Mr Muyiwa Adesina Tiamiyu is the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), an agency established by the Lagos state government to respond to emergencies across the state, to save lives and property.
In this interview with newsmen, Tiamiyu x-rays the effective management of emergencies in Lagos State through quick response to emergency situations. He also extols the leadership qualities of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for providing state-of-the-art equipment to protect Lagosians from avoidable deaths, disasters in accordance with his administration’s policy of bringing governance to the people of Lagos.
Sir, tell us about LASEMA?
We have been doing our best to rescue lives and properties. I also want to express my appreciation to the general staff of this agency; they have dedicated time and energy to ensure that Lagosians live in peace and safety. For us, it’s a challenge, they say for every hard work needs more hard work. We take this as a challenge to do better, so we definitely must not go down.
I want to assure you that we will not betray the confidence you have reposed in this agency. Today in Lagos, there are lots of challenges facing citizens, ranging from accidents, insecurity here and there, domestic violence and all sorts. For us in Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, we feel we have been challenged by his Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who have provided modern and standard equipment for us to fight insecurity and and ensure safety of lives and property.
We have worked with our partners to ensure that Lagosians have the best having paid their taxes; it is for government to serve them. And we have signed up in LASEMA, our goal is to continue to work for Lagosians and we hope that this encouragement will only spur us to do more and in the years to come, we will take LASEMA to greater heights.
Can you give us an overview of year 2017 activities in the agency?
We thank God for year 2017, it presented its own challenges raging from fire incidents that started earlier in the year, remember that in March there were so many fire incidents all over Lagos and we were able to respond to majority of them without losing much lives.
The Oshodi that got burnt, remember the multiple accidents at Carter Bridge where about five people died in that accident. We were able to reach there on time and helped to minimize damages, even to public infrastructure and we went from there to the issue of flooding, remember very well that there were flooding from August through to September which posted another challenge on its own to respondents to be able to handle the after effects of them.
We also have issues with road traffic accidents, majority of which occurs from vehicles that broke down along the road which are not moved on time. There are also issues of carelessness on the part of drivers not observing safety rules and there are few cases of bad roads.
Lagos State government has beat attending to the issue of bad roads by refurbishing it and constructing new ones. So for road accidents, we have designed a mechanism for our vehicles to run patrols round Lagos to ensure that consistently any vehicle that is broken down along the road are removed instantly to avoid secondary accidents. We have also strengthened the Fire Service, Lagos State government has improved on their service delivery because some of our vehicles that were bad have been refurbished and we have also supported them. At LASEMA, we have two fire trucks which We have bought for fire fighting
When Lagos State Fire Service is there in a fire incident LASEMA gives them backup, so, at any point in time there is no downfall or any shortage of water, when one truck is rolling another truck is on standby and by the time water is exhausted, the standby moves in. We have also suggested the activation of water hydrants whereby anywhere you are in Lagos within the shortest time you should be able to pull an hydrant and fill your tank for you to go back to incident scene on time. We have looked clearly into all of that and I think these are working out well. So far last year was challenging and we have learnt from that to plan ahead. In our planning for 2018, we have opened two new branches which means LASEMA will have a better spread and we are still going to open our Lekki office in Admiralty way in Lekki to cater for issues around Lekki through Epe .Then late last year in September, we opened one in Fadeyi on Ikorodu Road meaning that access for safety here can come from Fadeyi to Shomolu, Mushin down to Ikorodu road.
For this year, we are planning more centers, there are going to be divisional bases in Badagry right in front of Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, another one will spring up in Ikorodu right by the second gate of Lagos State Polythenic , another one hopefully will spring up in Epe infact we have land for that one in Epe and preliminary work is ongoing, that will be at the junction in Epe, it will cover from Epe to Ikorodu.
Another land has been allocated to us In Costain, meaning that we can get to the Island or Apapa.
Apapa is one area that is giving us much concern and the governor is concerned about it, as well, he has set up a team to come up with how we can sort out the problem of articulated vehicles that park along the roads in Apapa. The team met with stakeholders, NPA, the Concessionaires and all of that, we have an agreement that we will not be allowing these trucks coming to Apapa and parking on the major roads, only those who are coming to load are to be allowed. So the plan is ongoing, we hope that very soon they will start it. We do not have a base in Apapa because Apapa is filled up, yet we are having people calling us to come and look at spaces, but it’s also important that where you need to locate a station like ours it has to be strategic, we are looking for a strategic place in Apapa where we will now advice the State government to build a base for LASEMA the Base in Onipanu covers up to Apapa so when we now have in Costain, it means we have less time to get there or the Island. If we are able to achieve this in 2018, that’s going to be a big lift coming with all of these branches also need new equipment, modern training, because you cannot build a base without equipment, some few days ago, we added nine more power-bikes to our fleets.
