Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's dry season, take care!

It’s dry season again! It starts about Octo­ber and ends around March of the follow­ing year. However, while it begins early in savannah region, it usually commence late in tropical rainforest or coastal region. In addi­tion, the climate change phenomenon aris­en as a result of ozone layer depletion from global warming has made it difficult to define precisely dry season in a country like Nigeria. There are several things I like about this peri­od of the year. It’s time for jollification. Most festivities take place during the dry season as it’s time when farmers harvested their cash and food crops like cocoa, palm oil, cotton, yam, maize and other cereals. As such, there is plenty of cash with more than enough to eat and drink.
No wonder most celebrations are fixed for the period. Apart from Christian festivals such as Christmas and New Year which from time immemorial are celebrated on December 25 and January 1 respectively, most people ar­range for their weddings, funerals, house-warming, chieftaincy coronations and many others for dry season. It’s not the heavy purse alone that makes people fix their parties for the period, it’s also due to the fact that there won’t be any disturbance from rain. More so, many workers are able to get their annual leave and go on vacation while children are also on holiday after their first term examinations.
It is arguable that more babies are made during the dry season particularly during the mouth-chattering harmattan cold that accom­panies it. Spouses enjoys greater copulation during this period, this may concomitant­ly result in more pregnancies and therefore more children. The cold nights that accom­panies dry season make people sleep better even when there is no public or private power supply to power the air-conditioners and fans. Washed clothes also dry faster compared to raining season when it may take days. In ad­dition, those who trade in warm clothing such as wind-cheater, pull over, cardigan, sweater and blanket make brisk business. Similar­ly, as Christmas approaches, those into dec­orations, sales of hampers, fireworks, greet­ing cards, chicken and rice also smile to the banks as a result of high patronage and good profits they often make on their sales.
On the other hand, dry season accompa­nied by harmattan haze portends many chal­lenges. It’s the period when fire outbreaks are most common. Since the onset of this year’s dry season, many markets have been razed, likewise many public and private buildings. Just last Sunday, December 13, 2015, a sec­tion of Nigerian Television Authority Head­quarters in Abuja was gutted by fire. Thank­fully no life was lost, however the international arm of the station had to be temporarily shut down. The increase in fire incidences during the dry season is occasioned by the reckless way we handle fire.
For instance, is it not shocking that in 2015 the practice of indiscriminate bush burring for game and land clearing is still prominent in our rural communities? In a bid to kill rats and rodents some numskulls set fire on bush which, in some cases, has destroyed valuable economic trees like cocoa and palm. Even many wooden electricity polls have been de­stroyed in the course of this reckless behavior. Aside the deliberate act of bush-burning, in­discriminate dropping of cigarette butts and use of fire-crackers have resulted in large con­flagrations leading to immense loss of lives and properties.
Reckless driving during harmattan has also caused many road mishaps. This usually hap­pens when drivers who could not see clear­ly as a result of the harmattan haze refused to be cautious and drive defensively. This too has led to many untimely deaths and loss of valuable properties. Bad weather occasioned by harmattan haze has also led to late take-off of many flights and several cancellations of scheduled flights. That is a huge revenue loss to the aviation industry.
It is debatable whether more people get sick during rainy or dry season. However, what is not in doubt is that there are some sicknesses that accompanies dry season. These include cough and catarrh. The season also triggers off a lot of asthmatic attacks due to the high level of dust pollution in the environment.
Given all the aforesaid challenges that ac­companies dry season, it is imperative for all of us to take care. This is not the time to en­gage in bush burning for whatever purpose or indiscriminate use of fire-crackers. Children should realise that Nigerian Police has banned the use of fire-crackers better known as knock­outs during festive seasons. Workers should en­deavor to switch-off all the lights and put off all electronic appliances at the close of the day’s business. Parents should instruct and super­vise their grown children to always remember to off all electronic gadgets when there is cut in public power supply or when they are about re­tiring to bed at night. Drivers would do well to drive defensively during this harmattan season.
For the government, this is the time to ensure that the Fire Services (federal and state) are well resourced in terms of personnel and fire-fight­ing equipment to enable them respond rapidly to distress calls. Beyond that, the Fire Services also need to be proactive by intensifying their civic education programme on fire prevention tips and how to combat fire outbreaks. This they can do in partnership with National Ori­entation Agency as well as interested media organisations who want to do that as part of their corporate social responsibilities. There is also the need for Nigerians to embrace insur­ance policy in order to mitigate their loses if they suffer catastrophes such as fire accidents. Quite unfortunately, most Nigerians do not be­lieve in taking insurance policies while the few who do sometimes do not pay their premium as at when due. My compatriots have more be­lief in faith clinics than in taking practical steps to avert or mitigate calamities.
It is high time government also incentivized the private sector to invest in Fire Service sec­tor. It is noteworthy that with the exception of very few corporate organisations, the Fire Ser­vice is dominated by the government. Yet, little is invested by government in this sector. That is why the Firemen cannot respond quickly to dis­tress calls. Even when they eventually get there, the archaic equipment they work with cannot accomplish much. Not many of us know that Fire Service has a role to play in house and of­fice design including town planning. For in­stance, designing many housing estates without input from the Fire Service has made it impos­sible for them to gain unfettered access to ac­cident scenes in the event of fire emergencies. Private homes and companies as well as pub­lic buildings are supposed to have fire extin­guishers just as it’s required in the vehicles but this is observed in breach as there is no effec­tive enforcement mechanism in place. Our fire service is too poorly funded to embark on any meaningful enforcement drive. Eternal vig­ilance is the price of liberty, let us all be care­ful this dry season so that we do not become victim of fire outbreak.
•Jide is the Executive Director of OJA De­velopment Consult, Abuja. Follow me on twitter @jideojong.