50 fire incidents in one week- Poor equipment, manpower worsen outbreaks

…268 fire vehicles serve 140 million Nigerians

•FG’s N27bn budget fails to revive agency

Adelani Adepegba, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Chukwudi Akasike, Femi Makinde, Ifeanyi Onuba, Gbenro Adeoye, Kunle Falayi and Jesusegun Alagbe

The spate of fire incidents has recently increased in the country with about 50 fire outbreaks recorded in a space of one week and 40 of them occurring in Lagos State alone.

For instance, one of the major fire outbreaks occured at a plastic factory in Oshodi, Lagos, last Sunday, where the state Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Seye Oladejo, said the state had recorded about 40 fire incidents since Friday, February 17, 2017.

On the same day, fire razed about nine shops at a popular estate roundabout market in Warri, Delta State.

A day earlier, valuable properties worth millions of naira were said to have been destroyed in an inferno that razed the Edo State secretariat of the National Youth Service Corps in Benin, Edo State.

Also, Director, Anambra State Emergency Management, Chief Paul Odenigbo, recently said 13 buildings, 16 vehicles, three tricycles and two filling stations were razed in a fire incident involving a fuel tanker in Onitsha last Wednesday.

He added that two bookshops, an eatery, law offices, residential houses, and many shops were also affected in the incident, where properties estimated to be worth millions of naira were destroyed.

However, Saturday PUNCH investigations have shown that fire service stations across the country are essentially lacking in capacity to combat fire outbreaks and are mostly  in a state of disrepair.

For instance, despite a total sum of N26.99bn budgeted for the Federal Fire Service between 2013 and 2017 fiscal periods, it lacks the capacity and equipment required for modern firefighting.

Figures obtained from the Budget Office revealed that the N11.7bn of the N26.99bn budget was for recurrent while the balance of N15.26bn was allocated to capital expenditure.

However, investigations showed that except the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Fire Service generally lacks equipment across the country and is nonexistent in many states. Findings also showed that about half of its vehicles, which are largely inadequate in number, are rickety, faulty and unfit for deployment in case of a fire emergency.

According to the budget, the agency received the sum of N9.46bn in 2017, made up of recurrent expenditure of N2.65bn, while the capital expenditure component was N6.81bn.

For 2016, a total sum of N9.21bn was allocated comprising N6.8bn for capital projects, while the balance of N2.39bn was for recurrent expenditure.

In 2015, the service received a total vote of N2.94bn from which N2.57bn was for recurrent while N371.2m was for capital expenditure.

In the 2014 and 2013 fiscal period, the budget document showed that the government allocated a total sum of N2.57bn and N2.81bn respectively to the firefighting agency.

The firefighting projects and equipment for the 2017 fiscal period include the construction of metropolitan fire stations in the six geopolitical zones, including the Federal Capital Territory at N542m and the purchase of firefighting tenders for existing fire stations at N450m.

Others are the rehabilitation of existing fire equipment at N168m and purchase of fire engines for existing fire stations at N475m.

However, in Abuja, the Federal Fire Service has 13 stations, 600 personnel and 18 vehicles, including five heavy duty tow trucks.

The Federal Fire Service had established a station in Adamawa State two months ago but had yet to equip it with any firefighting truck despite posting 42 firemen to the North-East state.

The state Deputy Commandant, Federal Fire Service, Mohammed Baba, told Saturday PUNCH in Yola that the necessary logistics were still being awaited.

“We are now present (here); the next thing is to start putting logistics on the ground. And we are awaiting the supply of those things,” he said.

It was learnt that Abia State has no federal fire station or equipment while the federal fire service in Enugu State only operates in an administrative capacity, without any firefighting vehicle.

In Sokoto State; the Federal Fire Service has an ill-equipped fire station at Sultan Abubakar III International Airport.

It was learnt that the Federal Fire Service only has two firefighting trucks in Delta State and has no presence in Bayelsa State.

At the federal fire station located at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Kawo in Kaduna North Local Government Area of the state, no single firefighting equipment was sighted by one of our correspondents, who visited the place.

“Workers are just there from morning till night, doing nothing because there are no firefighting engines,” a source at the station said.

When one of our correspondents visited the federal fire station at Ojuelegba, Surulere, Lagos, there was no fire truck in sight. An official said the trucks had been under repairs for some time.

