ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – Senate on Wednesday, lamented the incessant fire outbreaks in major markets across the country, which had resulted to the loss of about N5.3 trillion by traders from 1999 till date.
This was even as it added that no fewer than 600 lives and goods worth several trillions of naira have been lost to market infernos in the country between 2010 and 2016.
Consequently, the Senate, through a motion sponsored to that effect by Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso, called on states and local governments to constitute special task forces that would be saddled with the responsibility of investigating the incessant fire outbreak in public places across the country.
The upper legislative chamber also called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with National Orientation Agency (NOA) to embark on a national campaign on the need for the public to strictly adhere to national fire safety code in order to prevent the perennial occurrence of fire outbreaks.
It urged the three tiers of government to provide their fire service departments with requisite state-of-the-art fire fighting equipment, introduce routine training and motivation strategies of the fire service staff so that they can respond more efficiently during fire outbreaks.
Kwankwanso, in the bill titled: “Incessant Kano Markets’ Infernos of Sabon Gari, Singer and Kwari”, noted that the rate at which these fire outbreaks occur is becoming worrisome and calls to question the effectiveness of our federal and state fire service and other emergency response management agencies tasked with the mandate of urgently addressing the trend of infernos among others.
He stressed that no one seemed to know what causes these incessant fire incidences that have become a perennial occurrence in markets across the country, adding that sensitisation and effective implementation of simple but important tips on national fire safety code could save lives and property during such emergencies.
Contributing to the motion, Senator Theodore Orji said the Nigerian economy has lost trillions of Naira to market fire incidents since 1999 to date, noting that this incidence is a monumental waste on our people and on our economy.
“Last week Wednesday, the National President, National Association of Markets in Nigeria held a press conference and in that press conference, he said no fewer than 600 lives and goods worth over 10 trillion have been lost to market fires in the country between 2010 and 2016. He further went to say that the the Nigerian economy has also lost N5.3 trillion to market disasters by fire between 1999 to March 2016 and this is a monumental waste on our people and on our economy,” Orji said.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said what the country needed now to avert future occurrences of fire outbreaks was for all markets to be modernised and traders to have insurance on their properties.
“We need to modernise these markets in such a way that there should be tracks for fire fighters and fire trucks to gain entrance into the market once we have this.
“We must begin to move away from this open markets to building of malls so that in building these malls certain measures are taken from conception to ensure that issue of fire incident is tackled. That is why in most parts of the world we hardly hear about fire incidents in markets.
“The other is the issue of insurance. All these traders they struggled to be leaders of markets organisations, but they don’t care about the welfare of those they are leading. It is high time they began to organise insurance for the traders so that in times like this they can fall back on insurance companies to help them to go back to business,” Ekweremadu said.
Meanwhile, a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Procurement Act to provide for and adopt a Local Content Policy and timely completion of procurements processes passed through Second Reading in Senate.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Sam Egwu, who in in his lead debate, said the amendment of the Act had become necessary in view of the need to encourage Nigerians to patronise locally made goods.
He said that until the Act was amended, there would be a gap between the consumption of locally made goods and foreign goods.
According to him, when the Bill is passed into law, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) would be mandated to purchase certain percentage of made-in-Nigeria goods.
“The Federal Government spends billions of Naira to import cars into the country when Innoson Motors and other local manufacturers are not been patronised.
“We have all the raw materials, we also have the biggest market in Africa, yet we saturate our market with foreign goods.
“The amendment of the bill will go a long way in developing Nigeria to become a world class producer.
“We should not forget that the love for foreign goods is responsible for the level of unemployment we have in the country today,” Egwu said.
The lawmaker commended the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and other lawmakers for patronising Innoson Motors and other locally made goods.
He enjoined other lawmakers to tow the path of the principal officers by patronising local products, adding that the passage of the bill would give legal backing to locally produced goods.
Supporting the bill, chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the bill was poised to amend Section 34 of the Public Procurement Act to instruct government agencies to buy local goods.
He said the amendment of the Act would contribute largely to the development of the economy.
“If we pass the amendment it will change a keyword in the section from `may’ to `shall’, to make it mandatory for government agencies to patronise made in Nigeria goods, thereby increasing quantity of local goods.
“We want to change the percentage in the Act, which made only 15 percent of procured goods mandatory.
“We want to change it to a minimum of 50 percent. This move will bring a ripple effect into the economy to help us out of the current economic situation.
Also, Senator Ben Bruce said the only way to encourage local producers was to improve the quality of locally made goods and encouraging Nigerians to patronise them.
Bruce said people complained that made-in-Nigeria products were inferior but did not make effort to encourage local manufacturers to improve on the quality of products.
“I have three Innoson vehicles and I have no complaints, even if I have complaints, I call the company. Innoson is presently fixing a fighter jet and if we can follow his example the country will be better for it,” he said.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki commended the sponsor of the bill for his foresight.
He said the amendment of the Act would not only encourage locally manufactured goods but ensure prompt implementation of budgets.
“I am delighted it has passed second reading. In the past we spent two to three trillion Naira on foreign goods but with this amendment there would be a reduction.
“The bill is two-fold because it also addresses the timely implementation of the budget.
“Before now processes of budget implementation took months but with this it will be fast.
“I can’t overemphasise how relevant this bill is. If passed many peoples’ lives especially local producers will change.
The bill was referred to the senate Committee on Procurement which has been directed to return it to the senate in three weeks time.