Lately, it has been a season of disasters, trailed by deaths and huge losses across the country. From the east to the west, from the north to south, it has been a gale of phenomenal tragedies.
Initially, it was flood. Lately, this has been followed by fire incidents that have wreaked unfathomable havoc in many places. And it might take years for victims to get over their losses.
As the Yuletide season inches closer, the list of fire disasters appears endless. Still fresh in many minds is the Onitsha, Anambra State tanker fire that claimed several lives, the early morning inferno that destroyed goods, property and businesses worth millions on Lagos Island; the man-made disaster caused by vandals in Aboru community, the carnage on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway that claimed the lives of two and most recently, the fuel tanker fire that killed eight in Kogi State.
In all, it seems all of nature’s elements have conspired in an all-out assault against Nigerians.
Most of those worried by the disasters have not distanced it from the myth of the ‘ember months.’
For years, the months of September, October, November and December have generated a unique fear of the unknown among different categories of Nigerians. Usually, several sad happenings, especially road crashes, fire disasters, among others, are attributed to these months.
Without doubt, the ‘ember’ months are always the busiest months on the roads and for many reasons, the air of festivity within these periods makes everyone ecstatic. However, within this time, Nigerians’ sense of spiritual sensitivity becomes alarmingly heightened. Many believe it is extremely important to spiritually curtail perceived extra terrestrial forces believed to always wait in the wings to prey on souls.
For most people, efforts must be made to be spiritually fortified before and within the time to ensure that one does not partake in the harvest of deaths that seem to bedevil the period.
Their fears might not be far-fetched, as crime, road crashes, fire incidents as well as other disasters tend to spike within the last quarter of the year.
Safety experts, however, argued that most of the disasters experienced within the time are usually man-made. The insisted that it was time Nigerians moved from always attaching spiritual connotations to safety issues and become proactive and careful, to ensure that lives and property are not lost unnecessarily, mainly to inexistent foes.
Director General / Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, (LASEMA), Mr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, believed that myth must be distanced from the several disasters said to usually plague the ‘ember months.’ He said such belief and accompanying apprehension only exist as imaginations. He insisted that adhering to basic safety measures is enough to put paid to such fears.
He maintained that fire incidents is one of the major causes of disaster during the ‘ember months’ as the air becomes dryer, thus encouraging fire outbreaks.
“The ‘ember months’ usually come with the gradual subsiding of the rains and encroachment of the Harmattan haze, which makes everything susceptible to fire, especially places like offices, marketplaces, worship centres and many others. On our part, we must ensure to have in place good safety measures like having fire extinguishers and functional hydrants. Being acquainted with basic knowledge of fire fighting skills is also an added advantage for everyone,” he said.
Osayintolu called for attitudinal change among Nigerians, especially motorists and commuters, who usually feel they need to “double their hustle” by working extra hard within the time. He informed that all agencies responsible for the management of emergencies are already on red alert to secure and protect the lives and property of people living and doing business in the state.
Recalling the recent fire incidents recorded on Lagos Island, he renewed calls for traders and residents to desist from storing combustible materials to prevent fire outbreak that may lead to loss of lives and property.
With vehicular activities significantly reaching its peak within the ember months, the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC), said the rise in road crashes within the time can be attributed to. Among others, speed violation, wrongful overtaking, dangerous driving, tyre burst, brake failure, overloading and impatient passengers that usually make passive comments to the driver while driving.
Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, Corps Marshal, FRSC, in a report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, revealed that 550 persons died and 3,184 others were injured in 903 road traffic accidents across the country in December 2016. The report revealed a 16 per cent increase in the number of road traffic crashes and 45 per cent and 36 per cent increase in the number of people killed and persons injured respectively when compared to November 2016.
While speaking on why safety on roads should be paramount during the period, Oyeyemi restated the commission’s commitment toward ensuring safer roads ahead, within and after the period.
“The cause of more accidents during the period is the non-compliance to traffic rules and regulations by motorists. If you observe traffic rules and regulations, if you do not speed, and you ensure that your vehicle is in a good condition before setting out, there will be fewer accidents. I want to passionately appeal to our motorists both private and commercial, to please obey all traffic rules and regulations, check your vehicles and fix any fault and also attend to fault signals before hitting the road.
Also speaking on the need to enhance precautionary measures during the ‘ember months,’ the Corps Public Education Officer, (CPEO) Mr. Bisi Kazeem, said the organisation had instituted an aggressive engagement of stakeholders and major fleet operators, adding that key road safety issues that will drastically bring down crashes associated with the fleet had been agreed on.
He further explained that all stakeholders are channelling efforts to ensure safety during the ‘ember months’ due to increased traffic volume.
“The organisation is committed to the safety of all auto passengers across the country before, during and after the Christmas period,” he assured.
Security experts insisted that the urge to make quick money in the ‘ember months’becomes very high, and naturally, insecurity, desperation and criminality become quite common during the period.
A study by Bulwark Intelligence covering August 2016 to March 2017, revealed an increase in crime such as armed robbery, kidnapping, armed attacks and bank robberies in Nigeria within the time. The data showed a correlation between crime and festive seasons in which crime increases a month prior to holidays, hence a spike in August prior to the Eid holiday in September 2016 and a spike in November prior to the Christmas holiday in December 2016.
Security experts said that nonetheless, the role of the security agencies and personnel in maintaining security within this period cannot be over emphasised.
Concerned Nigerians insist that tackling security challenges, fire disasters and road carnages within this period requires a collective approach, with many noting that all hands must be on deck in order to have crime and accidents minimised to the barest minimum. Many also maintain that Nigerians must ensure that they subscribe to a culture of safety and make it their watchword at all times.”