The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Surveillant Fire Limited, Jumade Adejola, reviews the safety sector in 2018 and why the poor state of an economy should not be an excuse for not taking safety precautions. Raheem Akingbolu provides the excerpts:
Looking back, how would you say the safety sector fared in year 2018?
If you want to look back, business was dull and low. But looking at the safety business, it has been average. Either business is good or not, you must ensure that your business and your environment are safe. That is sine qua non. We may say, compared with previous years, we could say the performance was about sixty per cent on the average. And this was due to the fact that most of the people we do business with too had low business performance. I can say that government actually was trying to ensure that there were greater times ahead.
In the fire safety sector, I can say it has been a win-win situation. We have been able to enter into agreement with our OEM (original equipment manufacturers) to be giving us credit facilities because they too were not selling. We didn’t want to go to bank to go and borrow and what we could do (and which we did) was to enter into agreement with them to give us materials on credit. We have integrity and the loyalty we have enjoyed in the past has made it possible for us to enjoy the opportunities we are enjoying today. Now, we were able to go to more clients and we told them that they didn’t need to pay us at once since we already had the materials in the warehouse. We could now start the job with about forty per cent upfront payment and then spread the balance. And our clients have been very happy with that arrangement.
You are an apostle of people going vertical in buildings and the need to ensure safety. How much of this message do you think actually sank in in 2018?
Between you and I, people seem to have realised that safety in vertical building is key. If there is fire on say seventh floor, how do you jump out? So they too are now upgrading their facilities; especially fire safety facilities. They have been contacting us and it is no longer business as usual. There is a conference coming up in April by Securex and one of the major topics to be discussed is fire safety in tall buildings which I am going to anchor based on experience from Singapore and London.
Vertical buildings could be residential or for office. If for residential or office, are we talking of same safety precautions?
Yes, it is since we are talking of human being occupying same buildings either for office accommodation or residential purposes. Safety is very key in the tall building and government, especially Lagos State government, has been harping on this. And the coming conference too will place so much emphasis on this. That is why architects, design and construction engineers, consultants and so on are enjoined to attend this conference. When design engineers finish their jobs, they should look deep and see beyond just fire alarm systems. There are so many things to look at and these go beyond just fire alarm system. Government, through approving agencies, has to ensure that safety precautions are also taken care of. It is not just about approval but also visiting the construction sites to ensure that what they approved is what they are building. And when there are deviations, there should be severe penalties which may include totally bringing down the building if need be. We are talking about human beings. The governor has said he does not have burial grounds and not ready to build more. He does not want mass burials and hence, safety is key. When there is fire in tall buildings, it is always difficult to escape. There must also be first aid facilities. There must be water for fire fighters to put out the fire. If you go to NECA building at Alausa, at the Central Business District, you see that there is enough water in that building to take care of any eventuality and that is how it is supposed to be. As they are using water in that building, it is replenishing. That is the ideal case.
Do high earners who spend hundreds of millions on their buildings take safety serious? I have always felt they are part of the it-is-not-my portion crowd.
No. They take safety serious and I can tell you they don’t joke with it. Individuals who spend these huge amounts of money also ensure that they take safety serious. It is not even about them; it is about the engineers who supervise these buildings.
You are very close to the Lagos State Safety Commission. What would you recommend they focus on in 2019?
The Commission has been active and they know what they are doing but they have to be more proactive in the area of safety awareness and advocacy. They need to do serious safety campaign as the most populous city in the whole of Africa. They Commission needs to work more with safety consultants and agents and be more aggressive in their project monitoring. When I say aggressive, they need to ensure that people carry out safety precautions when erecting a building. They have to be sure that what they are building is according to specifications. What is even the qualification of those people saying they are project consultants?
At Survelliant Fire Limited, what are your projections for 2019?
The first projection is to start where we stopped in the year that just ended and continue we what we were doing. We also want to help our clients in financial management. It is not easy; when people want to invest large sums of money in a project and will be looking on how to fund their projects. If our suppliers could give us products on credit, then we should extend that to our clients too. All we need is to sit down and work things out. One thing about us is that when a client gives us a project, we don’t have to wait and be calling our suppliers. Reason being that we already have these things in our warehouse. That is one edge we have which others don’t have. By the grace of God, when we are opening our new office some times in March this year, we will invite our suppliers and clients to come and see how far we have gone in this business.