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Residents lament dwindling fortunes of fire service in states

The Fire Service across states of the federation has been virtually grounded on account of poor infrastructure, dilapidation of facilities, especially fire trucks, and inadequate…

The Fire Service across states of the federation has been virtually grounded on account of poor infrastructure, dilapidation of facilities, especially fire trucks, and inadequate personnel. These are affecting their efficiency in responding to fire disasters and saving lives and property, Daily Trust on Sunday can report.

 

From Tijani Labaran (Lokoja), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Meluwa Kelvin (Asaba), Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi), Habibu Idris Gimba  (Damaturu), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)

 

Findings across states indicate that most commands of the Fire Service in Nigeria only render skeletal services. However, in few states, the service has been upgraded. Some of the states visited were the following.

Kogi 

In Kogi State, Fire Service is running a skeletal service presently. This is owing to inadequate working tools and poor motivational welfare for operatives.

It was gathered that the Federal Fire Service that usually complements the activities of the state-owned outfit has abandoned the state and relocated to Abuja and Ajaokuta over negative perception by members of the public.

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It would be recalled that operatives of the Federal Fire Service were attacked by irate youths two years ago when they failed to respond to a burning electronic supermarket, PEE -LINKS, located adjacent to their office in Lokoja.

Those who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday complained of “lackluster response” during emergency calls.

The acting director of the Kogi State Fire Service, Salawu Umar Ozigi, said lack of serviceable vehicles, working tools and inadequate personnel grounded the activities of the organisation.

He said the two firefighting vehicles in their possession had been grounded, while firefighting sub-stations in Ajaokuta, Itakpe and Obajana were running on skeletal services.

“The challenge of the state fire service started since 1993 when experienced staff and other capable hands were retrenched from service. The over 100 staff that came from Kwara and Benue were reduced drastically during the retrenchment exercise of 1993. Since then, the fire service in the state has not been able to find its feet to work as required.

“The two firefighting vehicles under our care have all broken down. Currently, there is no vehicle to respond to distress calls. One of the vehicles is parked at the Nataco end of the city and the second is at the headquarters of the organisation at the Ministry of Works in Lokoja,” he said.

Ozigi said they needed about N40 million to repair the two vehicles for operation.

He, however, said Governor Yahaya Bello responded to their predicament and recruited 25 persons for the organisation in his first tenure and another 20 few months ago.

Edo

In Edo, Fire Service is also facing challenges of logistics and other things.

It was gathered that whenever there is a fire incident in the state, fire service vehicles from the University of Benin, Air Force, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), IDSL, as well as those of the federal government, go to their rescue.

Also, firefighting trucks were not functional and had been parked at the old Ministry of Information and Justice secretariat before they were removed recently.

It was further gathered that the state government has firefighting trucks in Edo South (Benin City) only, out of the three senatorial districts in the state.

A resident, Abraham Osazuwa said, “We don’t normally see government’s firefighting services during fire outbreaks in the state. Despite government’s claim of having trucks, it is always trucks from federal institutions that are on ground.”

When our correspondent visited the Edo State Fire Service office, the director was not around, but an officer who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday on the condition of anonymity said the state had six firefighting trucks but only two were functional while four were undergoing repairs.

He said the service usually responded to distress calls on fire outbreak adequately.

There were no firefighting trucks at the premises of the office when our correspondent visited.

 

Delta

In Delta, our correspondent who visited the Fire Service office across the state, including Warri South Local Government Area and Asaba, reports that there appears to be inadequate personnel.

One of the members of staff of the Delta State fire Service who confided in our correspondent, urged the government to recruit more staff to enhance the efficiency of the service.

He lamented that there were very few active firefighters while there are many staff of the agency sitting at offices across the state.

A resident of the state who gave her name as Veronica Umukoro urged the state to embark on an advocacy programme on the need for other road users to make way for fire trucks during emergencies, as well as train the personnel of the service.

Reacting to cases of fire incidents in Asaba, the State Capital, the manager of electronics technology, Mr Andy Chucks said, “The Fire Service in Delta is working but not like when we used to have shell companies all over the state.”

