By Tordue Salem
ABUJA â€” The young lives claimed by the Sosoliso plane crash at the Port Harcourt Airport in 2005 would have been rescued by an effective emergency management and fire service in place, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday.
The vice president spoke at the first National Fire Conference and Exposition at the Sheraton Hotels & Towers by the Rep. Jerimon Manwe-led House of Representatives Committee on Interior in collaboration with the Fire Disaster Prevention & Safety Awareness Association of Nigeria & the Federal Fire Service.
The two-day conference chaired by Dr. Bamanga Tukur, and attended by Comptroller-General of the Federal Fire Service,Mr Olusegun Okebiorun, had other participants and paper presenters in Joseph Kern and Albert Brown Gaisie, from Austria and Ghana respectively.
The vice president who was the special guest of honour, agreed with earlier speakers that the conference should not be a â€œmere talk shopâ€ but should propel the government of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to equip the fire service for optimal performance.
Jonathan regretted that a whole country with its weight of resources would allow a free rein of avoidable fire disasters to claim lives and property.
â€œIf we had enough fire service personnel and an equipped Federal Fire Service, all the children that were killed in the Sosoliso aircraft at the Port Harcourt Airport could have been saved
â€œMore than 60 percent of our fire incidents would have been avoided if we had been developing our fire service,â€ he said.
The Vice President wrapped up his participation at the conference with a special award to former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, for being the â€œfirst lawmaker in Nigeria to present a Bill for an effective fire serviceâ€ since the establishment of the fire sector in Nigeria in 1901.
The host, Mr. Manwe in his remarks, regretted that various governments in the past paid lip service to the fire sub-sector leading to the decay of the sector and its inability to respond to its problems.â€
â€œTo worsen the situation, many successive administrations kept changing the departmental structure of the agency and all these attempts did not improve her lot.
“It should be noted that the fire service is one of the oldest institutions in this country established in 1901,â€ he said.
Manwe assured that the House would use the conference to â€œgenerate the needed output and a framework for legislation on fire