Eboda: There are Risks in Event Planning


Bayo Adeoye

For one who hails from the south western part of Nigeria, Barrister (Mrs.) Oluwakemi Tenidade Eboda is not enthusiastic about attending parties. Not an aversion for socialising but she still believes certain buttons are not in place with event planning in Nigeria.

A qualified legal practitioner and the Chief Risk Analyst of Event Basics Limited, she is passionate about producing events in a responsible and safe manner. This drew her to being a disciple of event safety management which she preaches everywhere.

Recently, she hosted the Nigerian Event Safety Summit which had in attendance safety professionals from far and near. Wondering why she decided host the global event in Nigeria?
According to Eboda who is a certified Health, Safety and Environment professional, it was high time Nigerians especially event planners embraced safety management of events.

“The Event Safety Summit is an annual event organised by the Event Safety Alliance USA, a non-governmental association committed to eliminating unsafe acts and practices in the live event industry. The association extended its affiliates right to Nigeria through our company and endorsed the Nigerian Event Safety Summit.

“Everyone has a role to play in putting on a safe event. However, the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that both workers and guests make it home at the end of the day lies squarely on the shoulders of an event’s leadership both legally and dutifully. Despite this awesome obligation, the event industry lacked until now, a comprehensive safety awareness programme tailored to specific needs of those working in leadership positions. Our events court so much risks that they have become norms. The inaugural Nigerian Event Safety Summit has the objectives of exposing the many associated risks embedded in event planning businesses including venue management.”

A Certified Event Safety Practitioner from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Eboda still believes strongly that event planning in Nigeria cannot be scored high. Giving her reasons, she said, “Though event planning has evolved to be a multi-billion naira business in the last decade unfortunately, it lacks structure.

This is because most of the time, the activities that make up our events are dangerous and the planners are not aware of this. A lot of times, our events have witnessed unfavorable and preventable accidents which could have been identified before the event was even executed. All over the world, it is not allowed for an event organiser to execute an event without the necessary approval from government agencies/authorities but in Nigeria, events are organised by the whims and caprices of the event planners.

Earlier in the year, as a member of the Event Safety Alliance, she attended the event safety summit that took place abroad, she was the only African in the midst of whites who are top-notch events managers, artistes managers etc who are interested in eradicating unpleasant acts at events worldwide. She was not happy that she was the only one present.

There and then, she brokered an affiliate right with Event Safety Alliance who are the organisers of the event safety summit to extend their affiliate right to Nigeria which they did. This is the first time they are establishing presence in any African country.

Her interest in safety management sprang from her experience as a tall, lanky child who was always falling! But she changed gears as an undergraduate of the Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye. Then she realized there were contributory encumbrances. She recalled: “I realised that it wasn’t that I was entirely clumsy but that there were unsafe conditions on my way—I had my right of way encumbered. As I grew older, I realised that it was not that I was clumsy but contributory negligence was the cause.

Although, I hopped more than I walked back then but still most of those falls could have been prevented but for the unsafe conditions of my immediate environment which were as a result of the unsafe acts of people; in simpler term carelessness. Although this reduced my falls significantly, it also struck a chord of concern in me for others who lived in ignorance. My motto then became, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I advocated this personal philosophy whenever and wherever I could and it birthed a knack for organization I never knew I possessed.”

Her skill at event planning was honed at the university where she helped organized parties for students. The wife and mother recalled enthusiastically that, “Also, as an undergraduate, I helped plan events especially masters degree students who had no time to cook or have an organised party. I cooked a lot in school and I made sure nothing stood in the way of others that could cause any form of accident. I criticised activities that constituted our events. I was very thorough and enforced good housekeeping values though it was tough getting people to comply because they just could not understand why they couldn’t litter since they still had to sweep eventually. I was tagged Mamazilla! I remained undaunted, continued to cater and volunteered my help to coordinate parties whenever I could.

As much as I loved to organise these parties I never became so absorbed in the excitement and merriment as I was more engrossed with ‘wagging war’ on encumbrances and ensuring clutter free events. I was constantly on the lookout for any condition likely to cause accidents though I didn’t understand what I did back then but one thing I was sure about was that I was not ready to suffer falls and as such knew it was therefore my sole responsibility to ensure I didn’t break a leg by constantly being on the lookout for myself and more importantly others! People just love to litter everywhere with all sort at parties. I still find such acts to be unfathomable.”

By the time she graduated, she had registered her business name, Event Basics Ltd. Then she was called to the Nigerian Bar and she reminisced, “I was very excited for what the future held for me as an Event Planner. The concept of consulting an event planner for parties was relatively new in Nigeria back then but it was one which gained recognition and acceptance quickly. However, I realised that the more events I planned, the more unfulfilled I became. I ventured into different aspects of event planning yet I didn’t get the much anticipated contentment. I yearned for what I couldn’t put substance to. I saw mostly what was wrong with the way our events were executed much more than the ideas behind them. I had no idea how to deal with this knowledge much more what it entailed.”

Luck smiled on her when she attended a seminar in the Unites States. The bubbly Eboda said, “This quest took me to Event Solutions Idea Factory, Las Vegas, USA, organised by Event Solutions Institute where I earned a certificate in Event and Corporate Planning in 2008.It was at the summit that I read in the training brochure presentations on introduction to Risk and Safety Management for Events. It dawned on me instantly that Risk and Safety were the missing limbs in my concept of event planning.

I heaved a sigh of relief that I wasn’t paranoid after all and that the faults I found in the methods of event execution and activities had precedents. I attended the training sessions which were organised by the same institute in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. One of the presenters was Julia Rutherford Silvers, a renowned lecturer of Meetings and Event Risk Management at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. The training set my journey into the sustainable world of Event Risk and Safety Management. I became certified in 2008. I have not looked back since then. Though the journey has not been easy, I enjoy what I do— I was a columnist in The Nation; I tried to organise workshops for event planners in past.”

However, those event planners see her as the devil’s advocate. “When you highlight the risks involved in event planning and what they need to do, they see you as evil and you get responses like, “I reject it in Jesus name.” These event planners have forgotten that the only way to stop accident from happening is to have documented risks and assessment plan and we can proffer control measure to prevent such accidents in future. However, I remained undaunted and sought out better and improved ways to get the message of Event Safety Management across to stakeholders. Thus in June 2011 I organized the first ever Event Risk and Safety seminar in Nigeria.

It was a two days’ event and we had presentations on diverse aspects of safety as it relates to event management. It was such a herculean task putting the event together since we had no corporate sponsors and had to shoulder the burden of most of the expenses we incurred. Event planning is a dangerous business, more dangerous than the job of a brain surgeon because you are attending to many people at the same time. All that we used to preach in the past are now happening—fire incidents, fire, and other havocs.

Asked if the Lagos born and bred attend parties and she said, “Yes, I do but I don’t get lost in the moment. Once I get into your venue, I am scanning, looking for exits and I see unsafe conditions. There are 2000 guests in a venue and there is only one exit. Imagine if there was a fire?
Aside events safety advocacy, Eboda said she offers legal services to victims of events centres, entertainment venues, workshops etc. As long as your duty has been breached we render our legal service and help get necessary redress.