Dr.Olufemi Damilola Oke-Osanyitolu, the DG/CEO of LASEMA works round the clock 24/7.His mobile phone works 24 hours a day,365 days a year. All these is on account of the job he does. He is in charge of tackling all the emergencies that occur in Lagos. He also has a walkie talkie that all members of his team can reach him on. He never knows where or when the next emergency will come from so he has to be ready. And so once he gets an alert of a crisis, off he goes with his team, who are stationed across the 3 senatorial zones of the state.
So good and effective is Dr Osanyitolu and his team that they are always on top of any crisis that occurs in even far flung areas within the state. No wonder officials of other states come to Lagos from time to time to understudy and consult LASEMA on how best to tackle emergencies.
A few days back, City People Publisher, Seye Kehinde got the ever busy LASEMA Boss to talk about his job and how Lagosians can also help reduce the incidence of emergencies and accidents in Lagos state. Below are excerpts of the interview.
How has the challenge of reacting to emergency situations been since January 2020?
The year 2020 has indeed been quite challenging as the Agency had to start the year with mitigation plans for the COVD-19 pandemic outbreak which was fast spreading in china and spreading across Europe and other parts of the world. The spread of the LASSA Fever which was also already spiking up in the neighboring state (Ogun state). However, LASEMA has its capacity built both in machineries and human resources to respond and quickly manage any form of emergency within the state
Prior the first case of the Covid-19 Virus in Nigeria which the first case was in Lagos the Agency had trained 342 health workers in 57 LGA/LCDAs on epidemiological response plan and successfully managed 4 major Emergency and Disaster which had a Devastating impact between January to February.
- The Amu plank market fire in Mushin;
- The Abule Egba pipeline explosion, Abule Egba;
- The Martins street fire, Lagos island:
- The Abule Ado explosion.
All aforementioned are major disaster with various degree of impact on the lives and properties of affected persons, however the agency along side all its primary, secondary stakeholders was able to promptly and successfully respond and manage.
One major challenge the agency has been facing with responding and managing Emergencies is crowd control, this has been a challenge with COVID-19. But to ensure the successful management of emergencies in the state the agency adopted the COVID-19 precaution rules by providing necessary PPE’s for Responders and also ensuring the security agencies (Nigeria Police Force, Rapid Response Squad, Lagos Neighborhood Watch) help with the crowd control.
The Agency under the watch of the Mr. Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu who is the incident commander of the Covid-19 has built it capacity to ensure the safety of the lives and properties of Lagosians especially this year 2020.
What is your assessment of the performance of the agency up to date?
We need to appreciate the Lagos state government for continuously investing and building the capacity of the agency (LASEMA) to be able to mitigate, respond and manage emergencies and disasters within the state. The decentralization of the Agency’s Operations unit has also greatly improved the performance of the agency in responding and managing emergencies, swiftly, promptly, effectively and efficiently under the watch of the Mr. Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu. LASEMA also carries out post disaster assessment to ensure and avert secondary accident and to also help rehabilitate affected persons or victims of disasters and reintegrate them back into the society.
How can Lagosians reduce the incidence of gas explosions and house collapse?
GAS EXPLOSION: this year 2020, the Agency has responded to a total of 19 gas explosions and these occurred between July and October. The recent case which occurred in Baruwa Estate, Iyana Ipaja where a gas plant sited in a neighborhood surrounded by residential structures, hotels, schools, churches and mosque. The explosion affected 32 structures in total, injured 51 person and 7 dead. In our research it is important to state that the cause of these explosions is quite similar and quite sad that its majorly cause by human negligence and carelessness. The operators of gas plants and retailers do no often consider the risk or measure the risk of operating in a residential environment which is the case these days. Most of them do not even take safety precautions or adhere to safety guides in their line of operations. We also need to note that domestic gas/fire explosions are also caused by negligence, keeping the gas cylinder in the kitchen and also not having fire extinguisher to quickly put out the fire is another identified risk factor. Hence, the agency has and will continue to sensitize and educate the public about how to take safety precautions in handling gas cylinders with their homes and siting of gas plants in appropriate locations. The agency also respond to public complains and work closely with necessary stakeholders, the Local Emergency Committee and community leaders mitigate against the occurrence of gas explosions as much as possible.
BUILDING COLLAPSE: The Agency has also responded quite a number of building collapse and also been able to avert disaster by bringing down dilapidated structure which might endanger lives. However, it is important to note that land/property owners need to do their risk assessment and also make sure to adhere to the building guides of the state by ensuring that good quality good materials are used to build so has to avoid building collapse. The residence should also raise alarms when the notice or suspect dilapidations and report such cases to the agency for immediate actions.
What are the tips of how to reduce the incidents of emergencies in Lagos state?
Lagos state is a cosmopolitan city and the hub of commerce in Nigeria with a growing population of thousands of people migrating into the state on a daily basis. The busy activities in the state the state makes it vulnerable to risks ranging from road traffic accident, fire outbreak, boat mishap etc. Lagos is also surrounded by coastal areas making it vulnerable to flood and with the human activities contributing to climate change and further increasing the risk within the state. Lagosians will need to work with the state government by adhering to all the laws, policies and safety guides. E.g. Obey traffic laws, take flood precautions seriously to help avert disasters, utilize use of resources provided by government for security of lives and properties and also raise alarm by reporting any form of potential risk to appropriate agencies by calling the Emergency toll free lines 112/767.