Good one from Lagos - The Nation

By The Citizen

•A N5 million grant to a fireman, injured in the line of duty, is a great boost for morale

It would not take away his scars but it would soothe his mind. That is the bitter-sweet story of Sikiru Agbaje, a fireman in the employ of the Lagos State Fire Service, who sustained severe burns on his hands, legs and other parts of his body, and was hospitalised for more than two months after.

Mr. Agbaje got his injuries on January 3, 2013, at a blazing property at 20, Akinjoro Street, in Abaranje, Ikotun, a Lagos suburb. He was one of the firemen drafted to save the house. For Mr. Agbaje therefore, it was a new year that brought nothing but terrible omen, though it was all in a day's job.

But 2014 appears to have brought better news. Oyinlomo Danmole, Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, the supervising ministry of the state's Fire Service, has presented Mr. Agbaje a cheque for N5 million.

'Governor Babatunde Fashola approved a grant of N5 million to you and directed in a letter that if the assistance is not enough, we should see what we can do to make your life comfortable.'

That is good a news as anything can be. It is true N5 million cannot pay for the pain, the anguish and the trauma the fireman has gone through. It cannot also achieve the magic of making his burns vanish.

Still, the grant is more than paying or not paying for trauma. It is prime recognition by the state's authorities that Mr. Agbaje's heroism and industry have not gone unnoticed. Mr. Agbaje and his family should be supremely pleased by that. And if the fireman's psyche is lightened, his body would be more receptive to treatment and eventual healing.

It is on the score of this admirable sensitivity to a lowly citizen's plight that the Fashola government deserves praise. With the kind gesture it has extended to Mr. Agbaje, other firemen, and indeed other state workers who could run into storm in the course of their daily work, would most probably face their jobs with more fervour, knowing that should anything go wrong, the state government would not turn its back on them.

That the gesture is to a fireman is even more instructive. The Fire Service is one of the most vital agencies in a modern setting. Yet, there is a certain coolness towards that service, by authorities across the board, that underscores the fact that it should enjoy more quality attention.

But inasmuch as the gesture to Mr. Agbaje is commendable, those engaged in such hazardous tasks should enjoy structural protection, which automatically results in befitting compensation immediately such accidents happen. Mr. Agbaje's case, as good as it sounds, appears like a one-off thing. That should not be, though that should not take anything from the goodness of the grant.

Much more importantly, good old prevention is always better than cure. It is better to protect firemen on duty against accidents than trying to lessen their trauma. Which is why, the news that the state government has acquired, for the Fire Service, protective gears, is pleasant to hear. Not only that: according to the Fire Service authorities, these gears would be complemented by modern fire-fighting equipment, to arrive the country soon.

That is how it should be. From whom much is expected, much should be given. The Fire Service, as we found from the September 11, 2001 attack on New York, United States, is a crucial safety valve in any modern setting. With processed chemicals at Man's beck and call for development, the inevitable fire is closer than most people think.

That is why the Fire Service must be given its pride of place.