It’s a normal Saturday morning in the Olusesan household in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Bisola the Mother of the house is busy alternating between cleaning and getting breakfast ready for her 3 kids and her husband.
She had spent a considerable time mopping different parts of the expansive 3-bedroom flat in a compound of 3 other flats. She had a housekeeper that lives with them to assist with some of the chores and she beckoned on her to make eggs for the kids while she went to bathe them.
Lara, the housekeeper was humming as she entered the kitchen and was oblivious of the smell of gas and picked up the matchbox and struck a match. The explosion threw her away and shattered the kitchen windows and cabinets.
Bode the husband heard the explosion in the room where he was working on his laptop and his first thought was to head to where the kids were. He found them with his wife shaken and scared, but they all seemed okay. His wife shouted, “Lara is in the kitchen” and he immediately raced to the kitchen and found her on the ground with severe burns on her body. By this time, the neighbours had gathered and she was rushed to the nearest hospital, a victim of a gas leak.
An investigation into the incident showed that one of the gas burner knobs had been left open and gas was slowly sipping out throughout the night and all that was required was for a match to be struck to ignite the inferno.
Unknown to all concerned was that the culprit was neither Lara or Bisola (the two people most involved in cooking and use of the gas cooker), but it was Titilayo the 4-year-old daughter of the Olusesans. She had seen her mom and Lara turn the knob and start a fire to cook and she wanted to try it out. She was apparently interrupted as she opened the gas knob and left it in that state until Lara came in the next morning and the explosion happened. Thankfully, the diagnosis is that she will be fine and did not require any skin graft as she suffered only minor burns.
Tunde drops off Ibrahim, his co-worker at Oshodi Oke bus-stop and as he joins the slow-moving traffic on the bridge, he sees a guy approach him from the driver’s side and before he could react, another guy had jumped into his car and sat beside him. The new occupant shows him a gun and orders him to handover his phone, wallet and other valuables.
After collecting all these, he directs him to park the car in a secluded part of the expressway and he jumps out into the night. Tunde was left in shock and wondered how the guy got into his car so easily. The problem is Tunde’s car though it has auto-lock function when the gear is engaged, does not lock itself once a passenger alights. Tunde did not initiate the manual lock and so the passenger side door was open when his colleague got down from the car.
The above scenarios are fictional but are events that can occur in homes and on the roads in any busy part of Nigeria if adequate precautions are not taken. We expend most of our energy on the security of the household and relegate our safety to the background. We spend thousands of Naira on armored doors, guards and all the other things that give us greater security, but are unwilling to invest in smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, good tyres and other common-sense approaches that will enhance our overall safety.
Security and Safety are two words that appear to mean the same thing, but in truth are different. Our tendency to highlight one over the other has led us to become focused on one and nonchalant in relation to the other.
According to the website, Ask.com, “Safety means keeping yourself and others free from harm or danger. It means taking care not to fall or bump or run into things. It also means to avoid accidents by being careful with what you are doing.”
Security on the other hand is freedom from or resilience against potential harm (or other unwanted coercive change) caused by others.
Let us think of safety as the everyday steps and decisions we take to enable us navigate our activities in the course of each day. Some of these steps and decisions might include using the pedestrian bridge on a 10-lane expressway, facing oncoming traffic as you walk on a two-lane road, making sure pins and small objects that can be swallowed are kept away in the house, ensuring kids have no access to where drugs are kept, etc.
The list is endless, but the key thing is to always have a critical view of each situation and to implement a common-sense approach. Security on the other hand can be all the practical/tangible means of ensuring creating a barrier between us and anyone that could potentially do us harm.
A traffic light is just as important as equipping the Police where the welfare of the people is concerned. The carnage the absence of traffic lights can cause is exemplified by the Lekki axis after the damage done to the traffic lights in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests in Lagos. Apart from the traffic pile-up on most days, there were incidences of fatal crashes involving vehicles unshackled from the direction and control of the traffic lights.
Back to the first scenario I shared about the gas explosion, this is something that has a greater chance of occurrence. This has made some people avoid the use of gas altogether while in truth the issue is not the gas, but people not being careful with its use. I for one, I’m an advocate of placing the cylinder beside the gas cooker. This has the advantage of allowing the user to turn on and off from the cylinder itself.
Also, at a glance, it is easy to know when the knob on the cylinder is off or on. My issue with the cylinder placed outside is that it is perpetually in the on position as going outside to turn it off and on is a bit cumbersome. The danger here is that like in the first scenario, it’s so easy for the knob on the cooker itself to be open and an individual that is not discerning or doesn’t know the smell of gas will unknowingly strike a match and engulf the area in flames.
In the second scenario, an unlocked car door is completely avoidable that most people are liable to be victims of especially in a city such as Lagos. Most modern cars have an auto-lock feature that becomes active when the gear is engaged immediately after the engine is switched on. This, however, does not come into effect when the door is opened after the engine has been switched on. It is the responsibility of the driver to re-engage the lock feature as Tunde should have done.
There are instances where safety and security clash in our society and we easily resolve the dispute in favour of security. When we build our homes in Nigeria, we install burglar-proof metals in all the windows and entrances as the name suggests to prevent burglars from getting access into our homes. This appears as a practical solution to a real problem and to most people there is no conflict.
This is not the case in the Western World, where the Fire Marshals would frown at the installation of any impediment to access to the building in the event of a fire. Even though there have been instances in Nigeria where lives could have been saved during a fire outbreak, but the installation of burglar-proof impeded access to the victims; we have weighed the risk of fires and come to the conclusion that there is a higher risk of burglars gaining access to a building than a fire occurring.
As individuals and a group, we have to conduct both a risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis of every situation to determine which approach to take. Downplaying either of security or safety can invariably lead to loss of both lives and properties. In the long run, there should be no need to trade one for the other if we want to build an enduring culture that encourages being proactive.