June 8, 2009

Cession plans: We are not for sale, Federal Fire servicemen tell Lagos Govt

By Albert Akpor
THOUGH normal operational and administrative activities are still going on both outside and within the respective stations, it is quite clear that all is not well with the men and officers of the nation’s Federal Fire Service.

This is evident by despondent manner the personnel occupying various positions in this all important government organisation go about their day to day activities. It soon emerged that these officers are troubled by an air of uncertainty over alleged plans from yet-to-be ascertained quarters to cede part of the organisation to the Lagos State government service.

Gov. Babatunde Fashola (left)

Gov. Babatunde Fashola (left)

But the firemen and women also seem  resolute and are determined to fight the alleged cession plans to a logical conclusion.  From the technical station in Oju-Elegba, Surulere to Apapa, Ebute-Metta, Festac, state house and national population commission then to 1004, Onikan and of course, the headquarters on Campbell Street Lagos, the story is not any different.  At the these stations’ respective gates and walls are clearly pasted anti-cession slogans some of which warn the state government that the Federal Fire Service is not for sale even as they highlight complaints of non-provision of operational logistics with which to work.  One of the anti- cession slogan states thus: “Lagos State government beware, Federal Fire Service is not for sale”.

Some of the personnel who bared their minds to Vanguard Metro vowed that they would rather die than live to see the organisation they had worked all their lives being ceded to the Lagos State government or any other state for that matter.  Whereas some informed that they got enlisted into the service as Federal Government workers and would therefore,  retire as such,  others say they are totally in the dark as to the source the alleged cession plans.

A visibly angry spokes person of the Service, Mr. Chika Njoku reacted this way to a question on this: “We are totally against the plan to cede any number of personnel and of course structure of the Federal Fire Service to the state or local government as the case may be.   Though I have not stayed long here as the Service’s Public Relations Officer, at least I can say that a sizeable number of personnel here are against the plan to cede part of the Federal Fire Service to the state.

And if that is to take place at all,  why is that we are not being carried along?  I have spent 20 years in the Service and most of our personnel have spent over 30 years; some 34 and are on the verge of retiring.  So if the cession plans sails through who pays their entitlements?   Personally, when I was being recruited into the Federal Ministry of Works, there existed state ministry of works and I did not go for that, instead I chose the federal ministry. So how come now that I am more than half way to retirement, somebody is singing an unpalatable song of ceding us to the sate government?

Some of us were brought in from the Federal Ministry of Works and trained as fire service men and we have been working as such till date.  We have it on good authority that two of our engineers from Abuja were in Lagos recently where they met with representatives of the Lagos State government.  And it was said that part of the technical station at the Oju- Elegba Barracks have been ceded to the state government.  And we’re in confusion as to where this is coming from.  There is no white paper from the Federal Government informing us to that effect.  From a personal experience, I am convinced that the Federal Government cannot and will never do things of this nature in absolute secrecy.  We are at a loss here.

If the plan is actually true, the question on the lips of very fire man and woman is that, why are we not involved or at least informed?  Secondly, and most importantly, what happens to those who are nearing retirement; their entitlement and postilions?  We understand that the highest paid personnel with the state fire service is equal to a level 8 officer here in the Federal Fire Service.

And again, we have it on good authority that tribalism is rife in the state fire service; so there is this cloud of uncertainty and fear of being victimised if one is a non-indigene.  .  We are yet to get reactions from the Comptroller- General, Mr. James Olusegun Okebiorun.  Perhaps he will soon issue a memo to that effect.  But like I said,  and that is the minds of all, we were recruited as Federal Government workers and we would retire as such.”