Need to regulate importation, use of fireworks

It is that time of the year when the country witnesses massive importation. Fireworks to be used by Nigerians during the yuletide season will form part of the major imports in the next few weeks.

The banger fire explosion that rocked parts of Jankara Market in Lagos Island on December 26 2013 reminds us on the need to enforce safety and security regulations on the use of firecrackers in the country.

The 2013 Boxing Day inferno was, according to reports, caused by the improper storage of imported fireworks in a warehouse in the market.

The explosion, which affected many buildings at Ojo Giwa and Okoya Streets, led to the loss of some lives and the destruction of goods and property worth millions of naira.

It was also reported that not less than 40 people were injured in the unfortunate incident, while about 12 houses and scores of cars were razed.

Babatunde Fashola, who was the Governor of Lagos State at the time, described the incident as a self-inflicted tragedy while the Lagos State Police Command expressed shock at the calibre of firecrackers discovered at the scene of the inferno.

There are reasons for concern over the avoidable fireworks explosion that disrupted the peace of residents of Jankara area of Lagos Island during that festive season.

Most of the bangers were and still are under one form of prohibition or another, as Fashola rightly pointed out when he visited the scene of the incident.

It must be noted that all the fireworks used during festive seasons are imported into the country mostly from China.

While these fireworks are not on the import prohibition list of the Nigeria Customs Service, their importation must be guided by strict safety regulations. But then, the use of fireworks during festive seasons is banned by the Police.

We recall that the Nigeria Police Force usually issues orders against the use of fireworks prior to major festivities in the country. Yet, the use of bangers is on the rise. Isn’t it logical that fireworks should not be allowed into the country if their use is banned?

But if they must be imported at all, shouldn’t the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Police Force and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria collaborate to ensure that only those which comply with strict safety regulations are allowed into the country?

It does not appear though that anyone n the country takes the ban seriously, hence the bangers are continually imported unhindered, and used at will. The ban on the use of firecrackers is obeyed more in the breach. Those that deal in the dangerous products behave as if there is no ban at all, even as security and regulatory agencies look the other way.

Apart from the Jankara market explosion, banger fire in the past has caused some victims bodily injuries and set property ablaze. Bangers have also been deployed to harass innocent people on the streets during festivities. At the heart of the Jankara fireworks’ inferno is the greed of those engaged in the business despite the prohibition order. The fireworks are brought into the country because the officials of concerned agencies are not alive to their responsibilities. If they are diligent enough at their duty posts, there is no way traders would be so bold to import these bangers on the scale that we have seen recently.

The leadership of the NCS, SON and the Police should be worried that their men look the other way while deadly bangers are used freely and on such large scale.

Such gross dereliction of duty must be checked to avoid bringing in items that can compromise the safety of the citizenry.

The need for the enforcement of regulations guiding the use of imported used in the country has become more imperative now than at any other period because of the general atmosphere of insecurity in the country.

The sound of bangers thrown these days is not different from that of gunshots. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between banger explosions and gunshots.

The Lagos banger fire explosion has also brought to the fore the need to revisit all existing legislations on fireworks and make them more stringent in view of the serious damage unbridled use of banger can cause the country.

Storage of explosives like fireworks and bangers should no longer be treated with levity as it has been.

Importers must be licensed and their warehouses constantly monitored to ensure strict compliance to public safety rules and regulations.

Again, it is worrisome two years after the Jankara market incident, no investigation has been carried out to find out the actual and remote causes of the explosion.

The importers of the deadly items and the owners of the warehouse where the explosives were stored have neither been arrested nor prosecuted.

Like they say, it is better late than never, we therefore call on the NCS, Police and SON to come together to either work out modalities for enforcing the ban on fireworks or for enforcing regulations guiding their usage.

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