My last article on the subject matter elicited some controversial reactions; in short, I was inundated with avalanche of calls.
The tone and message of the critical reactions was not limited to an expression of dismay; the inability of the Government to uphold the original urban plan for Onitsha setting.
The last time, we perhaps heard about Onitsha Master Plan was during the immediate past administration; presently this Government has being silent on anything concerning master plan.
Urbanization is all about master plan; the beauty of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja cannot be told without mentioning the ingenuity of the former FCT minister Mallam El-Rufai.
As such, Onitsha cannot attain or be fully urbanized without strict adherence to its master plan.
The Fire outbreak of February 15, 2017 raised a lot of questions concerning the Onitsha residents’ safety.
It’s an eye-opener and a precursor for an urgent and aggressive return to/review of the Onitsha Master plan.
It is highly regrettable that the Upper New Market Road which experienced this ugly incident has 5 operational Filling Stations.
All of them without a single Over-head water tank or Borehole in case of fire incident!
The situation is as bad as this that even when a little fire erupts the management of the stations would only purchase “pure water” to quench the fire.
Nevertheless, they do make do make millions of naira from their businesses; without safety measures to the detriment of the residents.
Most alarming, is that 90% of the Filling Stations in Onitsha are close or some steps away from residential buildings.
In short, the National Filling Station that was gutted by fire had only a fence separating it from a residential building that erupted with fire also and rendered many homeless.
Even the Ime-Obi Palace of His Royal Majesty Igwe Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe (Agbogidi) is only 3 steps away from a Petrol station in Awka Road.
Nonetheless, these Filling Stations have no water over-head tank against infernos; they invariably hope on the residents to be equipped and alert with their bucket of water incase fire starts.
Ironically, these Filling stations received Government approval before setting up their businesses.
The questions that now remain is: does the Government have the safety of the citizens’ at heart when approving the setting up of these facilities?
The safety of the citizens’ is the basic priority of any descent government.
The Government of Anambra state is thereby beckoned to put the management of Filling Stations on notice; concerning their safety measures.
Each Filling Station should have a functional Overhead water reversed tank/Borehole.
Secondly, the Association of Filling Station Owners in Onitsha & environs should have an exclusive standby Fire service vehicle; since their business points are situated close to residential areas.
The drivers of these Petrol Tankers should be of sound mind (have Anambra state permit card) and expertise; whereas their vehicles are to be serviced optimally to avoid Break failures.
It might not be economically beneficial to suggest outright relocation of these Filling stations out of Onitsha residential areas because of how densely populated Onitsha is at the moment.
However, safety measures should be put in place to guard against colossal loss of this magnitude.
By Anona Ugochukwu