By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
A bill seeking to amend the fire service act of 1963 and include other natural disasters as emergencies to be given urgent attention has passed for second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill is titled “An Act to repeal the Fire Service Act Cap. F29 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and enact the Fire and Emergency Service Act 2021 to provide for additional powers for effective service delivery; and for related matters”.
The non-fire occurrences listed by the bill needing emergency rescue included flooding, building collapse, air and road accidents and other natural disasters.
The sponsor of the bill is Rep. Adejoro Adeogun Akoko South East: South West Federal Constituency of Ondo State.
Leading the debate on the general principle of the bill at Tuesday plenary, Adeogun said that the bill when passed into law would provide stricter penalties for violation of building codes and fire regulations.
He said: “The fire service act (1963) saddled the Fire service with the responsibility of mitigating fire disasters and combating fire emergencies. This narrow scope of responsibility precludes non-fire disasters such as flooding, building collapse, air and road accidents and other natural disasters that may or may not be accompanied by fire and for which emergency rescue is required.
“This bill addresses this gap by expanding the scope of responsibilities of the fire service to include fire and non-fire related emergencies such as flooding, building collapse, construction site accidents, mining collapse, and related land, sea and air accidents.
“This bill also seeks to introduce stricter penalties for violation of building codes, fire regulations, impersonation of fire service personnel and unlawful disclosure of privileged information obtained in the course of emergencies.”
According to the lawmaker, the goals of the bill are essential to prevent and mitigate all fire disasters as well as accidents occasioned by flooding, construction accidents, road and air accidents and other preventable disasters; encourage investment in fire and emergency equipment by States, Local government councils and corporate organizations to improve response to emergencies; establish the office of the Fire and emergency Chief for day to day management of the activities of the Fire and emergency service; empower the Fire and emergency service chief to mobilize resources for the training, equipping and deployment of fire and emergency personnel for prompt response to emergencies; and provide for the establishment of a Fire and Emergency Service Reward Fund to reward fire and emergency fire officer.
“Mr Speaker, Hon. colleagues, the major achievements of this amendment bill, if passed would be to build the capacity of the fire and emergency service to respond to disasters with greater synergy and efficiency.
“It will also elevate the fire and emergency service from the backend to the frontline of disaster management. The bill will also open new frontiers for the creation of jobs through the engagement of able-bodied youths into the fire and emergency service.
“Nigeria has in the past lost lives and billion-dollar assets to fire, flood and similar disasters. This bill hopes to lay the foundation for mitigating of future disasters and saving the nation from avoidable loss of lives and resources. I am therefore seeking the support of all distinguished Honorable members of this house for the second reading of this bill and eventual passage”, Adeogun submitted.
The bill eventually received the overwhelming support of the House majority when subjected to a voice vote by the presiding officer, Ahmed Idris Wase and passed for second reading.