilation. When you lock up everywhere, there will be heat. Any little object with heat can spark off fire. We have asked residents and shop owners to nominate fire marshals for training but they have not cooperated.”

Also, the Acting Head, Lagos State Fire Service, Mrs Margaret Adeseye, noted that the dry season was a potential pick period of fire, adding that losses were avoidable if people complied with safety rules.

Adeseye said alongside enlightenment, the agency in partnership with others would now prosecute those found wanting of safety lapses leading to fire outbreaks.

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