The Balogun Market fire debacle and Sanwo-Olu’s Litmus test

By Chris Paul Otaigbe
Tuesday November 5, 2019 would go down in the minds of Lagosisans as another day of building collapse and market fire outbreak. A day when it became obvious that something is wrong with the state of the structures in the major markets of the State.
It was the day one of the Plazas at the Oluwole Martins street end of the popular Balogun market went up in flames damaging adjoining buildings, killing a policeman and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
Reported to have began around 11am, the fire burnt till over 11 pm that night killing the policeman in its wake.
Coming in the very early days in the life of the new government of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, it is perhaps the first major incident since the governor came into the State House. The response of the relevant government agencies was swift as a they are organized and consistent.
Immediately news of the fire broke, both the Lagos State and Federal Fire Services, the Central Business District authority, the Safety Commission among other relevant Parastatals of the State were on ground and they stayed there till the fire and the surging crowd were properly contained.
For instance, Prince Olanrewaju Elegushi, the Special Adviser (SA) to the Governor on Central Business District (CBD) was present at the site when the building eventually collapsed fatally injuring the Policeman who died later in the hospital. It is instructive that he led the team that rushed the deceased officer to the hospital as at 9pm.
Lanre Mojola, the Director General of the Safety Commission, a young man in his late 30s was quite active in ensuring that the area was managed within the purview of safety.
The next day, November 6, 2019, the governor showed up at the place to see for himself the extent of damage and assess the losses. According to one of the traders who followed the governor’s visit keenly, Sanwo-Olu said all the right things and he was able to convince the traders that he meant all he had said and would fulfill the promises he made.
So what did he say?
“I visited the scene of the unfortunate fire incident at Balogun Market and spoke directly with the victims and emergency services. We will provide support and relief packages to the affected individuals.
“This fire incident was caused by factors that could have been avoided and even though emergency services were on ground promptly. The building could not be rescued due to congestion and other issues.
“This experience is regrettable but we must all take the learnings. Safety awareness and practices involve everyone. Clearly, we will need to complete the modern and safer market project in the area because this inferno has disrupted commercial activities and exchanges in one of the most popular markets in Nigeria.”
 
