Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu is the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Mangement Agency, LASEMA.Â In this interview with KAZEEM UGBODAGA, he spoke on rescue management in Lagos State and how the state has been able to scale up its disaster management operation, among others
What makes LASEMA stand out?
What makes LASEMA stand out is that the government of Babatunde Fashola believes solely on safety, first, in terms of lives and property.Â Secondly, the activities of Fashola towards LASEMA is work plan around the agency and the citizens; and coupled with the fact that the commissioner for Special Duties is ready to make sure LASEMA remains the umbrella of emergency management in the state.
What are your plans for this year?
Our plan for this year is to take emergency management to the grassroots; which means we plan to have emergency management in our schools in Lagos State; to have emergency management committees in all the markets; to ensure that we have emergency management committees in the wards and to the household because we realised the impact emergency is to the grassroots.
LASEMA just won an award as the best management agency in the country, how did you achieve this?
Firstly, we have to thank God and secondly, we have to thank Fashola for paying attention to LASEMA.Â We have to thank the commissioner for Special Duties for working hand in hand with us to give us the enabling environment to perform. We have to thank the citizens of the state because they are now collaborating with us.Â We now believe that the safety of life and property is in our hands.Â People now believe in the policy of the state in terms of emergency response. They now believe that if they need anything in terms of emergency, we will be there for them. We have trained our people in such a way to know what the golden hour piece is and they are able to manage it.
How prompt is LASEMA in arriving scenes of emergency?
We are very effective; we are working with all our stakeholders.Â If you look at the workforce of emergency in Lagos State, we have various people on ground like LASTMA; we work as a team during emergency period; we are not on our own.Â If you see a fire disaster, you have the LASTMA, LASEMA, LASPHYDA moving there to fight it; we all work together and that is the key there.
Last year, we had the Ajegunle flood disaster, what plan do you have to avertÂ a similar incident this year?
We have started a lot of advocacy, we have started lots of sensitisation and try to educate our people to move away from the flood-prone areas for safety first; we try as much as possible to make sure that we are on top and today, we are building a world class unique camp at Igando which is going to be one of the best when completed.
What is in the Igando Relief Camp?
The Igando Relief camp contains hostels that could accommodate more than 1,000 people; it is going to have a world class hospital, vocation areas, multipurpose hall and so on.Â It is going to have world class relief equipment.
In the area of compensation, how many people were compensated last year?
We compensated some market people that were involved in fire disasters; we compensated individuals that their houses were burnt and it depends on the gravity of the incident.
What are your challenges?
Our challenges are that, as Lagos State is moving towards attainment of a mega city status, there is an influx of a lot of people into the state.Â With that, the state is vulnerable to a lot of disasters.Â So, we keep on improving on the way we normally respond to disasters in the state.
Do you always get funds for your work?
The Lagos State under Fashola leaves nothing to chance to ensure that we get funds.Â We evacuated people from Jos when there was crisis. We have sophisticated equipment to manage any form of disaster in the state. You can see that the way we respond to disaster is well coordinated, managed and effective.Â We have now built a trauma centre, a hospital close to the Ibadan expressway because we realised that there is going to be lots of traffic gridlock for rescue management officers to transport victims from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to Ikeja teaching hospital.Â We now moved a teaching hospital to the area. This has improved the way we manage emergency in the state.Â We have the latest and sophisticated equipment at the trauma centre.
What is your main goal?
Our main goal is working better this year. We want to make sure that both the citizens of the state and the emergency team see themselves as partners to achieve safety.
What do you think is responsible for the heavy rainsÂ we now experience?
It is climate change. Climate change involves a lot of things; when you have a lot of greenhouse gases in the air, it is bound to affect lots of things.Â It causes bad phenomenon; it causes lots of factors in terms changes in climate and changes in equilibrium.Â That is why we are now seeing heavy rainfall. Our attitude causes this; we drive vehicles that emit lots of fumes into the air; we are burning lots of things.Â We need to stop our bad habit; we need to stop burning bushes and collaborate with government.
How soon will they relocate victims of the Ajegunle flood disaster from your relief camp to another settlement?
They will be surely relocated very soon.Â We are having 1,031 of them in the camp; donâ€™t forget, those people you see in the camp are those that are seriously affected. There are people that are moderately affected and are not in our camp. They have given birth to 21 babies in the camp.Â We have 48 pregnant women with us in the camp.Â We have two caesarian sections and the government paid for everything. We still have about 27 pregnant women out of the 48, after 21 have given birth.
Many people are still residing at Ajegunle despite last year’s flooding. What advice do you have for them?
We have told them to leave.Â It is an advice; they can either take itÂ or leave it.Â We provided alternative for them and they refused to move.Â What we are now using is advocacy and to tell them that what they are doing is wrong.Â We are going to enforce it and they will leave that place.
How many relief camps does government intend to build and how equipped are your men?
We intend to build three relief camps, one in each senatorial district of the state.Â Our men are well equipped to curb any fire disaster in the state. The training of our people is ongoing.
Where do you want to see LASEMA in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I want to see LASEMA on top and in charge of management of disasters in the state.Â We have just been on ground for few years and the whole of Nigeria has felt our impact. In 10 years’ time, the whole world will see the extent we have gone.Â Today, we are first in Nigeria and we have built a world class burns unit at Gbagada General Hospital; we have local emergency committees in all our local government areas.Â We have school and market emergency management committees.Â In 10 years’ time we will be right there.