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Safeguarding lives and property through fire fighting

By Usman Adams

Perhaps, of all Federal Government Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals, the Federal Fire Service of Nigeria can be said to be one of the least publicized, even as it strives to safe guard human lives and property from hazards.

However, the service on its own has continued to carry out education and public enlightenment campaigns of the populace on fire prevention realizing that in a situation where there is a dearth of human and material resources the mass media has to fill the void.

To an average Nigerian the red painted siren-blaring fire-fighting vehicles are all that are known and recognized as synonymous with the service. But the reality is that there is a whole lot of managerial architecture involved in planning for the fire hazards and managing the service to ensure effective and efficient delivery to avert losses to fire incidents.

For example, a well-equipped fire-fighting truck costs over N200,000,000 (Two Hundred Million Naira) and in addition there are some other ancillary components that are necessary to successfully fight any fire occurrence.

From its modest origin over a century ago when it was started and attached to the Police Force and even managed by non-Nigerians, the Federal Fire Service now boasts of a full-fledged and an autonomous entity with a staff strength of over 1,580 (One Thousand Five Hundred and Eighty) personnel spread across almost all the six geopolitical zones in the country and has only five functional firefighting trucks at its headquarters in Area 10, Abuja.

The only five functional firefighting trucks in the arsenal of the service is considered by knowledgeable experts as grossly inadequate for its operational needs.

 

Realizing the importance of the Federal Fire Service in tackling the fire hazards facing the country, the Federal Executive Council approved the sum of over One Billion naira to the Agency, which is yet to be released to them for over two years now.

It is also a fact that due to paucity of funds, the Federal Fire Service has not bought any new firefighting trucks for over 30 years now, even as the old ones are rapidly ageing.

The Federal Fire Service as is presently constituted derives its power and mandate from an Act of parliament of 1963 but which became operational in 1964.

Its mandate can therefore be summarized briefly as follows: a responsibility to rescue, fire prevention, mitigation, fire-fighting, paramedical and information services to all Nigerians irrespective of status or ethnic background to minimize the possibility of loss of lives and property to fire and other related emergencies.

In order to understand the enormous challenges posed by its mandate, Nigerians are reminded of the fire disasters that had happened in the past in various parts of the country namely: Republic building –Marina Lagos; NECOM -House; NEPA -Headquarter Marina Lagos; Cocoa - House Ibadan; NITEL – building Lagos; Defense Headquarters Lagos; NITEL – Exchange Ikeja Lagos; Ariaria Market Aba; Ministry of Education Lagos; NITEL Exchange -Benin city; Kano Market fire; Onitsha Market fire; Minna Central Market, fire; Mandila building, Balogun Lagos; Wuse Market fire; Lapal House, Lagos; Kings way building, Lagos; NEMA building, Lagos; FRCN (Radio) Gwagwalada, Abuja; Federal Secretariat, Lagos; 1004 Housing Lagos; Ikeja Military Cantonment, Lagos; Idumagbo Fire, Lagos and Jesse Pipeline fire disaster, Delta State.

In all the above stated fire out breaks, property estimated at several billions of Naira were lost and destroyed also resulting to loss of uncountable number of lives and injuries.  In all those occurrences the Federal Fire Service was always called to action.

In recent times in spite of the challenges facing the services in all area of resources for operational purposes, the service successfully responded to 72 fire related emergencies in Abuja, while the Lagos command responded to 182 calls.

In addition the service intensified the inspection of facilities in Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Kaduna and risk assessment and evaluation reports for Federal Ministries and other Public building were undertaken.

The Comptroller-General of the service Engr. Anebi Garuba believes strongly that with the support of government and all relevant agencies that the Federal Fire Service will do its best to minimize the outbreak and consequences of fire out breaks when they do occur.

To achieve those goals the Federal Fire Service through its academy located in the nation’s capital of Abuja has continued to train all cadres of fire-fighting personnel to manage fire hazards and other forms of disasters to meet the challenges of the time.  The service also continually liaises with other states fire services across the nation.

Prevention as the saying goes is better than cure.  In line with the above stated maxim the Federal Fire Service as a matter of routine has intensified public education of the Nigerian masses on the dangers of fire hazard.  Consequently it has also drummed it up to all Nigerians to avoid the use of substandard materials when constructing their buildings.  It is therefore mandatory for public building projects and even private ones to be supervised when building materials and electrical components are to be installed in the buildings.

Owners of petrol stations and like public buildings are expected to acquire certificates of safety, after due inspection by the Federal Fire Service, to avoid the usage of substandard materials that are prone to fire hazards.

Nigerians should count themselves lucky that the country is not prone to some natural disasters like in other unfortunate countries in the world.

The fact that disasters have been the major cause of people moving from one place to another and also responsible for many deaths globally, and the outcome is usually loss of lives and property, environmental destruction and dislocation of economic and social values of the people that inhabits such community has made it imperative for both government and non-governmental organizations to guide against the occurrence of these emergences and when they happen to remain proactive toward nipping them in the bud before their deadly effects are witnessed by the people.

 The Comptroller General of the service Engr. Anebi Garba is eagerly waiting for that day when all Nigerians and other stakeholders would realize that fire prevention just like security is everybody’s business.

Sitting is his second floor office at his Area 10 Headquarters in Abuja is all ears and eyes wide open to quickly respond to emergency calls, but is optimistic that a day will soon come when the public private partnership arrangement being put in place will be concluded to enable fire occurrences to be beamed into his office, which will provoke an instant and immediate response to minimize time that might be lost.

If we are able to stem the spate of fire disasters in our environment and society, we would as well be assured of economic growth and sustainable development.  After all, the hall mark of good governance is infrastructural development and the sustainability of the lives and property of its citizenry.

 

Adams wrote in from Abuja

 

 

 

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