• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Fire: A hit on Nnewi industrial brand space and consumers lose


Nnewi in the South East of Nigeria is an industrial growing city. It houses automobiles, oil and gas and other manufacturing factories. But the recent fire incident in one of the factoies, Chicason gas plant and inability to immediately control the inferno has exposed the lack of fire fighting infrastructure which threaten businesses, create product scarcity for consumers and further growth of Nnewi industrial space brand. Daniel Obi assesses the fire, its negative impact on business and how government can avoid re-occurrence of Nnewi factory fire protect what is already invested using Chicason example to allow business flourish for all including consumers:

Special events whether negative or positive have continued to put places under spotlight. The recent fire at Nnew is not an exception. On 24th December, 2015, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG gas plant located in Nnewi, Anambra State in Eastern Nigeria, operated by Inter Corp Oil Limited, a subsidiary of Chicason Group, was gutted by fire. The horrible fire incident which started about 11am that fateful day was said to have claimed lives and property while other people sustained various degrees of burns.

The inferno, according to media reports started when a truck was discharging its content at a time the company customers were refilling their gas cylinders for domestic use. The fire which started small developed in to an inferno immediately, trapping both customers and workers at the factory. Some of them died as a result of it while those that sustained injuries were taken immediately to Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi for medical attention and subsequently to Enugu State Orthopedic Hospital.

The Chicason factory incident is unfortunate. Fire incidence globally either in a factory or home is frequently a slip and that is why provisions of insurance and fire service are readily provided to reduce disaster effect. While constant education to avert such incidences is usually mounted by companies and communities,  but for proactive societies, functional fire service are readily available, especially in industrialized areas  to prevent major disasters that will occur as a result of fire incidence.

Though there is need for provision of internal firefighting equipment but the Chicason inferno requires such heavy intervention from state fire service. 

In some societies, fire departments work in conjunction with municipal development offices or town planning departments to provide advices on town planning to avoid cluttering areas in case of fire and easy prevention. Sometimes, fire fighting offices are located in industrial areas to specifically take care of those areas. But for Nnewi industrial estate where Chicason LPG plant was located, it was a case of ‘it won’t happen’, neglect or non-planning.

“It must be noted that fire is just one of many industrial accidents that confront businesses daily, which necessitates government standing up for the citizenry, both individual and corporate” says an analyst.

In the case of Nnewi fire, source said that the Fire Service office is poorly equipped and staff poorly motivated. “N10 per month is the hazard allowance paid to staff. It comes to N120 a year. The allowance has not been reviewed since 1972.  Most states are still being paid the same but Kebbi State recently reviewed theirs to 40% of basic salary. If a 3 story building catches fire in Anambra state you will be on your own as the state does not have Turn Table Fire Fighter Vehicle needed in fighting high rise buildings”, the source said.

The fire service that supposes to serve the industrial estate was located at Awka, the capital of Anambra State which takes hours of drive to Nnewi in the face of heavy traffic. As the fire was raging, an eye witness, according to media report said apart from the fact that the Fire Service officers were not well equipped to combat such fire, it took them time to get to the factory.

As in the case of Chicason factory, late rescue operation could be disheartening and discomforting as citizens would have expected a proactive measure to avert much loss of property.

“Apart from about nine lives lost to the inferno and buildings razed, over 20 vehicles and motor cycles around the gas plant were equally affected”,  media report said.

It was surprising that after the fire incident, attempts were made to blame the company for the fire incidence that it was operating substandard facility. To analysts, if there should be any of such blames, it should go the regulatory agencies that approve the operations and supervise such companies.

The most important thing now is to begin to put structures in place to avert reoccurrence of such fire incidence in an industrial estate like Nnewi. It was therefore comforting when the AbdulrahmanDanbazau, the Minister of Interior, assured on proactive measures to prevent future incidence.

According to media report, the Minister expressed the Federal Government’s resolve to professionalise the nation’s fire service for effective and efficient service delivery when he led a delegation to Chicason Gas Plant in Nnewi. He was reported saying that the ministry had made provision in the 2016 budget to make the fire service department proactive.

“In addition to providing equipment to the service, we also plan to carry out training of staff to make the service highly professional. Every local government should have fire institution up to the various wards and we are looking at the best way to approach this,” he said in the report.

In addition to the minister’s promise, what the nation needs is the installation of functional firefighting offices and equipment in industrial areas and markets across the country to reduce losses to fire.