It is no longer headline news that the popular Prince Ebeano supermarket one of the most patronized chain retail malls that happens to be Made in Nigeria, went up in flames in Lekki Phase 1 last week, precisely at about 4pm on the 3rd of November 2015. For me it was a very sad occurrence not only because I take a keen interest in Commercial/Retail and Hospitality Projects but also because this is one of our own. In recent time, we have been served by Shoprite; a popular retail brand from South Africa. Clearly they have done enough of their homework to not only infiltrate the Nigerian market but also sit firmly as the sole foreign retail chain to have a foot print in almost all major cities in the Country.
Like me, some interested Nigerians may be awaiting the report stating the cause of fire but without much ado one can assume the fire was caused either by negligence of staff, carelessness of a customer, poor service infrastructure, lack of or inadequate firefighting systems, amongst others.
The growth of commercial and hospitality developments in Lagos within the past 8 years has been phenomenal; from the towering hoteliers along the Ozumba corridor all the way to Oniru. To the office complexes & commercial Developments in most of inner Victoria Island; further to the conspicuous mixed-used high-rise developments, luxury short/long stay apartments, all along Kingsway road and Ikoyi. These developments have been encouraged by the new Lagos state Model City master plan for the Development of Victoria Island-Ikoyi Corridor, this master plan is said to run from 2013-2033 but was only finalized around February this year. (For details on the master plan, click here )
Haven known this, one needs to ask, as a Nigerian beyond insurance what kind of measures need to be put in place in order to pro-actively protect these huge investments. There has been no report from witnesses that any fire alarm went off, nor any sprinklers triggered on, neither were the available extinguishers sufficient or positioned appropriately to help tackle the fire. Another very disappointing yet not too surprising issue was the snail speed approach the fire fighters and the police took to tackling this fire. Regardless of the dwindling infrastructure by a gradually weakening government of Lagos state, one would think that the Lagosians, the service men, Nigerians would be on their feet immediately they hear it is one of our indigenous retail malls being gutted with fire. Alas! what do we do? - we sit on our behinds as usual, until it is too late.
Finally, regardless of all these known issues it is imperative that effort is made for an independent investigation to be carried out in order to determine the cause of fire. It will also be helpful if Nigerians begin to develop a culture of value for Nigerian lives and indigenous businesses, because they have the capacity to change lives for our people.
Subsequently, for future projects here are my few suggestions
- Legislation – Stricter conditions for executing a commercial, retail, industrial or hospitality project in Lagos or any other state for that matter. It is important for these laws, if available, be implemented as these buildings can have serious adverse effect on the Environment.
- Environmental Impact Assessment - An Environmental Impact Assessment must be carried out by Developers and enforced by the authority as a condition to the development.
- Approval Drawings - It is common for planning authorities to be interested in Architectural & Structural Drawings for residences but for Commercial buildings the Service Drawings (Mechanical, Electrical & specialized installations) have to be demanded as well without prejudice to any party.
- Automatic Fire Suppression systems - Planning authorities must insist on Automatic fire suppression systems which control and extinguish fires without human intervention. An example I have had personal experience with is the FM-200 fire suppression system which we used on a few sites in RCCG CAMP and it has been tested and proven.
- Routine fire drills - This should be carried out in such retail buildings just as it is in many commercial banks today, so as to monitor fire response time; this can save lives in time of actual fire
- Culture Change - The rather archaic "belief" that "God wont let it happen!" or "It is not my portion" would only get any business man into debt, if he fails to have the necessary precautions in his building, whether commercial or private.
- Precautions - This could include,
- Insurance - The varying form of Life insurance and the varying forms of Fire & consequential loss insurance, Accident & workmen compensation and finally burglary.
- Safety & Security - Installing safety measures from project design and planning.
Let us hope we now have a new set of ministers who will ensure they do everything within their power to resolve many of these issues so that our economy can be fairly diversified and positioned for the future
Gregg Ihenyen - Gregg, is an Architect and Entrepreneur with over 7 years industry wide experience spanning Real Estate and Architecture; with a keen focus on hospitality & commercial Developments. He is an executive director atLavaar Atelier Company ltd, he lives and works in Lekki Metropolis.
LinkedIn - Gregg Ihenyen
Facebook - Gregg Ihenyen
Twitter - @greggihenyen