I have developed a lot of love for swimming these days. More of reviving the love! I learned to swim sometime in 2006 during one of the long A.S.U.U (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strikes. Life happened, and I abandoned my newly developed hobby. 15kg and 12 years later, I remembered my long-lost skill and decided (with the help of my husband) to pick up my fun activities again to help balance my life a little more.
The search for a swimming facility in Lagos State, Nigeria was no easy task! We Jumped from hotel to hotel, finding the too small; too smelly; too pricey; too many advertisers (if you know what I mean) type of pools. We stumbled on the Teslim Balogun Stadiums’ newly constructed pool but could not get access to use it, because the public was restricted due to some upcoming activity ‘that they’ve still not done till tomorrow!’. Hubby (I’ll call him Wale) and I then decided to skip over to the National Stadium just across the road from the Teslim Stadium, while we engrossed in a discussion on the many issues affecting our beloved country from politics to our generally poor maintenance attitude. He had also taken me down memory lane on how he used to go swimming as a child for 20 Naira only and was insistent on taking me to see how dilapidated the stadium pool had become, as against its glory days. I had braced myself for a spirogyra-filled hole in the ground, but behold, it was all blue! the swimming pool had been refurbished by a popular private business under the government’s discreet Public Private Partnership. This monster of a swimming pool, Olympic-sized goodness with that glorious “Chlorine” smell and jollof music filling the air. I could not believe what I was seeing! What was even better was that I could spend the whole day in that water for just NGN1000.00. All my dreams had finally come true.
So, Wale and I made a pact right there, to take a break from our hectic work lives as lawyers and to go swimming at least once a week, to give ourselves a semblance of activity beyond work, church, and the occasional ‘owambe’. We have kept to that pact to a large extent, which I am super proud of.
NOW FOR SOME LEGAL STUFF
As you know me, I always have a legal spin to my musings, of course, I am a Lawyer! I was at the pool one beautiful and super-hot day and I said to Wale; I wish we could carry this pool home to keep cool and active at the same time; We both laughed. But then it hit me; I do not have a single friend with a pool in their backyard or within their premises in Surulere; it is so hard to come by swimming pools in Lagos, particularly the mainland, considering our hot climate and the Nigerian businessman’s way of sniffing business opportunities like bloodhounds. I wondered why there was not a lot of competition in the swimming pool or water parks business, so I inquired. Some of the reasons I found include the following:
1. Finances: The 1st issue was the sheer cost of such a project. Building and installing a swimming pool is a very expensive venture, like most other things in Nigeria. So obviously a swimming pool will not be on a lot of Nigerian businessmen’s priority lists when other business ventures will bring quick and more returns on investment as compared to a swimming pool management venture. The cost implications for maintenance, POWER, cleaning, purchase of maintenance tools and chemicals like chlorine, time and effort, electrical pumps and filters to continuously run, which have to be used every week at the minimum, to avoid bacterial and fungal growth and to keep the water from being unfit and smelly. That aspect peeves me, ewww!
2. Regulations: I had to do a mini research on this to find that there is currently a bill to regulate swimming pools and their management, also meaning that there are currently no laws regulating swimming pool installation and use in Nigeria save for the local town planning and building control laws and regulations which only affects the structure of the swimming pools. Also, certain universal management and safety rules which the pool operators and managers may choose to adopt.
The proposed bill is called The Lagos State Safety Commission (Public Swimming Pools) Regulations 2014, upon passage into law, it will regulate the operation of public swimming pools and other facilities in Lagos State such as spas, beach resorts, hot tub, etc. The proposed law seems to be quite robust; regulating both swimmers and pool operators. Some of the requirements for pool operators to comply with include the following:
- Pool operators have safety gear which includes life jackets and other life-saving floatation devices
- Pool operators must have first aid boxes installed at a conspicuous part of the facility.
- They must also be equipped with certified lifeguards who are vast in life-saving techniques such as CPR, First Aid administration, etc.