“We don’t have much problem in that direction since we can always connect our neighbouring stations (owned by Lagos State Government) to make use of their trucks if there is an outbreak around here,” the official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, added that other stations had problems keeping their trucks in good shape because they were old. He also said the station was facing many other operational challenges.

Meanwhile, investigations of state-owned fire services also revealed a generally rickety firefighting system lacking in capacity to fight fire outbreaks because of the absence or an inadequate number of necessary equipment.

To put the firefighting capacity of Nigeria’s fire service in perspective; in Cape Town, a port city in South Africa, there are 30 fire stations serving about three million residents.

The New York City Fire Department, United States, has 15,629 employees and 255 fire stations serving about eight million residents. It also boasts of 198 firefighting engines, 143 trucks, 480 ambulances and nine fireboats (boats carrying firefighters and equipment for fighting large fires on board ships and in waterside areas).

But it was learnt that there are just about 268 firefighting vehicles in all, including engines and tankers for combating fire outbreaks, for 142 million Nigerians in 25 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

It was also learnt that there are only about 119 fire stations in the FCT and the 25 states covered by Saturday PUNCH’s investigation.

As of the time of filing this report, Saturday PUNCH could only access information on the firefighting capacity of 25 states and the FCT while that of 11 states could not be accessed. Nigeria’s estimated population is 180 million and the states not captured are Borno, Oyo, Ogun, Yobe, Plateau, Zamfara, Taraba, Kogi, Kebbi Jigawa and Gombe, whose combined population is not less than 37, 901, 307, according to the National Population Commission’s figures.

Firefighters, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, described the country’s firefighting capacity as low and blamed neglect by governments at all levels for the paucity of funds, equipment and manpower.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has 14 fire stations with six in the Area Councils. However, five more stations are said to be under construction.

The Director-General of the FCT Emergency Management Agency, Abbas Idriss, said the service has 18 fire engines, each with water tankers.

The service also has one platform, three rescue vans, search and rescue equipment, other assorted equipment used during building collapse and 350 personnel.

The Commandant, Adamawa State Fire Service, Adamu Abdullahi, said the service has only five fire stations to serve the 21 local government areas of the state.

He, however, said the state government had procured three new firefighting trucks and that there were ongoing efforts to employ 150 new firefighters.

He also said that before the procurement of the three additional firefighting trucks, only five out of the initial 10 firefighting trucks, were functional.

The Public Relations Officer, Bauchi State Fire Service, Abubakar Bala, who lamented the inadequate firefighting equipment in the state, said the fire service had three fire stations, six firefighting vehicles, out of which five were fully ready for fire emergency.

“There are only three firefighting vehicles here at the headquarters with only two that are fully ready for any emergency. Azare station has only two, while Jama’are has one,” he said.

The Chief Fire Officer in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Ndarake Ukpe, said, “We don’t have enough equipment to combat fire outbreaks in Akwa Ibom State. We have 35 fire stations across the state; we need more firefighting vehicles and manpower. Not all the firefighting vehicles are functional; we need functional ones.”

In Owerri, the Imo state capital, the Comptroller of the State Fire Service, Mr. Japhet Okereafor, said the state has seven fire stations in Okigwe, Orlu, Mbaise, Mbano Government House, Ideato and Owerri.

He disclosed that there were four available fully serviceable fire engines at the fire service headquarters in Owerri, and others in some other stations.

Comptroller, Abia State Fire Service, Mr. Gbaruko Okey, said his personnel handled over 61 fire incidents between November 2016 and January 2017.

Okey said, “We have only three fire service stations in the state, two in Umuahia and one in Aba.

“We also have seven fire service vehicles, but only three are serviceable.”

The Niger State Senior Fire Prevention Officer, Isah Ibrahim, said, “We bought nine firefighting vehicles to reduce fire disasters in the state and will train fire prevention officers in each senatorial zone.”

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the state fire service lacks adequate fire fighting vehicles and other equipment in Minna, the state capital — with an estimated population of one million — as there are only one fire station and two firefighting vehicles, which were purchased 18 years ago by the then military administrator of the state, Simeon Oduoye.

Apart from Minna, the remaining twenty-four local government areas of the state have no firefighting vehicles, but staff strength of 1,320.

The Enugu State Fire Service has about 20 firefighting vehicles, though about half of them were in bad condition.