A lot of people will say LASEMA only react when things happen, what about preventive measures, don’t you think you have to be proactive? And I use to say look, we have been proactive it’s only the ones that happen that you see what about the ones that we have been preventing that we don’t publicize? I tell you what just yesterday, we sealed a house that we suspect will go down with more rain, we invited Lagos building Control Agency to go and run a structure integrity test on that building. Now if they do and it fails of cause we will stop that construction and we will pull it down, how many people will know about that? If we don’t do it, they will finish up the building and let out and by the time pressure comes upon it, it will collapse and kill people. You know we have what we call Research and Monitoring team that goes round, we have bikes that go on patrol, when they discover anything, they inform the house and we go there, such houses have been sealed, if we don’t and allow them to continue building, it would have been dangerous for people to live in .So for us .most of what we do behind the scenes to ensure dangers are prevented from happening are not known to members of the public. We have Lagosians who give us information and we promise we will protect their rights, protect them from attack because I can’t tell you who gives us information about structures that are been constructed in the night. In the hope that the monitoring agent would have gone to sleep, but LASEMA is a 24hours organization. We see people building under high tension and we show them the rules and stop them, sometimes they want to put up a fight, we will withdraw and invite the Police to enforce the Law. So, there are so many things LASEMA does that are not in the public domain. Infact, last weekend, there were many accidents on the Lagos road, maybe it’s the aftermath of the rain and our hands were full all through that day, I was personally going round with my personnel on Lagos- Ibadan express road, just by Magodo a 45,000 Litres laden tanker skipped head off the road and ran into the gully discharging about quarter of its content to the environment, We got in there, trans loaded and lifts the tanker out and clean up the place to ensure that no fire was ignited because of it. When we were done with that and roll back to base, another call came that another tanker have fallen by Saboteurs in Ikorodu by the roundabout, this time killing three people who were trying to scoop the content. The tanker tilted, they went under to start scooping fuel, unfortunately it finally fell on them, we were able to save one, who was trapped. These are the things we see on daily basis. We are giving out information to the members of the public that going to scoop fuel on any fallen tanker is the most dangerous thing anybody could attempt to do. So it’s important for Lagosians to understand that emergency works does not start and ends with LASEMA alone, it starts with you, what are those things you are doing wrongly that you should do right. Like I said severally, if you use gas to cook in the house, don’t put the cylinder in the kitchen, but put it outside so that it will be easy for you to shut it down in case of fire. I told people if you run generator in your house and you are in the habit of keeping fuel, it’s dangerous, stop doing that and don’t keep things close to the generator so that it doesn’t ignite fire. When not at home, switch off all electrical appliances, these are things we were taught while we were young and it’s still relevant today, but Lagosians don’t understand that they have to keep part of their deals to help prevent disaster. We are not happy in any way to go and be pickng dead bodies, but we are equally concerned about what if it happens, what are we going to do? Time is essential in our work. We try to make sure that as soon as calls come in concerning an incident we immediately respond. Just yesterday, there was a bursted gas pipe, we had to shut down the whole of that road for two hours, not a single spark was ignited because of that precaution we took, we created about 200 metres safety corridor to stop vehicles from passing that road and we closed it up. If we were not on ground to carry out the right planning for all of this, it would have just been a catastrophic, if it had ignited fire. So for me, I think the major challenge we face on this job is citizens participation in all of it. You are there at the incident scene, crowd will be there and won’t allow you to work, you are blaring the siren on street to signify emergency to quickly go and save life, you see other road users dragging the road with you preventing the right of an emergency worker to go and save life. It is A today, it could be B tomorrow. We sent our staff out during the harmmattan season to inform Lagosians.
You have to be careful with bush burning, burning of your refuse is not allowed, it’s wrong. Now we have a new phenomenon of gas plant cited around homes, immediately the one that happened, we had a marching order to go into all of this, yet we don’t give. permits for the citing of gas plants, we have a right to regulate what you do in our state because we won’t wait for disaster to happen, so all of those gas plants that were built without following the rules have been told to stop work. We have to reaccredit them to reflect the current realities. These are some of the things we do on a daily basis that the public are not aware of. We have patrol teams and surveillance teams on the road and once anything is found they will call and we promptly respond, they also snap and send pictures to us for necessary action making it easier for us.
Governor Ambode said he is taking governance back to the people, how much support have you been getting from the government?
