Saddened by the incessant cases of fire outbreak recorded recently in Rivers State, the Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC-Nigeria, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, has warned residents of the state against acts capable of causing further outbreaks.
He cautioned residents not to slack, warning that even in this raining season, fire outbreaks can still be witnessed if carefulness is not applied.
In the fire outbreak of December 30, 2022, which occurred at Elekahia, Port Harcourt, it was reported that over 200 persons were displaced, with goods and properties worth millions of naira destroyed by the fire which supposedly started about 8:30am. The outbreak was caused by a kerosene explosion.
Also, in January 8, 2023, goods worth millions of naira were lost after fire destroyed furniture shops at the popular timber market in Rumuosi community in the Obio/Akpor LGA of the state.
On February 12, this year, another incident was recorded, where a filling station and tanker loaded with petroleum products were burnt down. This incident happened at Itode Oil and Gas Filling Station on Aluu-Elikpokwuodu Road, Rukpokwu, in Obio/Akpor LGA of the state.
Most painful was the incident of March 3, 2023, at Rumuekpe community in Emuoha Local Government Area, the Rivers State Police Command confirmed the death of 12 persons in an oil pipeline explosion that occurred in the early hours of that day. The incident, TNN learnt happened around 2am. It was gathered that a bus loaded with illegal crude oil exploded just on its way from the site.
The state recorded another fire incident on March 11, this year, at the oil mill market along Aba Road in Port Harcourt, where goods and property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Speaking with our correspondent in an exclusive interview, Dumnamene-Fyneface said, “These incessant outbreaks in the city of Port Harcourt has become worrisome of recent, I know that Port Harcourt is not the only city or state in Nigeria that has incidence of fire outbreak, but that of Port Harcourt seems to be more frequent and happens at quick successions which calls to question, what the issues are?
“In most cases these fire outbreaks have been attributed to activities of those who buy and store in their houses, you know, petroleum products suspected to come from illegal artisanal refineries, this has contributed to fire outbreaks in the city.
“We have also heard incidences of where there is carelessness in the part of residence in terms of how they handle electrical appliances in their homes, which also contributes to fire outbreaks in the city. Again, electrical sparks can also cause fire outbreak.”
Reacting to the recent pathetic fire incident that gutted Azikiwe Market, located at Azikiwe/Ojoto Street, Mile 2 Diobu, Port Harcourt, he said, “in the case of that of Ojoto area, in Diobu area, no reason has been attributed by the authorities to why the fire outbreak occurred, but it must not be unconnected with the activities of those why buy and store artisanal refinery products in their homes, especially now that these products are expensive and the youths are back to the creeks because the government fails to take steps to address this issue squarely after they were displaced by the war declared by Rivers State government on them in 2022.
“So, the point here remains that the losses associated with these incidents each time they occur is massive and we have to take steps to see how we can prevent it, by not only trying to sensitize the residents about how to handle incidences, what to keep in their homes, what not to keep, but also ensuring that the fire service of the state is up to date with equipment and ready to respond when incidents of this nature happen.
“And each time they happen, while those who are affected are crying and struggling to see how they can save their goods that is being gutted by fire, some youths around the area try to help them, quote and unquote, try to attempt to help them in the process of moving into the facility, moving into the home, moving into the shop to bring those things out, when they bring those things out they don’t gather them at a particular place for the owners to take them, they take them to their houses.
“They capitalize on these incidences of fire outbreak to loot resources and materials worth millions of naira in addition to what the fire has destroyed. So, to a very large extend we think that a lot of these things can be curtail if people can sympathize with those who are affected and even the government try to come to their aid by providing some relief materials, palliative to them.”
The YEAC-Nigeria director recalled that, “when fire incident occurred in some other parts of the country, like in Sokoto, the Rivers State governor responded by donating about 500 million naira, so, if charity still begins at home, when incidents of fire like this occur in Port Harcourt and its environs, I think the governor should also take steps to support the victims of this fire to reduce the burden and the sufferings of the people haven experienced this fire that can be described partly as a natural disaster. I think I call on the government to see to their needs and support those who have been affected by this.”
On how to prevent further fire incidents, Dumnamene-Fyneface called on residents to, “take steps not to allow things that will make fire to frequently affect them to be kept in their houses, so youths who are involved in artisanal refineries, those who are involved in buying and selling of these products should stop and they should try as much as they can not to stock them in their homes before they will cause fire and innocent people will be affected.
“So I think steps should be taken by all authorities, all that are involved. We, the youth and environmental advocacy groups and other NGOs will keep taking steps to advocate and create awareness so they know reasons why they shouldn’t keep things like these in their homes and how they can be able to mitigate this kind of thing when it happens. So, we call on the authorities to take steps and see how they can be able to address this issue. I know this is raining season and people will think that fire will not be breaking out during this season but fire can even burn at any point in time but what we need to do is to prevent the fire from happening.”