October 26, 2017

Most State Fire Service Departments ill-equipped, understaffed, to cope with disaster challenges – NAN Survey


Fire fighters struggling to quench the fire that gutted the House on the Rock at Airport Road in Abuja Sunday

Bauchi – Inadequacy of funds, personnel and facilities have combined to hinder effective service delivery by most state Fire Service units across the country, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has shown.

Men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and Fire Services in a rescue operation at the accident scene of a 33, 000 litres PMS laden tanker at the Anthony Bridge inward Gbagada, Lagos on Saturday, December 24, 2016.

The survey, conducted in the 36 states of the federation, revealed that while some state governments were trying to address the challenges, others had relegated their Fire Service units to the background.

The survey also revealed other challenges to include non-recognition of right of way of firefighting vehicles, as well as delay in alerting the appropriate quarters whenever emergency situations arose.

Bauchi state Director in charge of Fire Service Department, Mr Abubakar Isa, lamented the attitude of members of the public in contacting Fire Service stations whenever there was fire outbreak, adding that reports were often lodged late.

“It is sad that most members of the public do not care to have our telephone numbers, and never rushed to our offices to inform us about fire outbreaks.

“Another major challenge is that some do not recognize the right of way of fire fighting vehicles on emergency operations, thereby obstructing movement, with heavy consequences,” he said

Mr.Solomon Burga, Director, Gombe State Fire Service Department, said inadequacy of manpower was the major challenge of his department.

“We have dearth of manpower and it is seriously affecting us; the few staff we have, run shift duties, “he said.

He said the unit had five functional fire-fighting vehicles, adding that in spite of the shortage of manpower, they still responded to emergency situations whenever they were informed.

Mr. Ahmadu Baji, Permanent Secretary in charge of Special Services in Adamawa also said that inadequacy of staff was one of the challenges faced by the state Fire Service unit, adding that whenever an ongoing renovation was completed, government would recruit more staff.

According to him, Adamawa Government has purchased three new firefighting vehicles and refurbished five grounded ones as part of efforts to enhance disaster management and control.

On his part, Mr Adebambo Adesanya, Head of Fire Prevention Unit, Ogun Fire Service, said the state government had provided adequate firefighting equipment, water and chemicals.

He said the Department would soon introduce Rapid Intervention Vehicles (RIV) in strategic areas of the state to allow for quick and effective response to fire disasters.

Head of Fire Prevention Unit Kwara Fire Service, Alhaji Abdukwaheed Yakub, said the unithad established presence in only three local government areas out of the 16 in the state.

He said they were in dire need of personnel to cover the entire state.

In Awka, Mr Benedict Ofoma, the Acting Director, Anambra State Fire Service Department, said that responses to disasters had improved significantly because of the provision of more equipment by the state government.

Ofoma told NAN that that department had 12 functional firefighting vehicles and eight service stations in the three senatorial zones.

Mr Tony Okafor, a resident of Awka, observed that there had been noticeable improvement in the services of Anambra State Fire Service unit.

“I must say that I am personally impressed with their operations, judging from recent disasters that occurred,” he said.

However, Mrs Olamma Anyanwu, a Civil Rights Activist in Ebonyi, expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Fire Service Department in the state

“The state government should support the unit to check the loss of lives and incessant destruction of property through fire incidences,” she said.

Similarly,the Director of Akwa Ibom Fire Service Department, Mr Ndarake Ukpe, appealed to the State Government to improve on facilities of the department to enable it perform better.

He said that the state of facilities in the establishment had hindered effective performance, adding that there was inadequacy of firefighting trucks and dearth of manpower to cope with the current challenges.

In Kogi, Mr Ibrahim Shehu, a Fire Service Officer, said the institution had been meeting the expectations of the people by doing its best to tackle challenges but Mr Agada Suleiman, a motorist, however debunked the claim, saying the reverse was the case.

Also, Mr Saidi Kabiru, Treasurer, Kog chapter of the National Union of Roads Transport Workers, told NAN that the emergency numbers given by the state’s Fire Service office were hardly reached during emergencies.

The story is the same in Nasarawa state, where Alhaji Dogara Dalhatu, the state’s Chief Fire Officer, told NAN that personnel and equipment were inadequate and could not cope with the challenges on ground.

“The state government has made efforts to improve the fire service in the state, but what is currently on ground, in terms of equipment and personnel are not enough to adequately cover the whole state,” he said.

Dalhatu said they needed at least 300 staff to cover the state effectively, as against the less than 100 available now.

He however said government was addressing the problems, adding that he was optimistic that there would be changes soon.

In Katsina state, Alhaji Abba Bashir, State Director of Home Affairs, said in spite of dearth of manpower and having only 13 firefighting vehicles, the Fire Service unit responded to 296 fire calls from January to September.

The director added that there were plans to recruit more personnel for the state fire service unit.