Uche Usim, Abuja
The Minister of State, Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba, and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Idris Ahmed, on Wednesday assessed the fire incident at the Treasury House in Abuja and submitted that there were no human casualties or damage to all sensitive data and records.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Mr Agba said a full-scale investigation involving forensic experts was underway to ascertain the cause of the inferno that engulfed the fourth floor of the treasury building where the capital projects of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are processed.
According to him, the fire started at about 10 am in an office on the fourth floor.
He explained further: “An officer came to the office, he put on the air conditioner and there was a spark. He noticed smoke and he immediately put it off but it was still smouldering and he had to rush out to get some help.
“The fire servicemen were called about 10:10 am and they responded within four minutes with three fire trucks.
“However, there was a little bit of difficulty in getting inside the building because they thought they should fight the fire both from outside and inside. They eventually broke in to fight the fire.
“When they saw the extent of it, they called for help. And altogether, 25 fire trucks were mobilised to fight it and within 35 minutes, it was put under control.
“We’ve gone around the rooms and the offices that were affected and I’m glad to report that our data centre where all our records are kept are intact. We’ve not lost any record. I also should remind you now that for a while, we’ve gone digital. Yes, we’ve some documents that are kept manually, but a lot of what we do is online. And even if the data centre were to be affected, we’ve a backup centre that is outside of Abuja for recovery.
“The only thing that has happened to the data centre is the exterior where we have the cooling units at the back. The data centre always has to be cool. One of the things we’ve done is to shut down the data centre since the cooling units are not functioning optimally.
We’ve directed that those cooling units should be immediately put in order so that we do not lose anything in that data centre.
“We were at the National Assembly, with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and her colleagues briefing them on supplementary budget, we got the call the building was on fire. I had to immediately leave just to have first-hand information as to what is going on. I’m glad to report that when I got here, the fire had been put out by the Fire Service in conjunction with CBN fire, FCT, Julius Berger, NNPC and the military and coordinated by the federal fire service,” the Minister explained.
Continuing, he said: “We’ve not started recovery to check what is burnt and what is not. But all our financial transactions are intact. We would be doing a full-scale investigations using the right professionals just to determine exactly what happened.
“The professionals will tell us whether it was from the air-conditioners or not and if we’ve had any material loss. But there is no human casualty”.
On the duration of the investigation, the Minister said it would be determined by the Minister of Finance and the professionals that would be engaged.
“I’ve to go back and brief the Minister of Finance and the government will determine who should handle what before we determine the timeline. What is important now is to ensure the cooling system at the data centre is functioning.
“The affected unit capital unit where MDAs capital are released,” he noted.
On whether the inferno would not affect April salary payment, the Minister said there was nothing to suggest a delay in salary payment since all the systems are working and are done electronically.
“All the systems are working. The AGF can work from home.”
In his remarks, the AGF, Mr Idris Ahmed, there was no need to link the fire incident to sabotage and urged the public to wait for the outcome of the investigation.
“I can’t point to sabotage. We should allow the investigation to be carried out. I myself can be a suspect.”
On why such a sensitive office had no fire tenders, Ahmed said fire truck acquisition and the establishment of a sub-station were part of the reforms for the office of the AGF.
“We know the initial arrangement did not make adequate provision for fighting fire. We’re putting up a sub-station for fire fighting and acquiring some more gadgets. Some are in the store. Just that they’ve not been commissioned. It’s unfortunate that fire happened.
“The property is insured and we insisted on insurance for the treasury building. I’m glad the government agreed and provided funds,” he added.
When Daily Sun arrived at Treasury House, some staff and security personnel were seen trooping in to ascertain if it had affected their offices or not.
Before the fire incident, the office of the AGF has been at loggerheads with some stakeholders over issues bordering on Treasury Single Account and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) as it is the case with the Academic Staff Union of Universities.