- Post a sign stating the pool rules in a conspicuous position within the pool premises. “The signage shall contain information indicating the location of the telephone for emergency use; emergency numbers, “no lifeguard on duty” in the circumstance where lifeguards are not required, etc.
- The operator of the swimming pool shall keep it clean and clear of obstructions.
- To provide adequately equipped hand basins, and where such services are offered;
- Bathing suits and bath towels (where provided) shall be laundered after each use and stored/handled in a sanitary manner.’
- The swimming pool water and the walls and bottom of pools shall be kept free of visible dirt, litter, body oils, and algae growth.
- The act requires further safety measures such as pool covers, fences and gates, and alarm systems, to prevent swimming pool accidents.
- Most importantly, the regulation directs that no person shall operate a public swimming pool, beach, wading pool, whirlpool, spa, hot tub, or others relating to health unless it is approved by the appropriate authority in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development that would issue a certificate of approval.
But here is where the problem lies, the proposed mandatory requirement of seeking approval from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. We all know how tedious getting necessary approvals from the government ministries and agencies can be; it is usually and herculean task! and yes, I am calling out the Ministries all over Nigeria, the bureaucracy and attitude to work by officials, are appalling, disgraceful,l and damaging to businesses and processes. But that is a story for another day.
A swimming pool operator, who contravenes a provision of these regulations will be liable to a penalty of N250,000.00 (Two hundred and fifty thousand naira) only.
Swimmers are required not to swim with open wounds or do anything that may harm the health of others such as drinking alcohol in the pool, eating food in public pools, etc. According to the regulation, swimmers who contravene or fail to comply with the provisions of the regulations will be liable to a penalty of N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira). The law if passed will provide for a task force set up for the enforcement of all regulations set up by the law.
3. Liability for damage, injury, or death: In addition to the obvious issues listed above, as regards owning a pool either privately or for commercial purposes, one also has to think of the otherwise silent risks of having such a structure in place
a. Strict liability rule: There are the issues of nuisance and liability for injury. Most important is the issue of nuisance. I had been taught about this in my early days in university under the law of tort. This principle was brought about by a very interesting case called Rylands Vs Fletcher. The essence of the rule of Rylands Vs Fletcher is that if your dangerous element escapes and causes damage to someone else or his property, you will be held strictly liable even if the said escape could not have been avoided. I’ll discuss this more extensively in another article so stay tuned. The rule of Ryland Vs Fletcher applies to instances when the swimming pool (in this case) damages third-party property by escaping). But what happens when the damage is right within the pool or its premises? I think this is topic-worthy!!
LIABILITY FOR DAMAGE OR DEATH WITHIN THE SWIMMING POOL:
Liability for drowning, or grave injury in the pool is one major factor that may deter people from having swimming pools. Such incidents have become very common all over the world including here in Nigeria as with our very own D’Banj, and have been dubbed one of the leading causes of death in the world over.
The principle of Occupier’s liability applies extent here. Occupier liability in summary means that the law imposes a common duty of care on occupiers to lawful visitors, who may visit the property of the occupier. Property in this sense includes fixed/landed/immovable property as well as moveable property such as vessels, vehicles, aircraft, etc. This therefore means the pool owner or operator will be held liable for injuries or death especially where negligence is a factor. By negligence, I mean the failure of the pool owner to properly guard the pool by having adequate signages, fencing, lighting, lifeguards, and any other proper protection against damage within the pool premises.
The pool owner will however not be deemed liable if the following can be ascertained:
i. Trespass: Generally, pool owners do not owe any duty to trespassers other than to refrain from inflicting any intentional harm on them. In essence, injury or death of third parties using the swimming pool in the absence and or without the permission of the owner will not attract any liability against the pool owner/operator.
