July 12, 2023
Onitsha, Anambra State
July 03, 2023, residents of Federal Housing Estate 3-3, Onitsha woke up to a fire incident that engulfed a section of arguably, the most thriving hospitality business in Onitsha, Soprom Hotels and Suites.
Unfortunately, the Fire Authorities were not responsive speedily to bring the fire under control and save the property from being gutted.
Immediately, this brings to mind a series of fire incidents that have occurred within Onitsha metropolis in the last few years:
• On March 21st, 2023, a section of the popular Main Market was consumed by fire.
• Tuesday, November 8, 2022, Ogbo-ogwu Pharmaceutical Market witnessed an explosion and a fire incident which led to injuries and loss of goods worth millions of naira
• Ochanja petrol tanker-induced fire incident in 2019 is still fresh in our memories with its attendant losses and ruination.
In fact, Anambra State Fire Service reported that the state recorded 119 fire outbreaks in 2022 alone.
These fire incidents occurring in markets, factories, and major businesses usually culminate in losses of capital, jobs, goodwill, and potential revenues to the state government as well as deaths in some cases.
Fire incidents rank amongst the greatest risks to organizations, homeowners, businesses, and the economy because long after the flames have been extinguished, the damages usually have long devastating effects on those affected both physically and psychologically as scarce resources a deployed to mollify avoidable circumstances.
If anything, these fire incidents have sadly shown the overwhelming lack of capacity by our Fire Authorities to proactively respond to this menace spontaneously in real-time.
As recently as in April, the state government ably led by Professor Chukwuma Soludo procured some fire-fighting equipment to curb prevalent incidents of carnage in the state. It was assumed that the positive impact of such celebrated investment would begin to manifest in the state instant.
Because members of the Onitsha Chamber are mostly affected by these incidents in companies, the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA) hereby enjoins the State Government to consider the following as a matter of urgency:
1. Invest in attitude reorientation and perception change for all the officers of the Anambra State Fire Service. The mindset that they a rendering favor or arrogantly speaking to victims of fire incidents must stop. Incidents of lack of water, lack of drivers, dysfunctional vehicles or no gas or fuel must cease.
2. The state should procure modern communication gadgets to facilitate effective communication in times of such incidents. Not responding to distress calls should be history in our modern 24/7 Anambra economy.
3. Apart from companies all market associations must position smoke or fire detection alarm systems as well as mini fire-fighting gadgets on each 20-meter radius in the markets.
4. The state should partner with safety professionals to organize regular seminars and programs for all stakeholders in the markets, cluster of factories, and the general public to continuously demonstrate and sensitize the citizenry on fire safety procedures.
5. Instead of idly waiting for incidents, the State Fire Service personnel should proactively undertake periodic visits to companies and fire-prone organizations and markets to review their fire safety procedures to prevent and mitigate fire incidents.
6. Finally, the remote and immediate causes of each fire incident should be studied by a committee of professionals set up by the state government with findings and remedial actions made public. Recommendations should equally be executed by the state and stakeholders.
Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture equally implores all members of the Organized Private Sector, transporters and homes to procure modern fire-fighting equipment and position them in strategic locations for instant use.
Also, they should engage professionals to regularly train them on the basics of fire drill with muster-points clearly marked out in permissible areas.
Anambra State cannot thrive with continued negative publicity.
All hands must be on deck!
Chief Sir Kevin Obieri FCA, FCTI