On Thursday, January 21, 2016, at about noon, Samsung Digital building at14, Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, went up on flames. Goods and property worth millions of naira were destroyed. The fire was said to have started from the store house, while some witnesses said it could be from the power house. The Lagos State Fire Services were there to put out the inferno in spite of the challenge they encountered. ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with the General Manager of the company, Fab Uzor.
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Fab Uzor, the General Manager of the company, SIMS Nigeria Limited.
How did the inferno begin?
I will put it this way: We are still not able to identify the source or what triggered the fire for now. We are still investigating, that is why we have the Loss Adjusters here. They want to really find out what the cause of the fire was. For now, nobody can give you an answer as to what caused the fire until adequate and proper investigation is concluded.
Where were you as at the time of the incident?
I was at the head office in Victoria Island, Lagos. We were called that there is fire outbreak here. So we all headed down here.
What was the response of the public to the fire?
They started evacuation immediately and called the fire service at the same time. Fire service came but they were not properly equipped to handle the situation. There was no gas mask, they didn’t even have a ladder. It was like though they were here but unprepared. They didn’t have the equipment to handle the magnitude of the fire. That was what exactly happened. They wasted some time before the commencement of operation.
They were not able to gain access to the vital points because they didn’t have the mask. That was why there was delay and the damage became severe.
If you are to estimate the damage in naira and kobo, how much do you think would have been lost to the inferno?
You can see what happened to the structure. The building already had a structural defect. We started from there to avoid putting people’s lives at risk. And being a two storey structure, you could see the impact on the building which, of course will take a lot of money to fix. It runs into hundreds of millions of naira to renovate.
Talking about your products, were you able to secure them?
We were able to evacuate some of the products but you could see the warehouse was razed down. The ones in the show room, they were able to evacuate them, because they had access to and quickly they did that to avoid casualty.
So, what is the next action now?
The next action is what we are doing now. The insurance people are here. They will investigate and inspect the whole thing. They need to come up with their report. Police also were here. The fire service also came. So, what we want to do now is to start cleaning up the place. Once they finish their investigation, we will start skeletal services, so that customers can still purchase their goods and do their business while we do a major renovation of the structure.
Would you still be using the same building for your services?
Definitely, we have been here for a decade.
But considering the safety of people, what is your take?
They have identified the areas they are going to work on. We will start skeletal services upstairs and outside until the whole place can be fixed.
This would take you like how many days or months?
Honestly, until we get the structural engineers to advice us, we can’t give any information as to the duration of the renovation and even the amount it’s going to gulp.
But from your own point of view, what do you think might have been the cause of this fire?
Anything could have been responsible for this. What anybody says now is in the realm of speculation. We are not experts. We can’t give you information on that.
Story and pictures -DAPO ADESEKO