LASEMA boss’ talks about the operations and challenges facing the agency

How demanding has the job been ?

Any 24- hour job is demanding , because you don’ t have your time .

If you are on duty, you are working . My staff members work on shifts.

But as a general manager, if I go home , it may be just to relax .

I cannot sleep because a call can come in at anytime and I am back to work .

Your father was a firefighter . How did he influence you ?

My father retired as a director of the Oyo State Fire Service sometime in 2006 .

They call me omo baba panapana (firefighter ’ s son ).

I saw my father do it while growing up .

I saw him come back home dirty and when I asked him what happened to his clothes, he narrated his experiences to me .

When the Cocoa House in Ibadan got burnt in 1983 , my father was among the first set of people to get there.

He was choked and passed out, but was taken to hospital and he survived.

Till date , we still exchange ideas whenever he listens to the radio and he hears what we are doing .

He would call me and advise me on how to handle fire .

I am still a kid to my father . He is almost 80 now .

Is the statistics of emergency in Lagos increasing or reducing ?

It is increasing . Sometimes , I wonder if Lagosians were waiting for Lagos Response Unit to be created and for LASEMA to be rebranded for them to know how to call for help .

Statistics show that in 2015 /2016 , calls to the emergency centre hover between 24, 000 and 27, 000 every day .

But now , we are talking about 90, 000 every day .

All manners of things happening in Lagos ; people are calling.

If an accident happens on the Ikorodu Road , you can get 50 calls on that incident alone .

A lot of people are now aware of the 112 / 767 emergency numbers.

They are aware that if their vehicle breaks down , they can call us and we will send tow trucks there.

They are aware that if there is robbery, they will call and the Rapid Response Squad will come.

Considering the rate of emergency calls , do you have enough workers ?

The number of workers cannot be enough.

As of today , we have five dispatch centres to cover the entire Lagos State , which is too small.

We have in Lekki, Oshodi , Ikeja , Onipanu and Igando .

If anything happens in Badagry , our men move from Igando .

Look at that distance.

The ideal thing is to have a dispatch centre in every nook and cranny of the state .

We already have a completed LASEMA base in Epe and replica in Badagry and Ikorodu .

We hope that the new government will continue from where the Akinwunmi Ambode government stopped.

Can you recall two heart- rending cases you witnessed in the course of your job ?

First was when a container fell on a commercial bus (danfo ) about two years ago .

Worshippers were coming from a vigil and when they got to Ojota, the driver, who was also a church member , parked to drop off those who had got to their destination .

An articulated truck tilted and dropped a container on them , killing five people .

As soon as I got there, I saw smashed skulls, intestines and brains .

I ran back and my courage failed me . It took the intervention of my Public Relations Officer , Kehinde , before I regained myself .

It was a calamity . Anytime I remember that incident, I get goose pimples .

The second was the Otedola Bridge tanker fire of 2018 .

I was in the office when I was told that the whole of Magodo was on fire .

That was the alert .

I cannot even remember the person who called me .

I jumped into my car and in less than 10 minutes , I was there .

There, I saw a large expanse of land covered by fire. I saw a long row of vehicles all burning at the same time .

I was shocked .

I had a mental count of the number of people who could have been caught in that fire .

And maybe that was why social media was abuzz with figures like 100 , 90, and so on.

My immediate concern was to stop the fire from going further .

We mobilised all kinds of fire equipment .

But we had a challenge; all the routes to the scene were blocked .

We had to start finding a way to bring in our equipment from Ikeja , through Omole , Berger to access the scene .

Every minute , the governor was calling, saying he heard some high casualty figures.

I tried to calm him . But at a point , he said he was coming himself .

And while I told him not to bother , he came and took over the operation .

All agencies converged on the scene .

After putting out the fire, we started seeing the corpses ; most of them were outside the vehicles , meaning they tried to escape only to be caught up by the fire.

A lot of people found it difficult to believe when we said we found nine bodies .

But even if it was one , that one person belonged to a family and they were in sorrow.

Those two experiences challenged my humanity as a person .

Today , yes I still have my humanity intact , but I have a job to do .

When you see emergency workers and you think they are strong, it is a lie .

They have only been trained to mask their emotions to ensure those who are looking up to them don’ t lose hope .

You see a lot of corpses and gory scenes . Do you have nightmares?

I sleep when I want to sleep .

I don’ t allow that to disturb me because I don’ t want to die too .

I try to take care of my health ; my family members are concerned about my health and I am concerned about it too .

My friends sometimes tell me to slow down .

But I have given myself to the public to serve , so I have to do my job .

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