Few firefighting vehicles were seen at the office premises situated in Obahor Street, Warri. Daily Trust on Sunday also reports that the office did not look conducive for members of staff.

Bauchi

The Fire Service in Bauchi State is currently in a sorry state and grappling with lack of firefighting trucks, logistics and other equipment.

Finding by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that the agency has only two functional fire trucks serving the whole state capital. It is also battling with poor funding, amidst exorbitant prices of diesel, leading to delay in responding to fire outbreaks.

A resident of Azare in Katagum Local Government Area, Lukman Abubakar, said that despite the huge loss of lives and property as a result of fire outbreaks across the state, the state government and corporate organisations refused to take action to tackle the situation.

Abubakar said, “In the whole Azare, there is only one firefighting truck serving the community and neighbouring local government areas. When fire outbreak rocked Azare market some months back, the entire place was razed down because there were no fighting trucks and equipment to put off the fire.”

When contacted, the director of Fire Service in Bauchi, Bala Abubakar Garba, an engineer, confirmed that the agency had two functional fire trucks, adding, “The tanker serves dual purposes because it has firefighting equipment.”

Garba also said, “Yes, we have challenges, especially in the area of logistics associated with firefighting trucks. The high price of diesel is one of the major constraints we are facing. There is inadequate funding for fueling the trucks. Sometimes we exhaust all our funds and even borrow before we get a refund from the government. “

He said that five months ago, Governor Bala Mohammed bought two firefighting trucks and recently approved the provision of four others. He added that the governor also directed the repair of three of the existing firefighting trucks in the state.

Yobe

It’s no longer news fire outbreak destroyed property worth millions of naira in some local government areas of Yobe State, forcing many business owners into poverty. Potiskum, Gashua and Nguru markets were the most affected.

When Daily Trust on Sunday visited some fire stations in Damaturu, Potiskum and Nguru local governments, it was gathered that most of them have numerous challenges, including lack of firefighting trucks and inadequate staff.

Most of the fire stations have no functional trucks. It was gathered that some of the trucks were being fixed in other states. For instance, the state government awarded a contract for the repair of at least 9 firefighting trucks in Jos, the capital of Plateau State since 2017. Our correspondent, however, learnt that only six have been brought back to the state while the remaining three are still with the contractor.

Also, Gashua, the headquarters of Bade Local Government and Nguru has no firefighting trucks. Operatives only use a small KIA truck. When fire incident occurs, people find an alternative by using buckets of water to put it out. An example is what happened in Potiskum in January 2023, where fire razed more than 94 shops/stalls.

Daily Trust on Sunday also observed that inadequate personnel is also another challenge facing the performance of fire service stations in Yobe State. Some stations have less than five personnel working daily for emergency responses.

Our correspondent observed that since 2017, the state government employed 102 personnel as firefighters and 45 new personnel in 2019 under the SURE-P programme.

When contacted, the spokesperson of the Fire Service, Mallam Baba Muhammad Bello, said they were aware of all the challenges, adding that the Board has written numerous letters to the state government for actions.

Niger

At Gwari market, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the Niger State Fire Service office has been taken over and converted to shops by Chanchaga Local Government.

Findings revealed that selected local government headquarters, including Lapai, Bida, Kontagora, Suleja, New Bussa, Agaie and few others have fire stations with only one vehicle each.

Residents said the State Fire Service needed more equipment to be able to live up to its task.

A resident of Minna, Mohammed Adamu, said the agency would not respond to calls on time.

Similarly, a resident of Lapai, the host community of the state-owned Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) University, Mahmud Isah, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the Fire Service office in the town has only one truck, while the IBB University also has one.

“Lapai has a large population of students, and the town is expanding on a daily basis, but we have only one firefighting truck. The university also has one. And both trucks are not currently in good condition.

“Lapai needs more firefighting trucks because of the Lambata-Lapai-Bida road, where heavy duty trucks ply in large numbers on a daily basis. There are always incidents of tankers involved in accidents, which result to fire outbreak. And there is no intervention from the Fire Service,” he said.

