The gale of fire disasters that swept through the country’s built environment recently, affecting virtually every sector of the nation’s economy adversely appears to have roused relevant stakeholders from their slumber on how to mitigate the losses accruing from infernos.
Property owners, traders that were the worst hit by the numerous fire incidents that consumed their property and goods in their wake are also optimistic that current facilities spurred by the development qualified as the desired helpline needed to address the situation whenever they occur.
Despite the heightened agony caused by fire incidents that normally take a twinkle of eye to occur, analysts are optimistic that such disaster would not be able to crumble businesses and deplete the built environment if the right steps are taken by owners of such property and the traders.
On the general outlook on increased cases of fire incidents which invariably increased the risks of trading at markets it is believed that it is further aggravated by the fact that no formal insurance system exists to cover these market fire incidents and other unexpected disasters, like flood, due to their informal nature.
Thus, poor insurance culture in the country is beginning to take its toll as cold dry winds stoke fire outbreaks, raising the number of occurrences, especially during the harmattan season.
What these preceding factors usually translate to is increased damages to lives, properties and other valuables.
For instance in the month of January 2015 in Lagos alone, there were two major market fires and a number of house fires all resulting in loss of lives and property estimated at billions of Naira.
The director of Lagos State Fire Service, Mr Rasak Fadipe, said the service responded to 685 fire incidents out of 922 emergency calls received between January and June 2014, even as three major fire incidents occurred in Lagos and Anambra states.
To be precise, on January 12 this year, traders and other business owners at the popular Balogun Market in Lagos Island watched in shock as their goods and properties were destroyed by an early morning inferno.
As the fire raged, at least 10 buildings, 100 shops and makeshift structures within the axis, were razed during the incident. Four days after this sad loss, the Berlin Market, also on Lagos Island, went up in flames, consuming goods and properties worth millions of Naira.
One of the victims of the Balogun market fire outbreak, Mrs Vera Ezenwa, lamented thus amid tears: “I received a call at 5:00 a.m on that day that my shop and warehouse had been gutted by fire. I quickly rushed down there to salvage some of the goods, but when I arrived, I could not salvage any. These were goods my husband who went to China last year sent to me two weeks ago. At the moment, I don’t know where to turn to for help.”
When the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola visited and commiserated with victims of the Balogun Market fire disaster in Central Lagos recently his message was to the traders was clear.
He urged them to embrace the practice of insuring their investments and properties against such unforeseen incidents.
Fashola, who stressed the value of insurance in business and daily life, said apart from taking simple safety measures like not storing inflammable materials in business premises and in homes, it was also important that citizens embraced the practice of insuring their goods and properties against unforeseen disasters.
The Governor recalled that he had on some occasions appealed to the leadership of the various traders’ unions to meet and educate their membership on the value of Insurance, pointing out that since the Premium of such insurance are often not a lot of money the traders could find it handy when emergencies like fire disasters happen.
Pledging to work with the unions to help create such insurance, if necessary, in partnership with some of the Insurance companies, Fashola said some of the companies offer Special packages that address the levels of people who do not have big businesses, but need nonetheless to secure their investments without necessarily dipping, in any significant way, into their profits.
The Governor recalled that in the past, Insurance companies used to be much more dynamic and responsive in getting people to market policies at market places where ordinary people are and educate them about the value of policies.
As assuring as the governors concerns may be the stark reality is that after the devastating fire incident, traders who are forced to raise new capital to erect new stalls, pay their distributors and purchase new merchandise for trading may not have the patience to wait for long for help line offered by the insurance firms.
Thus, the traders and victims of the fire disasters seemed to have found succor in the assistance they got from First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited
The traders observers noted treasured the help line offered by FCMB because government promises hardly come if at all to the trader who has lost every kobo he or she had to a fire incident.
Speaking at the unveiling of the FCMB Personal Business Account (PBA) at the Alade Market, in Lagos on December 10, 2014, the Iya Oloja General of Nigeria, Mrs Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, said the traders need such financial platforms to mitigate loses when they occur.
According to her, the financial institution’s foresight in developing a model targeted at protecting businesses and property owners is, “a brilliant initiative”, urging business owners to take advantage of, “this unique opportunity being provided by FCMB”, to safeguard their business from hazards that usually leads to the collapse of businesses.
The Chairman of the Ariara International Market Traders Association, Chief Lucky Akubueze, said, “This is a step in the right direction. Most of our traders are now out of business or struggling to come back because of the harm done by unforeseen circumstances like fire outbreaks. I strongly believe that a product like the FCMB Personal Business Account will help to reduce the pains and costs associated with such situations”
For the Head of the market association, Alhaji Garba Shehu, the initiative would help to fortify business arena and boost the nation’s economy , noting that natural disasters like fire outbreaks and disasters which could occur at anytime have resulted in untimely deaths of traders frustrated by the losses incurred from the disasters.
He said, “We are happy that at last a Bank has come up with a product that can help us survive difficult situations and even help our business to growth very well.”
Commenting on the initiative, the FCMB’s Divisional Head, Retail Banking, Mr Olu Akanmu, explained that the Personal Business Account is aimed at encouraging business owners and Nigerians on the need to safe-guard their businesses against disasters, considering the spate of fire incidents and other disasters recorded in recent times.
He said, “We want our traders to do their business with peace of mind with the FCMB Personal Business Account knowing that their bank FCMB is behind them with bank assurance services that protect them from unforeseen incidents like market fire or flood.”
Akanmu noted that the FCMB Personal Business Account product has continued to receive massive endorsement and patronage across the country, adding that Small and Medium Scale (SME) operators, are part of a very elaborate, robust and vibrant informal sector that contributes significantly to the economic development of the country.
He explained that the most outstanding benefit of the initiative is the fact that the financial institution will support the customer with a free cover of up to N1 million in case of loss of goods/stock due to fire or flood disaster that affects his or her business.