The Nigerian police in Lagos State have vowed to clampdown on sellers and users of fireworks across the state following series of explosions in Lagos Island yesterday in which one person was killed and 10 houses and 11 cars burnt.
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ngozi Braide said yesterday that the ban on fireworks usage during the Yuletide has not been lifted, and the police would now begin enforcement of the ban.
Braide, who visited the scene of the explosions on Lagos Island, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Wednesday, was shocked by the magnitude of the damage:
"Using fireworks and bangers in Lagos State is still banned. Investigation will commence on the importation of such explosive materials. Are they supposed to store such explosives in a warehouse in a residential area? Whenever Lagosians see such things henceforth, they should call the attention of the police. In the past, these explosives have been used by criminals to commit crime. It has been abused," she said.
Governor Babatunde Fashola, who also visited the scene yesterday, described the incident as a self-inflicted tragedy.
"We make rules, we break them. All of these items are under one form of prohibition or the other, and we have men and women at our various entry and exit points. How did they get in? How did they enter? Who shipped them in? Who imported them and who cleared them? Who approved them to come in? Those are very serious issues. We must also ask ourselves: must we do every business?" he asked rhetorically.
The governor tasked people to undertake a lot of soul-searching and reflections on the choices they make. "Does the way we do business benefit all of us or do we do business without consideration for other people’s safety as long as we make money?" Fashola asked. He condemned the 'I don’t care if people die, I don’t care if properties are burnt' business philosophy of many Nigerians, lamenting that in order for many Nigerians to make quick profit, "lives and properties had been lost."
Fashola maintained that everyone must be involved in the soul-searching process, underscoring that it must not be about the government alone. He added that the state government will continue to expand capacities by equipping the Fire Service, equipping the emergency services and setting up a safety commission.
Fashola disclosed that two weeks ago, the Lagos State Fire Service responded to 22 fire distress calls, stressing that such number could be reduced through self-caution, as the government could not be in peoples’ homes to check who was storing fuel or explosives.
He said all citizens must now lead by showing some commitment to their own safety, by giving a commitment: "I will keep petrol away from my house, I will keep explosives away from my house. I will not make any illegal electrical connection. I will switch off all my electrical appliances before I leave home." He warned that if care is not taken, it may get to a situation where if the present trend continues, the state fire service would be overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, members the Lagos State House of Assembly have called on security agencies to fish out those behind the importation of the fireworks and mini-explosives that resulted in the tragic incident at the Jankara area of Lagos Island on Wednesday.
The fireworks exploded, resulting in the destruction of 10 houses, the warehouse, cars and other properties of residents in the area. It also caused the death of a resident and injuries to many. The lawmaker representing the affected area at the state House of Assembly, Hakeem Masha, says that stocking and usage of fireworks at festive seasons has become a yearly ritual in the area, lamenting that the police had tried to stop perpetrators to no avail.
Masha, who supported the arrest of the perpetrators of the Boxing Day tragedy in his constituency, said the incident was serious because the warehouses were sited among residential buildings in the area.
The lawmaker, who said the knock-outs and bangers were still exploding as at when the governor and other officials of the state government visited the scene, also said that men of the Physical Planning Agency were still trying to pull down affected buildings as at the time he left the place. He said the owner of the warehouse that caused the fire was yet to show up, but residents of the area confirmed that the businessman has been stocking the mini-explosives in the warehouse since October.
Masha, the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts for Local Government, also disclosed that though the area has often witnessed tragedies as a result of the use of fireworks, yesterday’s incident is the most tragic in the last 10 years.
He called on the law enforcement agents in the state to embark on implementation of the law against the use of fireworks by unscrupulous elements in the state.
He also advised parents to enlighten their wards on the dangers such items pose.
Supporting the governor, a lawmaker, Ipoola Omisore, said the incident was a reflection of the inefficiency of the country’s security agencies.
Omisore wondered how banned products still found their way into the country.
According to him, the incident showed that the Nigerian Customs Service as well as the police are not doing enough.
Omisore said the federal government must look critically at strengthening the country’s law enforcement agencies and reviewing their activities if the country must become a better place.
Another lawmaker, Wahab Alawiye-King, said the issue has always been a major source of concern to the people of the affected area even before this recent incident.
According to him, the business people has been using the building for that purpose: "In the current situation where you do not know the difference between the sound of a knock-out and that of a gun or even bomb, is it wise to still allow fireworks and other such things into the country?
“You can imagine how many houses were destroyed, the properties that were burnt as a result of one person’s carelessness," he said while maintaining that the importers of the fireworks must be brought to book to serve as deterrent to others in the business.