From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The Federal Government has reiterated its call for collaborative efforts by all tiers of government, corporate bodies and individuals, in a bid to check the incessant fire disasters in the country.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola made the call yesterday at the Commissioning Ceremony of a Modern Aerial Fire-fighting vehicle at the Federal Fire Service, Zone F Command, Lagos, in Lagos State.
According to him, “State Governments have to raise their game on fire fighting. With the best of efforts, the Federal Government can only supplement States efforts, not replace them. Even Local Governments should have fire management capability.”
In a statement issued yesterday by Mohammed Manga, Director (Press & Public Relations) he said in a speech titled, “Towards National Fire Safety”, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola noted that, “without doubt, uncontrolled fires represent a serious security, economic and developmental threat all over the world.
“The prevalence of fire incidents in Nigeria is undoubtedly a source of concern to all levels of government and individuals alike, thus, the need for collaborative effort to check the menace cannot be overemphasized”.
The Minster who observed that fire is always an emergency and that all should prepare for it always, expressed readiness of his Ministry to collaborate with the Nigerian Air Force in using aircraft to drop water and firefighting chemical solutions on high rise buildings and other places requiring aerial fire management, adding that it is also making efforts to purchase barges that can be used to throw water from aircraft into bush fires and wild spreading fires.
Ogbeni Aregbesola observed further that, most fires would have been extinguished at the putative stage if the simplest fire-fighting equipment had been available.
According to him, “Some fire incidents are natural like volcanoes, lightening and combustible gases in dumpsites. Some are due to negligence. Others are deliberate. Arson, for instance, is deliberate. We should be vigilant at all times and put all safety measures in place. It is very important also that our buildings are fire safety compliant.
“Fire is always an emergency and we should prepare for it as such. A small liquid fire extinguisher would save vehicles from burning while motorists without them stand the risk of getting their vehicles burnt down from a little spark”
While restating Federal Government’s commitment to safeguarding of lives and property, Ogbeni Aregbesola said that the present Administration will not relent in its efforts towards making policies, resources and strategies for a safer Nigeria.
The Minister commended the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration for consistently ensuring that the Federal Fire Service is adequately equipped to carry out its mandate of protecting lives and property against the menace of uncontrolled fires as well as natural disasters.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who said that hitherto, FFS was only present in Lagos and Abuja as Federal Capital Territories respectively, with obsolete equipment and epileptic services, stated further that, under the present administration, the Agency has spread to nearly all the States of the Federation, noting that in the year 2020 alone, it responded to 3,555 distress calls during which N1.351 trillion worth of property and 1,110 human lives were saved from fire.
He informed that the Federal Executive Council at its meeting two weeks ago, approved the procurement of 94 fire service vehicles which include 44 fire trucks, 15 water tankers, 15 Rapid Intervention Vehicles and 20 Basic Life Support Ambulances; in addition to 106 modern fire-fighting trucks and vehicles procured by the Federal Fire Service between 2016 and 2020.
Through this initiative, the Minister said, the Service is engaging the Federal Republic of Belarus for collaboration that will usher a better deal, especially in the procurement of Aerial Fire-fighting Vehicles, Rapid Intervention Vehicles, Command and Control Vehicles and training of fire-fighters.
Also, Ogbeni Aregbesola said, that the equipment being commissioned, DG54 Aerial Hydraulic Platform Mercedes Benz Fire Fighting Truck has 54 metres height capacity and will reach the 18th floor of high-rise buildings to tackle the challenge in Lagos, with a plethora of skyscrapers, which has been a nightmare to fire-fighters.
While urging the Controller General of FFS and his management team to put in place measures and strategies that will ensure the effective deployment and utilization of the huge fire-fighting asset for optimal impact on the general public, Aregbesola called on all relevant stakeholders and state governments in particular, to work in partnership with the Federal Fire Service to minimize the menace of uncontrolled fires and related emergencies within their respective jurisdiction.
He stated further that the federal government will continue to improve on the nation’s infrastructure as well as bring in innovations, in the bid to protect lives and property and also put fire under control.
Speaking during the event, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo Olu who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting the State with modern fire-fighting equipment.
“We must commend the federal government for the seamless collaboration between the Lagos State Fire Service and the Federal Fire Service.
Between January and March 2021, we combated 294 fires in conjunction with the Federal Fire Service.
“On our part, we have also purchased four aerial fire-fighting vehicles, employed 700 fire fighters with 500 more to be employed and also established 18 fire stations across the State.
“This is important as 45 percent of petroleum products come to Lagos, with the consequences of trucks catching fire, destroying lives and property”.
This he said, calls for the need for the state to work with the Federal Fire Service to ensure that the combustible standards are met before the truck loads.
According to him, “life is the most important gift without which nothing else matters, therefore fire that consumes lives and property is important to everyone of us”
In his welcome address, the Controller General, Federal Fire Service, Dr. Liman Ibrahim commended the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for his continuous support to all the reforms of the Service and President Muhammadu Buhari in particular for resuscitating the FFS for improved performance of fire services in the country.
While noting that the repositioning of the Agency has led to the approval for the recruitment of 2,200 firefighters, among others, the Controller General added that the commissioning ceremony is a dream come through for firefighters in Nigeria and especially Lagosians.
He stressed further that the multi-million naira vehicle will significantly address the fire challenges faced in the area and also minimize the risk firefighters are exposed to in the line of duty.