WE ARE NOT PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES

I do not claim to be an expert in this field. But just as Feyi Fawehinmi once noted, internet is the forum where people who do not know anything about a subject matter can have strong opinions about them. However, I have seen in my day-to-day activities moving from Ogun to Lagos and back and forth and from the stories I hear, how unprepared we are to adequately attend to emergencies and I wish to add my voice to the symphony of voices on this issue. For the purposes of context, emergencies are unplanned occurrences that unnecessarily affect day-to-day activities; causing deaths, loss of time and properties, etc.

Our unpreparedness is seen in how fire burns our markets unmitigatedly leading to loss of millions of naira worth of goods, how accidents on our roads lead to avoidable loss of lives, time and valuable, how collapse of properties mean deaths will occur, flooding, boats capsizing, etc. What can we do to mitigate the effect of emergencies? How can we better prepare for emergencies?

First, I think we need to consider to what extent an emergency can affect day-to-day activities. The more likely an emergency can be devastating to such activities, the more prepared we should be in reducing its likelihood and mitigating its effects. To cite an example, presently the Federal Government through its contractors, Julius Berger is repairing the Berger end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Any breakdown of vehicles especially heavy duty vehicles at the divided portions which is not quickly addressed, can extend traffic kilometers away with the effects of such traffic being felt hours after. But by the time travelers get to the point where the traffic ends, they are left wondering the cause of the traffic. They do not have an answer; the answer however is simply broken-down vehicles that were not quickly addressed. I have wondered before now, why emergency services like toll vehicles, medical services are not at this end to mitigate the effect of these emergencies. To cite another example, I and a senior colleague went to the popular Balogun market to make some purchases. He made a remark that got me thinking. He said considering how close each shop is to the other, if fire guts a part of this market, every other part is in trouble. I did not observe fire fighters during my stay in the market.

We also need to understand that emergencies happen. Regardless of how best we prepare to reduce the likelihood of emergencies, they do occur.[1] However, we can and should prepare more for it. And when we have received intelligence that an incident is likely to happen or precedent shows that it is likely to happen, responsibility suggests that we prepare for it. Minister of Works and Housing and then Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola once noted during the demolition of the Bank of Industry building on what his government did in preparing for possible emergencies during the demolition exercise. For instance, year-in-year-out, we receive reports of the likelihood of heavy rain leading to catastrophic floods. However, people still dump refuse in the drainage which is meant to ease movement of water. They still build houses on canals. Government’s preparedness to provide adequate shelter and food for people who are displaced by these incidents is still suspect. And when the unavoidable rains occur, we cry wolf on its effects on our lives and properties. We should not since we already knew they will come; we were just unprepared for it and have to live with the burn.

I will also suggest we take insurance more seriously in this country. PwC has observed: “The industry is faced with low insurance penetration (currently 0.31%), as most Nigerians are uninsured due to lack of awareness of insurance products and services.[2]Insurance is aimed at cushioning the effects of emergencies that are not certain to happen but which may still yet happen. For the purpose of large markets like the Balogun Market, there should not be any reason why market leaders should not organize microinsurance scheme for their members. Neither is there no reason why heavy-duty vehicles should not be adequately insured.

Preparation for emergencies is costly no doubt. It is more cost effective to ferry petroleum products through tankers than through pipelines but pipelines are safer and the effects of a mishap involving the tankers may be unimaginable.

I reckon that Nigerians need to be part of governance of their nation more than ever before. We must criticize where there is need to and must equally support governance through payment of taxes which will provide government with necessary resources. I once observed that: “For Nigeria to truly achieve the promise it has failed for so long to achieve, I reckon that Nigerians are the raw materials needed to achieve this. Our political culture must be more engaging. We cannot continue with a reactive and passive political culture and expect long lasting change.” Our better engagement with the political class will mean we demand more of it.

Emergencies are part of life. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.[3] It gladdens the heart that Lag Ferry has made it its standard to provide life jacket for every commuter on its ferry. This should reduce the fear of my learned colleague about travelling on our water ways. It is our responsibility to ensure we adequately prepare for things that can go wrong. Safety must always be our watchword.

[1] Joe Abah, Africa’s Problem is Planning, Not Implementation https://www.africanliberty.org/2017/01/28/africas-problem-is-planning-not-implementation-dr-joe-abah/> accessed on 24/2/2020.

[2] PwC, Nigeria’s Finance Bill Insights Series <https://www.pwc.com/ng/en/assets/pdf/finance-bill-insights.pdf assessed on 24/2/2020

[3] Joe Abah [1]

Legal Practitioner; Aspiring Economist