If there is a government that have supported emergency works as much as you are seeing it now, it is the governor of Lagos, his Excellency Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, This man came in at a time when LASEMA had about only three vehicles working, they had caterpillars that were bad, Payloaders that were not working, he came in and created what we called LASEMA. Response Unit, the one we have in Oshodi, Cappa and he bought state -of -the art modern tools, both in medium and big. We have the Cranes which can lift as much as 100 tons of truck. We also have what we call goliat, the big forklift that could carry a whole trailer loaded, We have two fire- fighting trucks, we have intensive care unit ambulances that can be used to save lives, even while on motion. He re-branded the agency completely even though among our operational vehicles we have Ford rangers, ford escape and what have you. He also brought what we called the mobile CCTV cameras monitors areas.. Now if you look at all of this, you will see that he has simplified our work. Before now if anything happened in Lagos what LASEMA does is to call private companies to bring their Crane. There was a time an accident occurred in Ojuelegba where a trailer fell on a car, the company was called to use their crane to help in lifting the trailer off the.car, but the. Company said their crane is hooked up somewhere and cannot make it down. You can imagine that, but today such cannot happen again , our own crane rescues immediately, issues like this come so I want to put it on record that this present government of Akinwunmi Ambode has spent so much money on emergency, not only in LASEMA because LASEMA is just only the coordinator of all other emergency agencies, look at the re-branding of RRS with new vehicles, look at the Lagos Safety Corp, the old KAI, look at Taco Force with all of their vehicles, there is an agency which goes around picking dead bodies, how about Lagos Fire Ambulances, most of their ambulances are brand new ones. If you look at all this thing put on ground in terms of re-branding and making our works effective, which state can match with Lagos State in terms of emergencies? A lot of states are coming here, not even states alone, but federal government has sent a company to come and watch how we do things here ,they came in here to assess how we execute our services, how we get calls, when we receive calls, how we go about it. We took them round and when they enter into the control room, they were surprised that this is happening in Nigeria and come to think of it, Nigerians are the ones in-charge of these things. So what have we not done when the support of the government is there, this is the story of Lagos State.
So many Lagosians are of the opinion that your agency is slow to response when called for emergency, what is your take on this?
There are things to consider, one, Nigerians generally when there is a crisis, they will not call the emergency number for help, but will prefer to start making noise forming crowd around the incident scene, running helter, skelter and by the time they will remember to call those who will help them, it will have escalated . If it’s fire, they will carry buckets and start pouring water and when they realized its getting out of hand and can’t handle it again that is when they will remember to call. Now look at those accusing us of being slow to response will now be calculating from the time the incident occurred and not the time they called us. Look at timing when you called us, we will move from our base to the nearest station, it could be better, but you also have to consider traffic situation in Lagos State. This are lagosians who will drag road with you, how do you get there on time, we need public enlightenment when you see emergency workers on the road , please allow them passage so that they can get to their destination on time. I cannot seat down here and I get a call that. Somebidy is dying somewhere and I will say I want to quickly eat, we are always kitted on ready for any emergency.. Once they hear the alarm, they quickly rush to their vehicles, if you are slow we drop you and you have a query to answer. When we say something is emergency, then we must be fully prepared for it, we know what this work entails and we are always prepared, but lagosians also have their roles to play, they should not stone our people because they feel they are late to get to the scene, if they do so, they are denying other people from benefiting from the facilities, all this equipment belongs to us all, it’s been purchased with your money, it’s tax payers money and not mine, please appeal to Lagosians to always be calm whenever anything happens, but they should endeavour to call LASEMA even if you can. do these things alone, call us we will not charge you it’s absolutely free. When you call us you can continue to do the one’s you can do while we are on our way rather that you will wait for it to get out of control before you think it needful to call us.
You had an interview recently, where you said you hardly have time for your family, that even your wife now helps in rescue work, are you trying to say she is now LASEMA staff?
It’s not about being here as a staff, you see in a family when you give support to your spouse in terms of his work you are part of his job. It could be from the man to his wife as well. In my house today, the youngest of my children is about nine years when he sees me in the house relaxing and suddenly I rush to change to a new dress the first question he will ask is daddy, emergency? Because they know the nature of work I do, my children as little as they are knows that once there is emergency they should call 112 and that is what we should tell every home, my wife knows this as we are in the office now conducting this interview there is no guarantee that I will sleep in my house today, I may have that will take me out of Lagos metropolis and I will not come back till the following morning, what if for instance a house collapse in Epe, will I leave them bury under the rubies and come to my home and sleep? No and it’s not me alone it’s for all of my staff, even if you are off duty you can be recalled to come and give a helping hand when things of bigger magnitude happened . For me it’s my passion, it has become part of me, sometimes I ask where I get the strength from but that is the passion in the work. so. For me and my house hold this is our work, I thank God for giving me understanding family, my wife knows what I should eat and what I should not eat even sometimes when. I becomes careless she will remind me, dishes is a pillar of support for me and my children too and again I a have wonderful staff, very hardworking staffs funny enough this are the set of people doing this work, a lot of you don’t know about them, they are the same set of people I have not gone to the moon to bring in new people they are same LASEMA staff ,now we are giving them the privilege to showcase their professional competent.