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Senate reprimands firemen over Onitsha market inferno

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Ahmad Lawan

The leadership of the senate has frowned at the alleged lackadaisical attitude of men of the Nigeria Fire Service in Onitsha that led to the fire incident in the famous Ochanja market in the town to raze for several hours and caused loss of human lives and properties worth billions of Naira.

Specifically, they knocked the firemen for arriving the market after four hours the inferno started and still failed to put it off until huge loss had been recorded.

There was petrol tanker inferno at the Upper Iweka in Onitsha and the situation led to the killing of many traders and damaging several properties.

To address the problem, the Senate on Thursday urged the Anambra State government to quickly unravel the reason why the firemen failed to respond to the emergency with a view curtailing such incident in the future while asking the federal government to install fire fighting equipments in all the major markets across the country.

The upper legislative chamber arrived at the resolution following a motion by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP Anambra South) and co-sponsored by Senators Uche Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central) and Stella Oduah (PDP Anambra North), on the fuel tanker fire incident which occurred on Wednesday, October 16.

The Senate observed a minute silence in memory of all those who died in the inferno and resolved to send a delegation to visit and commiserate with the victims and the people of the state.

It commended the federal government for the promise to assist the victims and the affected traders with relief materials and to work with the state government to forestall future fire incidences.

The lawmakers, however asked the federal govemment to include financial support in the package to the affected persons to enable them to restart their businesses and pledged the quick passage of the Petroleum Tankers Safety Bill.

They urged the Nigerian Police Force to work in conjunction with the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC to carry out a thorough investigation of the circumstances that led to the accident with a view to prosecuting anyone found culpable in the preventable fire incident.

Leading debate on the motion, Ubah had noted with great sadness, the unfortunate petrol tanker inferno at Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra State.

He regretted the death toll that accompanied the disaster especially the death of a woman and her child after 16 years of childlessnessn her contribution, said there was the need to ensure that the drivers of the tankers were certified and were free of alcohol hence putting a responsibility on the Federal Road Safety Corps to be testing drivers on the highways to ensure that they are not under any influence.

She said: “The Federal Government should support the states in terms of fire service. It is a major responsibility of any state to ensure that it takes the lead.

“The state should ensure that they protect people from fire. The Onitsha Market being the largest in West Africa is a goldmine for the Anambra State Government so the state government should do everything possible that this type of tragedy does not happen again.”

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