Findings revealed that only five fire stations were functional out of the existing seven in Ekiti State.

The state Director of Fire Service, Mr. Gbenga Omoniyi, said that the state has five fire engines, three tankers and seven ambulances.

Saturday PUNCH findings revealed that the Delta State Government has about 10 firefighting trucks in the densely populated cities of Warri, Sapele, Ughelli, Asaba, Agbor, Oleh, Otu-Jeremi and Oghara.

However, it was observed that most of the vehicles were obsolete and not in a good working condition.

Investigation showed that the Edo State Government has fire service stations in five local government areas of the state, 46 personnel, one firefighting truck and one water tanker.

In Benue, there is only one fire service station (with six firefighting vehicles), which is situated in the state capital, Makurdi.

The Chief Fire Officer, Andrew Omapo, said there was no fire station in the other 22 local government areas of the state. Hence, the only one in the state capital caters for them.

In Cross River State, before the intervention of the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2014, nearly all the fire trucks in the custody of the state Fire Service were broken down.

NDDC’s intervention with five brand new fire trucks brought relief to the service.

At the state fire service operations station along Mary Slessor Avenue in Calabar, only three functional trucks were seen parked in the garage, while other broken down trucks had been relocated behind the old building.

Ebonyi State has three fire stations located in Abakaliki, Onueke and Afikpo towns.

A visit to the fire station in Abakaliki by Saturday PUNCH showed that most of the firefighting equipment there had broken down.

The state’s Chief Fire Service Officer, Mr. Albert Nwokocha, said the challenges confronting the service include poor funding and inadequate manpower.

It was learnt that Kano State Fire Service has at least 25 functional firefighting vehicles, located within Kano metropolis and some of the 44 local government areas in the state.

According to the Head, Kano State Fire Service, Alhaji Mohammed Rilwanu, the state government recently refurbished about 10 firefighting vehicles and had regularly supplied the fire service headquarters with fuel and lubricants for effective operations.

The Director, Kwara State Fire Service, Mr. Tiamiyu Raji, said there were 97 firefighters and eight civilian supporting staff in the 16 local government areas of the state to cater for three million residents.

He also said there were four fire service stations and eight fire-combat engines/firefighting vehicles belonging to the state fire service.

The Nasarawa State Chief Fire Service officer, Mr. Dogara Dalhatu, said the command has five fire stations in the state.

The Bayelsa State Fire Service has six operational firefighting trucks and one operational station in the state, a senior superintendent of the service, Mr. Tombra Ogbowei, said.

Ogbowei added that a second fire service station was under construction and almost ready.

In Sokoto, there are six fire stations, 17 engines and eight backup tankers.

The Director-General of the state fire service, Ibrahim Haliru Dingyadi, however, said the state government recently approved the construction of eight new fire stations in Sokoto city.

A source in the Kaduna State Fire Service disclosed that the state government recently procured 23 fire engines for the 23 local government areas of the state, which had yet to be put to use because of an ongoing training programme for firefighters.

He said the state had 11 firefighting engines in Kaduna metropolis, but could only boast of three that were functional, adding that the state also had one turntable ladder fighter engine, principally designed for high rise buildings.

In Katsina State, it was observed that each of the 34 local government areas in the state has at least one firefighting vehicle.

In the state capital alone, Katsina, no fewer than seven firefighting vehicles were seen parked in strategic places.

The Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasak Fadipe, said about 40 functional vehicles, including engines and tankers, were in the fleet of the state fire service.

A top official in the Osun State Fire Service said there were only six functional fire trucks serving the 30 local government areas in the state.

The source added that there were additional six trucks, which had been grounded as they were very old.

According to the Director of Anambra State Fire Service, Mr. Offoma Benedict, the state has eight functional firefighting vehicles and nine unserviceable ones.

Additional reports by:

Mudiaga Affe, Etim Ekpimah, Success Nwogu, Simon Utebor, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Alexander Okere, Godwin Isenyo, Ted Odogwu, Hindi Livinus, Peter Dada, Armstrong Bakam, Ovie Okpare, Adeniyi Olugbemi, Olaide Oyelude, Gibson Achonu, Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, Enyioha Opara, Umar Muhammed, Clement Nnaji, John Charles and Tony Okafor

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Contact: editor@punchng.com



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