By Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji
Chief Fire Officer, Enugu State Fire Service, Engr. Okwudiri Daniel Ohaa, FNSE, has described the appointment of an engineer by the governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as Chief Fire Officer, for the first time in the history of the service, as the secret to the current success story of the service.
Ohaa noted this while welcoming a delegation of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Enugu branch, to the Ogui Road Fire Station, Enugu, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, as part of activities marking the World Engineering Day held annually on March 4.
He said, “The secret of the upsurge in the service delivery of the Enugu State Fire Service is the appointment of an engineer for the first time by His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as the Chief Fire Officer. He also recruited so many graduate engineers into the service in his wisdom.”
Ohaa, a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and as well the assistant technical secretary, NSE, Enugu branch, explained that having an engineer as Chief Fire Officer and so many engineers in its fold has had an overwhelming positive impact on the service delivery and efficiency of the service.
“Due to the massive moral and financial support of the governor, the state fire service, through its engineering work force, had a breakthrough in various aspects,” he said.
During a tour of the facilities at the station, Ohaa displayed a motorized fumigator that was fabricated by a team of engineers in the fire service, led by Engr. Chinedu Ogbu, for mass disinfection, which was fully utilized by the service in the fumigation of the state at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Utilization of the motorized fumigator was then demonstrated.
While showing the delegation other new equipment, Ohaa, said: “Engineers in the State Fire Service are not only concerned with firefighting, we are also involved in the fabrication of needed fire-fighting equipment and tools to enhance service delivery. The service also produced hand sanitizers in its effort to support the state government in fighting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. I am happy to inform you that the State Fire Service has been doing well in the area of engineering practice, all thanks to His Excellency, the Enugu State Governor.”
He also displayed the rapid response vehicles recently procured by the state government for firefighting in areas without spacious access roads. According to him, the Enugu State Fire Service now has five of the rapid response vehicles and Enugu is the only state that has such vehicles in the country.
Also, Engr. Kenneth gave a concise lecture to the delegation on fire and safety, followed by a demonstration of using fire extinguishers in firefighting.
In his remark, during the interactive session, Engr. Chigbo Obealor, the vice-chairman, NSE, Enugu branch, leader of the delegation, commended the Chief Fire Officer for the tremendous improvement in the service delivery of the Enugu State Fire Service: “While we were here, I observed that your response to a fire alarm was very prompt. In fact, I timed it to be exactly 58 seconds.
“Again, in advanced countries, once you dial 199, the fire service, the police, medical team and ambulance will all arrive in response. That is not the case here.”
Responding, Ohaa said, “That is what it ought to be. In Nigeria, the Nigerian emergency code is 112 but Enugu State’s emergency code is 117. Unfortunately, when you call 112 or 117, your call still has to be re-directed. Due to that, the National Communications Commission (NCC) is installing receivers here, so that we can receive fire alarm calls directly. We ought to be going with the police for security. For instance, during a firefighting, yesterday, at Obiagu, we were nearly mobbed by hoodlums and we had to call the police. The way we are set up, we dont have a police team and medical team that goes with us. We usually contact the police while responding to fire alarm; we are also talking with the Ministry of Health for a medical team.”
On the issue of workers’ welfare, Ohaa explained that the Enugu State government has prioritized workers’ welfare.
“Before this administration, Enugu State had only three fire stations; two in Enugu, one in Nsukka. Now, we have five additional fire stations. The same applies to our welfare.
“Before Ugwuanyi took over, our hazard allowance was N10, which was what it was since 1970s. He has increased it to N10,000. Before now, we bought our uniforms by ourselves but the current state government now provides us with uniforms.
“In 2018, after the Timber Market fire incident, His Excellency gave us N3 million monetary award, which was shared among the staff. Also, in April 2018, he gave each staff N20,000 to encourage us. Again, after the fire incident at Juhel Filling Station, in December 2018, His Excellency graciously converted 27 of our staff from fireman cadre to officer cadre despite an embargo on staff conversion.
“Currently, arrangements are in final stages for construction of quarters in some of our stations to ensure that the staff are housed within the station for enhanced response time. The stations include Ozalla, Oji River, 9th Mile, Idaw River, Orba and Nsukka.
“Again, he approved N5,000 daily stipend for all those involved in fumigation. He has also approved life insurance for all our staff.”
In his remarks, Engr. Dons Udeh, former Commissioner for Rural Development in Enugu State, commended Ohaa for turning around the fortunes of the service.
“I commend you for turning around the fortunes of the Enugu State Fire Service. In my days as Commissioner for Rural Development, the fire service was under my ministry. Going by the huge success you have achieved, the fire service seems to be independent of any ministry today.”
However, Ohaa responded thus: “We are still under the Ministry of Rural Development. The magic is that His Excellency, the Enugu State governor, has granted me unhindered access to his office based on the importance he attached to our Job.
“Again, a cash unit was created for the fire service so that we can get our funds directly.”
Other members of the delegation included Engr. (Dr.) Harmony Nnenna Nwobodo-Nzeribe, former head of the Department of Computer Engineering, ESUT, Enugu, and Engr. IK Enemuo, director, Engineering Services, FRCN, Enugu.
In her vote of thanks, Dr. Nwobodo-Nzeribe, technical secretary, NSE, Enugu branch, thanked Ohaa for his achievements in office. She also commended Governor Ugwuanyi for his support for the state’s fire service.