The next day, November 7, 2019, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, begun the enumeration of traders whose wares and properties were destroyed in the inferno.
At a news conference on Thursday, in Alausa, Ikeja, Director General, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the government sympathized with the victims of the fire disaster and regretted that a policeman lost his life in the process.
Confirming the Governor’s visit to the site, a day earlier, he reiterated the promise, Sanwo-Olu made to render assistance to traders who lost their properties.
It was against the backdrop that Oke-Osanyintolu revealed that LASEMA had begun enumeration of traders whose properties were destroyed in the inferno in readiness to receive government’s assistance.
He implored the citizens to key into the emergency management, advising them not to put inflammable substances inside their shops.
According to him, the greed and bad heart of some mischievous residents were at play even in the heat of the inferno as a fire hydrant was destroyed and vandalized during the rescue operation.
Appealing to the traders, he admonished those who lost their belongings to cooperate with the agency to carry out the enumeration. His Agency, he said, would be working with the Iyalojas so the government can get to the root of the issue, promising to ensure touts and criminals do not hijack the process.
“Those who lost properties should come with relevant documents as we will work hand in hand with the Iya Olojas and we will not hesitate to deal with touts,” Oke-Osanyintolu stated.
“The financial assistance will be categorized, so each shop owner must come up with proper evidence as well as cooperate with their Baba/Iya Olojas. It’s a preliminary exercise for a safe deduction to be made from it.,” he added.
The day after LASEMA held its press briefing, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako, in company with the Special Adviser, Central Business Districts, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, went on an inspection visit to the scene of the fire incident.  It was an activity that lasted for hours which involved inspection of Martins and other adjoining streets.
Other members of the inspection team included the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Arc. Foluso Dipe, Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, Director-General, Lagos State Safety Commission, Mr. Lanre Mojola, General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) Engr. Biola Kosegbe and General Manager, Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory (LSMTL), Engr. Olalekan Ajani.
The Team demonstrated the willingness of the State Governor to back his words with immediate and decisive action.
It was to assess the surrounding buildings and deliberate the diagnoses for the regeneration of the area in line with the master plan of the State.
One takeaway of their assignment on that day was the admission by the Commissioner, during the exercise, that the age of buildings in the area among other factors made consideration for regeneration unavoidable, adding that the government was mindful of the need to make the Lagos Island more sustainable, orderly and livable to the pride of all.
In order to achieve that goal, it was necessary for a reevaluation of the framework that gave birth to the market and this was the point he asserted; that the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development would revisit the master plan and fashion out a workable redevelopment plan beneficial to the State, noting that all hands must be on deck to reap the social and economic benefits of redeveloping Lagos Island.
Without a doubt, these plans are bold and daring moves, past governments appeared to have shied away from but a bitter pill that must be swallowed if the State must breath once again, at least from the infrastructure point of view. So, when Salako decried the haphazard developments of market stalls in the area and re-emphasised the call for Lagosians to respect building regulations by complying with rules and regulations, he was saying the obvious.
He reiterated that the government would not tolerate building without permits and breaking of government seals on identified illegal constructions, warning artisans such as carpenters and bricklayers not to accept jobs in premises where government seals had been broken.
The concern, here, with Salako’s warning is with implementation. I hope his team would go a head further to go on a massive sensitization of all stakeholders in the construction industry to let them know that from the artisan to property owners who flout the state rules and regulations guiding the construction of buildings would be severely punished. To be followed by making scapegoat out of those who would want to test the might of the State government in this regard.
Although, none of the government spokesmen had an idea or could go public with rumored cause of the fire, KAFTAN Post was able to exclusively gather, from most of the traders who witnessed the fire from start to finish,  that the electricity generator of the ownerof the Brassers Plaza, known as Fausa, was alleged to have been the cause of the fire.
A curious twist to the Brassers fabric building fire, according to most of the traders who trade within the Brassers axis of the market is the metaphysical innuendos given to the incident and that is the frequency of fire attributed to the same building. Virtually, all of them insisted that fire outbreaks at the plaza has become a yearly affair. What is more intriguing is the fact that it occurs each time within the November-December period.
According to them like a script of a sort, each time the fire occurred, it affected only Fausa’s part of the Plaza and afterwards, she would pour the burnt textiles on the road which would now be cleared by scavengers as happened even during this particular edition of the yearly fire saga. Unfortunately, this one got out of hand and brought the whole building to ground zero.
This yearly ritual of inferno seem to have incurred the ire of smaller and other petty traders around the building because the rubble and debris this time have obviously overwhelmed the road and resulted in the shutting of the market for days while the mountain of burnt cloths among other remnants from the building, have blocked the road from vehicular access the traders need to sell their wares.
On the day of the incident, one of the early major traders at the market to visit the scene was the Iyaloja of all the markets in the state, Folasade Tinubu-Ojo, the daughter of a one time governor of the state and the national leader of the All Peoples Congress (APC) Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
She was so concerned about the incident that she said her administration may consider making a rule that would ban use of individual generators in the market henceforth. Considering the daughter of who she is, it is not impossible that she could enforce the order.
The backlash, however, is what may not be too favorable because, traders whose trade depends largely on uninterrupted electricity may not find such directive an easy rule to obey.
Also, considering the influence she is alleged to wield in the APC government of Lagos, perhaps she could get the State government to link the market to an Independent Power Plant (IPP) or some other initiative that would make her directive a rule that would receive acceptance by all in the market.
The Oluwole Martins market fire last week was quite memorable in a lot of ways besides the political and business angle.
The Building that got burnt was the immediate neighboring property to the building called Radio House, which housed the defunct Radio Nigeria 2, which was the first FM Station in Nigeria.
The station spawned a generation of highly talented radio DJ’s, spanning from the venerable presence of the Jazzmeister, Benson Idonije to the Highlife “warrior”  Jones Usen, to the totally professional and talented young Turks, Fred “Freaky Fred”Oshodi, Ron “Ronnie Boy the Cat” Ekundayo, Femi Sowoolu “the Pinfather” and the inimitable Jacob Akinyemi Johnson “JAJ”, amongst many others. That list of great radio presenters included a certain gentleman, who could be described, most appropriately as the doyen of modern Nigerian. radio journalism, Tony Ibegbuna “Tony I. Unfortunately, Tony I is late now. But RN2 was the major FM station and the other Radio Channel, that became the preferred choice for many listeners who were daily mesmerized by the rich, educative, informative and entertaining voices of these legends.
In conclusion and most importantly, the Oluwole Martins fire outbreak had given an opportunity to know and assess the response of the new Governor of Lagos State to major incidents. So far, when one considers that virtually the whole of the State House from the Governor, himself, to all the relevant agencies have visited the place executing their briefs from their corner of the general assignment.
The State and indeed, posterity would assess Sanwo-Olu on how and when those promises and plans he made to the Traders are brought to reality.
In Brief…
The Lijadu Sisters : Kehinde Passes On At 71
The twin sister of Taiwo of the Lijadu sisters fame,  Kehinde, died in New York, the United States of America (USA), on Saturday morning, at 71.
The announcement of her death was made public by her twin sister and confirmed later,  by her cousin, David Olanrewaju Lijadu.
Kehinde was alleged to have been battling with severe stroke following a fall from the staircase in 1996.
The twins ruled the Nigerian music scene, along with her identical sister, from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s and they were cousins of the late maverick afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The duo, with their unique combination of genres of afrobeat, reggae, disco and Memphis soul, achieved great success in Nigeria and moderate popularity and influence in Europe during the period.
Born on 18 September 1948, the Lijadu Sisters were notable for being the West African version of the Pointer Sisters who were said to have attained popularity by mixing afrobeat sounds with jazz and disco.
They had to their credit several albums, including ‘Horizon Unlimited’, ‘Danger’, ‘Africa’ and ‘Sunshine’, among others, with evergreen tracks such as Reincarnation, Danger, Orere Elejigbo.
 Ore Falomo, MKO’s Doctor, Dies
The personal doctor of MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Dr.Ore  Falomo has died.
Sources at his Maryland Specialist Hospital, Lagos said he died around 2 am on Saturday, November 9, 2019, after a brief illness.
A renowned doctor, Falomo had many eminent Nigerians, top military leaders, monarchs, businessmen and diplomats, as clients.
He was also subjected to a sort of psychological torture by the military, which denied him access to the detained winner of June 12, 1993 presidential poll.
He had incurred the wrath of the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi when having been permitted to briefly see Abiola, he went to see the billionaire business mogul, who was incarcerated at the time without any medical tool. 
 
Sanwo-Olu’s Election Affirmed By Appeal Court
The victory of the election of Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the Lagos State Governor, in the March 9 2019 poll, was validated by a five-man panel of the Court of Appeal during the week.
The Panel dismissed the appeals by governorship candidates of Labour Party (LP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD).
The two parties and their candidates had appealed the September 23 judgment of the Lagos State Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld Sanwo-Olu’s victory.
Both appeals were argued on Wednesday.
The appellate court upheld the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal that the appellants failed to prove that Sanwo-Olu was not competent to contest the election.

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