Welcome to Lagos Where We Fight Fire with Laxity

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue – François de la Rochefoucauld once quipped this in a salon in Paris many years ago. I dare say that is indicative of the way the richest state in Nigeria responds to fire emergencies; yet, we all call for reforms and “statism”.

The recent fire and other fires that have inundated lagos have shown that the fire service in Lagos needs a revamp and I put this at the doorstep of the state.

It has to be said that one of the vestiges of a modern society is a quick emergency response mechanism that is swift and reliable.

Ruddy Giuliani became a cult hero as result of his leadership shown during the September 11 incident in New York. He emboldened the fire fighters on ground, provided leadership at ground zero and was there on ground himself. Because New York had invested properly in their emergency response team, by the time the dust on September 11 settled, every child in America wanted to be a firefighter and the country rallied around them.

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If we claim Lagos is a megalopolis and the city of all cities, I expect nothing less from Lagos. The case, as experienced in recent times, has been different. I see Lagosians more concerned about taking photos of burnt property for Instagram rather than saving lives. I see a mammoth, yet useless, sympathetic crowd that swells from side to side preventing emergency workers from saying lives. It is at times like these ones I loathe the citizenry’s disposition to emergencies the most.

I think Nigerians need to be trained on how to be useful during emergencies. What I see more often is a crowd hindering rescue efforts, leading to the loss of lives – in one case a police officer.

I have seen a fire fighting force that was ill equipped but continuously fought, gallantly, to put out the fire while eye witnesses resorted to the use of buckets of water to quench the fire.

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We are not entirely a write-off because I have seen first responders equally working gallantly to put out a fire that gutted property worth millions of Naira in the heart of Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria even though I didn’t see Governor Sanwo-Olu. Correct me if I am wrong, please.

It is shocking how a recently constructed big market doesn’t have a simple fire hydrant and that begs the question is Lagos really ready for a megapolis label?

It is easy for the government to slam taxes on citizens but the infrastructure of Lagos is similar to that of 18th century France. It is almost inconceivable that we do not have emergency fire provisions for some buildings, including, wait for it, government assets.

How many government parastatals have effective fire hydrants and fire blankets? Our safety culture is dead and we don’t have an active fire service because we have failed as a state to invest in emergency response infrastructure.

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Don’t even get me started on the expensive apartments you live in in Ikoyi or Victoria Island. I’ll wager there isn’t any adequate emergency infrastructure on ground.

We keep playing with fire and when the same fire comes out to play, we, out of fear, forget everything else in a hurry. There is a litany of emergency woes staring at us stark in the face but we seldom learn from them.

As we say, God help us.

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