Destruction of Alafin’s Palace: Matters Arising – Femi Falana

By Femi Falana (SAN)

A fortnight ago, the Palace of the Alafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi was gutted by fire. Although the fire started at about 6 am on January 8, 2013 it was reported to have raged uncontrollably before the arrival of fire fighters an hour later. In the process, the inferno destroyed about 21 rooms in the ancient palace.

Although no life was lost, the damage to the palace is said to be extensive.

I wish to join other concerned Nigerians in sympathising with the Alafin of Oyo over the unfortunate incident.

However, Oba Adeyemi is indeed lucky that a more beautiful and befitting palace will emerge from the rubble as both the Federal Government and the Oyo State Government as well as some political leaders have pledged to rebuild the burnt palace.

While the official undertaking to rebuild the palace is a demonstration of sensitivity on the part of the Government the lessons from the fire incident should not be lost on Nigerians. Since the early morning conflagration resulted from a power surge, according to palace sources, the Oyo State Government should direct the Ministry of Justice to sue the Power Holding Company of Nigeria for negligence.

There are cases recently decided by our courts where PHCN has been made to pay colossal monetary damages in similar circumstances.

As the fire brigade office is a stone’s throw from the Alafin’s palace in the ancient town of Oyo the late arrival of the fire fighters should be investigated. The criminal negligence displayed by the fire fighters in the circumstance should be taken up by the Oyo State Government to serve as a deterrent to other disaster management agencies.

It is pertinent to state that in a capitalist society the Government has no business rebuilding burnt which were not insured due to the carelessness of the owners. Instead of channelling public funds to rebuild the burnt houses of the rich and well connected individuals Governments should ensure that all public buildings and places of monuments are insured. The other a former head of government was singing and dancing when his mansion was on fire. He did not hesitate to announce to all and sundry that the edifice was going to be rebuilt with public funds! If the practice of assisting a few people to rebuild their houses which are lost to fire is not discontinued forthwith the Governments may soon be compelled to compensate every victim of natural and man-made disasters. After all, all citizens are equal before the law and entitled to the same rights and privileges

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