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Time to get serious with fire prevention in Lagos

Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling commercial nerve centre, has in the last six months, become a furnace where series of fires and explosions on roads and markets have put citizens’ lives and properties on edge.

Between January and June this year alone, the city has recorded over 12 fire incidents and explosions arising from markets going up in flames largely from unknown sources and petroleum tankers either falling, spilling its contents and catching fire or exploding in motion.

The latest of such incidents happened Tuesday last week at the Romona Trailer Park in the Ogere area of Ogun State, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, where several vehicles went up in flames following a tanker explosion.

Read Also: Series of fires, explosions show growing risks for Lagos residents

This came on the heels of an earlier explosion that occurred along Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way in Ikeja involving a tanker laden with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which led to loss of five lives and 25 vehicles burnt.

These unfortunate incidents and others before them say it all that time has come for authorities of Lagos State government to get more serious with fire incidents in the state. They also re-emphasise the need for insurance policy, especially fire and genuine motor third-party insurance, that can compensate for damage when and where they occur.

We are not unmindful of the efforts always put forward and the risks undertaken by the Lagos State emergency responders. In fact, we commend their work as was seen at the scene of the LPG tanker explosion in Ikeja.

The explosion, which occurred about 11.45pm was put out by men of the Lagos State Fire Rescue Services and those of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Nigerian Police, and other emergency responders.

But for their intervention, the loss and destruction could have been a lot more. But, over time and in consideration of the frequency of these incidents, we have seen the need for the government to be proactive instead of being reactive all the time.

During an on-the-spot assessment of the LPG tanker fire, which left the Ogun Property Investment Corporation (OPIC) plaza in ruins, Dapo Abiodun, the state governor, called on relevant agencies to put in place extra safety measures for the transport of LPG and other petroleum products across Nigeria.

The governor also urged regulators in the gas and petroleum downstream sector to ensure that trucks conveying these products are in perfect working condition. We cannot agree more. But there’s still much more than could and should be done.

At government level, there should be collaborative efforts to see that these incidents are checked. We share Governor Abiodun’s view that he and his Lagos counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the management of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) should sit down to determine how to introduce extra safety measures to avert further occurrences.

In addition to these measures, we believe that insurance policy is another way to go. By the workings of the insurance industry, in the case of the LPG tanker explosion, if the vehicle had been properly insured, the story would have been different.

Not known to many people, the nation’s insurance industry has continued to meet its obligations, in terms of claims, despite the negative perception that trails the industry. In 2019 alone, out of the N490.99 billion premiums generated, the operators paid out N330.37 billion in claims.

Furthermore, in the five-year period between 2014 and 2018, the industry, according to figures accessed from the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), the industry paid out a total of N648.16 billion in claims, with life business accounting for N315.47 billion, while non-life or general business accounted for N332.69 billion.

This is why we recommend that motor third-party policy which, by the provision of the law in this kind of incident, covers all those who lose their lives and properties as a result, should be made compulsory for all vehicles conveying inflammable products like petrol and LPG.

It is our hope that this should be part of the discussion the two governors plan to have with DPR. NIA says motor third-party insurance for tankers is only N10,000 per annum, while private vehicles pay just N5,000 per annum, meaning that they are affordable.

We advise, and strongly too, that the third-party insurance policy should be enforced by the government, not only for tankers, but also for traders in the markets across the state, considering its huge benefits.

The policy protects against third-party damage, meaning that in the event of an accident occurring, the policy holder has a third party property damage limit up to N1 million and no limit to life in case of death or permanent disability. We consider this not only necessary, but also imperative and the time for action is now.

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