• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Insurers disturbed by billion naira losses to fire in Lagos

Fire guts part of defence headquarters Abuja

The poor insurance culture of Nigerians is taking an increasing toll, as cold dry winds stoke domestic fires, raising the number of outbreaks this harmatan season, and shooting up the damage to lives, limbs and treasure, with no relief to the sufferers.

In Lagos in the past few weeks, fires have caused losses to the tune of  billions of naira, with no succor to the victims because most of the risks were not insured.

This has become a source of worry to the nation’s insurance industry, BusinessDay investigations show.

Industry operators re-affirm that fire incidents are causing huge economic losses annually, to individuals, businesses and government, which do not help development for an emerging economy where majority of the people are poor.

They believe that these risks are better managed when transferred to insurers, who have the requisite skills to contain them and pay compensation when it crystalises.

Since the New Year, Lagos has seen major fire incidents with substantial losses in human and materials resources. Although the losses are yet to be calculated by the state fire service, Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, the general manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) described them as huge.

Ayodapo Shoderu, president of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) said “market women and men are prone to diverse risks that daily threaten their existence. The most significant of these, are theft and fire outbreaks and these risks could be borne on their behalf by the insurance industry.”

Shoderu, who chronicled instances of devastating market fire disasters in Nigeria, observed that such perils had left gory tales for their victims and increased poverty levels in the country.

Read also: Lagos traders shun insurance policy, say operators not sincere

He said that even though government and concerned individuals sometimes give some form of succor to victims after such incidents, such assistance was usually monetary and could have been more long lasting through insurance.

According to him, market women and traders constitute a significant segment that must be mobilised to secure their businesses by taking up insurance policies .

“The Market Development Restructuring Initiatives (MDRI) of the insurance industry has accelerated attention towards micro insurance, to further create wealth for Nigerians, especially the budding entrepreneurs and small scale business promoters at the grassroots” he said.

Shoderu said insurance brokers were in a better position to assist the market women in view of their numerical spread across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and their vast knowledge, which they could deploy to assist clients in profitable insurance placement and claims payment when losses occur.

The state fire service, however claims that it is well equipped  and motivated to put out fires and teach people to prevent them. It admits  though, that it faces challenges such as difficulty in reaching the scenes of fires in congested environments.

The fire service attributes this to frequent traffic gridlock and the sometimes deliberate blockade of access roads by hoodlums, as well as belated calls by victims of fire incidents.

“Experience has shown that people do not call the emergency numbers early enough. Oftentimes, they try to put out the fires themselves, and only remember to call the fire service when  substantial damage has been done. This should not be.

“That is why we advise residents to get familiar with the toll-free emergency numbers, so that they can call immediately they notice fire, whether or not they have the capacity to put out the fire,” said Razaq Fadipe, director, Lagos State Fire and Safety Service.

Some of the recent major fire outbreaks in Lagos include those at Balogun Market and Berlin Market, where over 500 shops were razed. Others include Oko-Baba sawmill market in Ebute-Metta, the Iwaya fire disaster in Yaba, and another in Ijora Badia area of the state, where two lives were lost, in addition to massive destruction of properties.

Residential buildings have not been spared, as many have been rendered homeless. Last Saturday, a 12 room bungalow was gutted on Alhaji Nurudeen Street, opposite the Nigerian Army Barracks, Ojo

The following day, (Sunday) two houses were destroyed during separate fire outbreaks at Dankaro Estate and Islamic Street in Ojodu Berger area of the state. Another bungalow was also burnt down on Jimoh Balogun Street, CMD Road, Shangisha.

Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the South-West, corroborated Fadipe’s claims, saying often times fire-fighters encounter difficulty accessing scenes of fire outbreaks.

“A fireman from the state fire service was injured after some urchins dragged the hose from him,” said Farinloye, who believed some public enlightenment was needed to change people’s psyche.

Some victims of the fire disasters, however accused the fire service of not doing enough. They also want the state government to establish mini fire service stations close by major markets in the state.

Although Fadipe thinks the dry harmattan wind stokes fires, he says many fires are caused by carelessness and human error.

“The harmattan season is still here and the temperature is still warm. People should be mindful of their neighbours who smoke, and watch how they pack and dispose their refuse. Residents must avoid bush or refuse burning at this critical time,” said Fadipe.