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Reforming the Nigerian fire service

All these are due to the long time neglect of the service by governments at various levels. Some years past, we heard how the Federal…

All these are due to the long time neglect of the service by governments at various levels. Some years past, we heard how the Federal Fire Chief cried out against the zero allocation of resources to his service.

However, the recent decision of the government to send some service men to Lagos State is a matter of concern. Some questions beg for answers:

Is it legally right to send federal staff to a state on compulsory transfer? Has due process been followed? Has the enabling act which established the Federal Fire Service been repealed? If not, why should the statutory functions of the Service be changed without recourse to following due and diligent process of referring same to the National Assembly? What future do these men have in states other than where they originated?  Since the case pertaining to this transfer is still in court in Abuja, why can’t the government wait for the court’s verdict?

Most states have no capacity to safeguard their domain in terms of fire safety and rescue. We have had State Houses on fire, State Assemblies on fire and so on. It is amazing that we could follow other nations’ reform system in this regard without domiciling what the policy is to suit our situation. I am made to realize that the new system being employed by the nation’s fire service is imported from America. The fire men who concocted this idea were probably not educated enough especially about the history and management of emergencies in America. The United States is a union of independent states with developed emergency management system by each nation. The union left every nation as it was before the union and only has an administration at the federal level with responsibilities for free training for all the fire departments as well as subventions to upgrade their facilities. I have the greatest doubt that this can happen in Nigeria. If, therefore, we apply this management half-way, have we not failed before the assessment? We should remember that the states in a federation are autonomous.

The recently approved National Emergency Response Plan by the Federal Government noted clearly the roles of the Federal Service in managing national emergencies. This has to be reconciled with the current arrangement. We should not wait for it to happen before we prepare.

Every nation has its own peculiarities. America has its fire departments well developed before the union. Nigeria has nothing on ground to defend our national asset. The federal government cannot at this point abdicate its responsibility as contained in the Fire Service Act yet to be repealed. The current action of forcefully transferring the firemen to Lagos State is unjust, unfair and contemptuous. Most of these men have faithfully served this nation. The Federal Government cannot leave the security of the nation in the hands of the states alone.

 Yakub Anifowose is a Lagos-based public affairs analyst