It was gathered that in Agaie and New Bussa, the State Fire Service has functional fighting trucks but there are no offices to operate from.

Residents of New Bussa, the headquarters of Borgu Local Government, said the Niger State Fire Service station had an efficient truck, while Mainstream Energy Limited and Air Force have one functional truck each; and there is an effective synergy among the three organisations during cases of fire incidents.

In Agaie, the headquarters of Agaie Local Government, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that while the service has one truck for the entire area, it is occupying a temporary building because its office, which is under construction, is yet to be completed.

Niger State has witnessed several fire outbreaks that claimed lives, with property worth millions of naira destroyed.

For instance, on January 27, 2022, goods, mostly food items, worth millions of naira were destroyed by fire in Mokwa Central Market, the headquarters of Mokwa Local Government of Niger State.

Our correspondent gathered that no fewer than four persons, especially the traders who slept in their shops, sustained various degrees of injury and were taken to Mokwa General Hospital for medical attention.

The paramount ruler of the town, the Ndalile-Mokwa, Alhaji Mohammed Shaba, told our correspondent that the fire, which started about 4am, razed more than half of the market.

Also, on September 17, 2022, a tanker loaded with petrol, in the early hours exploded in Badeggi town, Katcha Local Government, injuring a roadside tea seller.

Badeggi, which is one of the major towns along Lambata-Bida road, also serves as a resting place for heavy duty drivers plying the North from South.

Residents appealed to the Niger State Government to set up a fire service office in Badeggi.

The controller of the Niger State Fire Service, Hassan Mohammed Tafyan, told our correspondent that the state had only 15 firefighting trucks across the 25 local government areas of the state, with Minna, the state capital having four fire stations with more vehicles.

He said each of the 25 local government headquarters was supposed to have a firefighting station with functional trucks. He, however, added that the state government was already working round the clock to procure more vehicles for organisation.

Tafyan said a total of 381 calls were received by the organisation between January 2022 and now, out of which 353 were fire incidents. He said 11 victims were rescued, while 16 calls were false alarm.

Kwara 

In Kwara, things seem to be a bit different. Our correspondent gathered that there are about five functional fire trucks in the state, comprising four from the State Fire Service and one from the Federal Fire Service.

In November 2019, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq purchased a 300-litre capacity modern firefighting vehicle for the Fire Service to empower it to operate more effectively.

As a follow-up to that, in 2020, the state government handed over a new 5,000-litre capacity firefighting truck to the State Fire Service. This was in addition to several other fire service technologies and equipment provided by the governor.

Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday showed that over 100 fire incidents were recorded from 2019 till date. The statistics also included huge losses running in billions of naira in goods and other properties, including petrol stations, markets and residential houses.

A staff of the State Fire Service who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “We have two fire trucks in Ilorin, one in Offa and one in Omu-Aran, making it four in the state.

“But what is clear is that we need more fire stations. We should have one each in Garin Alimi, Oloje, Baaboko (Ojatuntun), Sango, Tanke and Ganmo. This should be the standard, then one at Shao, before the express. The one at Bode Saadu in Moro Local Government has not been completed. We have a land in Share for such purpose but it has not been completed; and we have land across all the local governments in Kwara State.

When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the station’s headquarters in Ilorin, a fire truck was grounded, while one was undergoing welding repairs.

Head of a department of the State Fire Service, Hassan Hakeem Adekunle, in a chat with our correspondent said, “There is no establishment that doesn’t have challenges, but we have done well in the present situation, thanks to the government.”

Lagos

Lagos has 16 fire stations spread across the state. The present government under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu added five more stations, making a total of 21, with each of them having at least two trucks, it was observed.

Last year, the government recruited over 423 fire servicemen and bought 64 brand new trucks, which the governor commissioned in November 2022 to boost the operations of the State Fire Service.

Checks by our correspondent revealed that the brand new trucks were distributed across the various fire stations in the state to complement the ageing ones and improve the capability of the organisation to respond to fire disasters.

Similarly, one aerial ladder was deployed to each senatorial district and others to IBILE division across the state to reduce response time to emergencies.

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