The Coalition of Event Professionals, a body which comprises about eight event practitioners association in Nigeria has resolved to make safety a priority in the multibillion-naira event industry. This is to ascertain that they are not only about profit-making but also safety across the value chain.
This was established during the coalition’s maiden edition of Event Safety Summit covered by Qudus Adewole from Ebonymediagist with the theme Making Safety Our Priority. The conference which had the Commissioner of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism ably represented by the Permanent Secretary, Princess Adenike Adedoyin Ajayi was well attended by professionals in the field.
The Perm Sec noted that the inaugural event showed that event and hospitality practitioners prioritize safety and that they are not solely about profit but are concerned about their clients who are members of the public. She added: ‘The Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Tourism in conjunction with Lagos State Safety Commission following the outbreak of COVID-19 developed a safety guidelines which was strictly enforced and is still being enforced by the safety commission. We will not hesitate to continue to enforce safety standards from our practitioners.’
‘We will also partner with organizations that will help to promote safety culture in all of our public places. We are aware that the issues of safety is one that is very key to tourists and investors and we will continue to address this holistically in our efforts to attract tourists and investors to Lagos state. We are aware of the multiplier effect that a single event bring to the entire value chain and the economy of the state. We need you and we need your business in the state. On behalf of the Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu, Commissioner Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, and the entire ministry, I say thank you for putting this together.’
The Head of Agege Fire Station, Mrs. Funmilayo Johnson Abiri trained on the importance of fire safety in the event industry. ‘We are here to talk about the importance of fire safety which is key in event management. You need to train your staff on how to use fire safety equipment. Good housekeeping is important to be maintained. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets must be trained. Generator exhaust must be properly directed. You can’t be refueling while generator is working. Fire drills must be conducted regularly.’
‘Safety moments must be conducted before the commencement of every show. This is when you tell everyone what to do when things happen. Then we talk about emergency response plans that you put in place when a fire emergency happens. First, raise an alarm. There must be an alarm panel that you activate or you raise constructive alarm not to start shouting that will cause panic. Second, evacuate the building and don’t use lift because it might not work when there is fire. Third, call fire service through Lagos State Toll Free Line 767 or 112. Fourth, go to the assembly point. Fifth, take roll call.’
On the activities of the Fire Service to ensure that all event centres are compliant with fire standards, she said: ‘We have days when we go to event centres to assess their environment and give them a report in which we make recommendations to them. The Safety Commission then enforces compliance.’
The summit also had a panel session where the issues of safety were further dissected. The panel had a safety marshal, Mr. Eddie Lawani; a safety expert, Dr. Wale Adeboye; and a food safety expert Tokunbo Odebunmi on the panel.
Dr. Wale Adeboye shared: ‘We need to make safety a culture. When people plan events they spend millions on every other thing but when you say let’s have measures in place for safety, they say it is not necessary.’
On the idea that Lagos began to take safety serious during the pandemic, he argued: ‘In fairness, it is way before the pandemic that we started registering events. I came into the industry in 2009. I am a medical doctor. I was at an event when the artiste collapsed on stage and there was no ambulance. They were calling into the crowd ‘any medical doctor here’
‘That’s when we started pushing in 2016 and we found that many event centres don’t even have fire extinguishers. How do you cope without that? Our people just want to do their party, they say our standards are too much.’
‘But when the pandemic came, we said we can’t continue like this. This is an opportunity. Let’s take the advantage. We say any population that is above 200, you must have a safety marshal at your event to ensure you have safety measures in place. Sometimes, the safety marshals circumvent the process by collecting bribes.’
‘Another thing we will do is to create an entry barrier into the industry. You can’t just start calling yourself an event planner. There must be criteria. They must be part of an association. You can no longer be a lone ranger. You must have a level of event management training and safety training to get into the industry. We are just beginning.’
The safety marshal, Eddie Lawani clarified that for every event, they set up a safety unit and do a safety risk assessment evaluation and we do a solution checklist to every risk identified. ‘I have shut down an event at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa during President Obasanjo administration because they weren’t adhering to safety. I stick to my decision that the exit point blocked by soldiers should be reopened in case of emergency. This is despite threat of the soldiers. Interestingly, after one week of the event, the managers of the hall called me that they have learned something new due to the event. Sometimes you have to be ready to defend your safety enforcement decision.’
He advised all safety marshals to insist on due diligence in safety, ‘For every event, get professional advice, practice it, live it, and stand your ground. You may never know who you are saving by insisting that things be done the right way.’
For Tokunbo Odebunmi, the CEO of Safety Plus who has over 30 years of experience in food industry, he said: ‘Safety is a journey. There is no destination to it. So we need to keep doing it. When you enter some events, you see people are frying small chops where people are sitting. Some are even cooking and people are sweating. If something were to happen, what do people do. We need to have risk assessment of what we do.’
‘There is so much to learn about food safety, fire safety, public protection policy, and so on. If you will get into catering in the UK, it is not by accident. There is something we say ‘if there is a blame, there is a claim’. If I eat something at an event and I am throwing up in the middle of the night, I don’t even meet the caterer, I sue the venue and they fish out the organizers and that’s the way it goes.’
On her part, Mrs. Funke Kuyoro, the Chairman of Association of Party Planners and Event Managers of Nigeria, a body that currently have over 250 registered members, ‘As an association, we need to have standards that everyone coming into the industry must know. We work with the Safety Commission. This is the basics.’
Mrs. Kuyoro added: ‘The next thing we will do now is to have a town hall meeting which we would probably have before the end of the year. We have heard people talk to us, it’s to talk to ourselves. This is so that at events, we can have a similar Standard Operating Procedures.’
Many attendees at the event were very elated at the quality of thoughts and ideas shared in the one-day event. Susan Ajibade, the CEO of a healthy food and drinks company, noted: ‘This is a brilliant event. It’s been very impactful. Safety has a big influence on my business and a lot of questions have been answered here that I have got knowledge. Exercise is important for us. You don’t have to go to the gym but on a daily basis, engage in exercise.’
The President of the Association of Professional party organizers and event managers of Nigeria Mrs Adefunke Kuyoro while speaking to newsmen said after the summit,everyone in the event cycle will come together to have a town hall meeting with stakeholders on the best ways of making things work.
The ebullient woman who doubles as
President of Association of Venue Owners remarked: ‘for a lot of venues to get approval from Lagos state, we believe there were some guidelines that were followed. I must be sincere that a lot of venues don’t have space, they just make do with what they have.’
‘With what we have learned today, I know that our venues will go and see how they can make adjustments. It will also help us to talk to party planners about what we can provide in our venues so that if you need more than that, you may need to look at other places.
Susan Ajibade a participant during her interview expressed her excitement saying that the event was very educative and impactful especially in the area of food safety. She further went to commend the organisers of the program on a job well done which they are expecting more from them.