Nigeria Customs, LASEMA differ on cause, extent of fire at Lagos warehouse

Lagos warehouse engulfed by fire.

Different reports have emerged concerning the fire incident that gutted customs warehouse and destroyed goods and properties worth millions in Lagos.

On Thursday, at about 2 p.m., fire gutted the customs federal operations unit, zone ‘A’ annex warehouse where several cars and trucks were reported destroyed.

Reports on cause of fire and number of vehicles destroyed was shrouded in secrecy as the customs tried to downplay on cause and extent of damage.

Jerry Attah, PRO of the customs command, told PREMIUM TIMES that four “rickety vehicles” were involved in the inferno.

“Yes, fire gut a section of our warehouse annex, which was called mechanical workshop. It is a place where some seized vehicles were warehoused.

“One of the trucks that was parked there over a long period of time, the gas cylinder attached to it, because of heat, exploded. It was the explosion that led to the fire. Fortunately enough for us, with the assistance of Lagos State Fire Service and LASEMA, the fire was put off on time.

“Two trucks and four vehicles were affected. The vehicles burnt were such used for smuggling turkey from the borders. They are long seized. They have been here for the past three years. They are rickety vehicles used for smuggling.

“The two trucks burnt came in here since last year. One of the trucks was even carrying 600 bags of smuggled rice. Because our warehouse was filled to the brim, so we kept the rice in the truck and cover it for safety.

“Some part of the rice was destroyed before the fire was put off. So as I speak to you, they are doing evacuation, sorting it out to know the quantity of rice that was damaged.”

Contrary to customs’ submission, the General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), Adesina Tiamiyu gave a different report.

LASEMA report showed that the fire started from a burning bush within same warehouse the vehicles were parked.

“Distress calls were received regarding fire outbreak at Nigerian Custom Service Office, Ikeja on Thursday 4th January, 2018 regarding the fire outbreak. This prompted the immediate activation of the Agency’s Response Team to the scene of incident, who arrived at the incident scene.

“On arrival at the scene of the incident, it was discovered that several vehicles (12 cars and 6 trucks) gutted by fire.

“Further investigation carried out revealed that fire started due to bush burning activity within the axis the vehicles are parked.

No loss of lives nor injury sustained.

“The Lagos Fire Service and NPF were responders at the scene of the incident. The fire was being put out by the Lagos Fire Service and the LASEMA Response Team Fire Unit,” Mr Adesina submitted.

When contacted, the spokesman for the Nigerian Police Force, Lagos Command, Chike Oti, said he had not been briefed on the fire.

“I am not officially aware of the fire incident at the customs office. I only heard of it in the news. So I cannot give you any figure concerning that,” he said.

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