By; BALA B. BITRUS
On the heels at the exit of the raining season, comes the dry, harmattan of the north easterly wind particularly in Africa, South of the Sahara.
The harmattan is a seasonal wind mostly in Africa which is majorly characterised by it’s peculiar desert-like weather conditions.
The winds blow southward from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea carrying fine particles of dust into the air and moves with speed.
The harmattan period usually begins each year from November of an outgoing year to late March in a succeeding year, lasting between three to four months period which is marked by intense dry and dusty climate.
The dry season which usually spans between the months of November through to March, is characterized by dry hot air, windy breeze, haze at morning hours and heat waves during the day and cold at nights. The season comes with certain health challenges for both man and his environment.
Such conditions including but not limited to eyes infection such as conjuncvitis, air borne diseases, respiratory disorders, skin conditions such as cracked lips and broken skin, cracked soles on human feet and dryness of all surface moisture on soil and ground as humidity is lowered significantly.
Because of its peculiar desert like nature, the onset of the harmattan season brings about conditions that are conducive for wildfires, infernos and such related conflagrations.
The northeasterly trade wind as the harmattan period is known, is characterized by cold, dry dust laden wind even though the period is not same as winter.
Unlike the winter period, the harmattern period brings desert like weather which gravely reduces wetness and humidity, dissipates cloud formations and in it’s place, creates cloud of dust that usually limits visibility in some places.
This periods between November to March are usually dangerous periods for the aviation industry as such weather are not aircrafts friendly and nightmares to pilots.
Especially in Africa, South of the Sahara, and elsewhere, several flights are usually cancelled or grounded as visibility reduces the range in horizon for aircrafts maneuvers.
It is at seasons like this that the winds blows hot, the air is dry and dusty. The dryness makes fire to burn with rage, velocity and ferociously.
The harmattan period is fire friendly. It is time of the year for great caution and preparedness for eventualities.
Therefore it is time for authorities in council areas of the country to step up their acts and mount vigorous campaigns against bush burning for whatever reasons and careless plays with fire.
Authorities in the 774 council areas across the country and state governments should up their games on early warning signals and in launching awareness campaigns on fire safety tips.
In many rural areas, pre and post harvest loses of farm produce including cash and food crops resulting from wild fires have caused untold hardships to farmers in communities and villages in the past as foodstuff often worth several millions of naira are reduced to worthless ashes.
States’ edicts on bush burning, fire control measures and especially against hunters of rodents and other games should be implemented by foot soldiers and forest guards to stem occurance.
In cities and semi urban communities, campaigns against reckless activities of cigarettes smokers who often throw smouldering cigarettes’ butts on bush paths and residential places which often ignite wild, bush fire incidences sparked off by such carelessness should be made a criminal act if a culprit is apprehended.
Games and preys hunters who set bushes on fire while searching for rats, rabbits, reptiles and other creeping small animals should be reminded of the dangers of the negative consequences of their daring but undesirable actions on the economic trees, the ecosystem, the fauna and humanity generally.
Bush fires have continued to thrive year in, year out even in the face of existing bye laws, edicts and laws against the practices without anyone ever grabbed largely because communities shield the culprits while the affected communities expects relief assistance from governments.
States’ edicts and laws on fire incidences should equally stipulates punishment against deliberate acts of recklessness, wanton and willful activities by person(s) that leads to infernos in cities, towns and villages.
This way, such conflagrations could be checkmated. Governments’ interventions in giving relief materials assistance to victims of so called disasters including man made should be tied to conditions.
Anyone found to have acted willfully in causing such disasters, should not only be denied assistance even if he was affected by the fire he lit, but be made to suffer the consequences of his/their carelessness and pains inflicted on others.
Though a stitch in time saves nine, a whip in the hand stops the misbehaviour from a wayward child (person). This carrot sticks method could be the best way to address some burning bush fire matters in our communities.
Now that the harmattern is here with us, caution and care must be exercised in dealing with any kind of fire or sources of fire including all inflammable substances.
Fire is always lit by someone or something. As it is often said, fire is a good servant but a terrible master when it is allowed to be in charge.
BALA B. BITRUS is New Nigerian Newspapers’ Niger State Correspondent. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org