I also came across the very interesting principle of attractive nuisance which is generally recognized in the USA. Regulations such as the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act of Florida provide for this rule. This principle suggests that, due to the attractive nature of swimming pools, children may wander onto the private premises and get injured or killed. Therefore, pool owners/operators will be held liable if proper preventive measures are not taken to prevent such incidents .
ii. Product liability: when an injury occurs due to a product defect such as an overactive drainage system, or defective products purchased, such manufacturers will assume liability if pursued. This is the very essence of the rule in Donoguhe Vs Stevenson which brought about the neighbor which states that a manufacturer of products, which he sells in such a form as to show that he intends them to reach the ultimate consumer in the form in which they left him with no reasonable possibility of intermediate examination, and with knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation or putting up of products will result in an injury to the consumer’s life or property, owes a duty to the consumer to take that reasonable care”. Liability has been extended to cover individuals who supply or repair products, electrical equipment installers , construct staff buildings , etc. In other words, a manufacturer is liable for damage caused directly by his product, therefore liability for injuries can be shifted from the pool owner/operator to the pool facility manufacturer/builder.
Going beyond the regulations and laws and what nots; swimming is a sport that I have grown to love, and I always think to myself that everyone should at least learn the basics. It is a fabulous way to stress and de-stress at the same time. Being at the pool I am encouraged by the sight of different kinds of people teaching and learning to swim.
Among those at the poolside are the mums who bring their children to learn or compete at the national stadium swimming pool (I call them pool mums). I watch them as they sit on the side and watch their kids or stare into space.
One faithful day, I walked up to a couple of mothers and asked why they were not partaking in the swimming activities and I got answers like “I don’t know how”, and “I started learning when I was younger, but I stopped because…”, “I never learned” “I’m too afraid” etc. this one lady says; “I don’t know how I’ve always wanted to learn, but I guess as a mother we are too busy ensuring that everyone else is fine that we forget that we are ourselves important” this was the most significant answer because even though I am not yet a mother, I know how difficult it can be to maintain or develop a sense of purpose as a woman, wife, and or mother. And yes! feminism just stepped into the building. Women being overwhelmed with gender roles forget to remember that beyond being a married woman, we are the first human, and should always push to develop our own identities and self.
This article is not about the swimming pool, but more about my gradual rediscovery. It’s about my growing desire to engage in things I love to do, despite mind-caging gender restrictions. It is a reminder to all, both men and women to forget roles once in a while and have fun, escape into ourselves and just be us for at least 30 minutes in a week. Well, this goes out more loudly to ladies. My search for self has been resurrected also through a new-found love for our very own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m not much of a leisure reader but I do watch and listen, and I am an abject follower of Chimamanda’s philosophy on gender equality, feminism, and all things humanity. My spin on this article is that regardless of gender, work status, or whatever else, remind yourself of what you love to do, and do it.
Next stop “Equality in Gender Roles” Chimamanda style; watch out!
 A.S.U.U. is the central union body of all academic staff in the Nigerian universities and they engaged in a lot of industrial strike actions during the period in protest of the Nigerian government’s poor work treatment and poor funding of the Nigerian public universities.
 Teslim Balogun Stadium is one of the two government-owned and managed stadiums in the Surulere area of Lagos State.
 National Stadium has hosted a series of international sporting events, most recent and notably being one of the venues for the 12th Edition of the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999.
 ‘Jollof Music’ is a recent parlance to describe the Nigerian contemporary genre of music which is a fusion of highigh-tempoythmic beats, R &R&Bip-Hop expressed in a combination of English & traditional or indigenous languages.
 ‘Owambe’ is a local parlance to describe Nigerian Parties, literally meaning; ‘I partook’. Nigerian parties are best known for the lavishness, fashion, music, dance, and food varieties on display.
 UKHL 1, (1868) LR 3 HL 330
 Dbanj, a popular Nigerian artiste, recently his son, a toddler in a domestic accident. The toddler drowned in their home swimming pool. This could have been avoided if guard railings had been deployed around the pool to avoid unsupervised use or access of the pool.
1932 AC 562