Past efforts of fire protection association of Nigeria episode
Having identified public Fire Service as an essential organ and the basis of fire protection in public fire safety, a delegation of the Association from Lagos, in 1982 traveled to Maiduguri to meet with the Chief Fire Officers of the Federation at their Conference in Maiduguri that year, to formally introduce the existence of the Association and its willingness to collaborate with the Fire Services in the Country on fire safety issues. Thereafter, the Association participated in their subsequent conferences.
When desires and expectations of active collaboration were not in sight, the Association changed its approach and sent a questionnaire to States’ Fire Services for information on their equipment and training. The Association was dismayed by the responses which indicated gross neglect of Local Government Areas in Fire Service coverage throughout the States in the Country. Some States of seventeen Local Governments and above had only 2 fire vehicles which were poorly maintained, resulting in frequent break-downs. Hence, consequent upon the under-listed highlights at the Association’s 1998 Conference/AGM a communiqué was issued.
- Statistics showed that billions of Naira were lost to fire annually and the rapidly increasing loss continued in all dimensions.
- All participants at the conference agreed that a substantially high percentage of the loss could have been saved if:
- Efforts had been made towards the provision of appropriate firefighting equipment;
- The Country had a much wider spread of fire service coverage, with fire stations strategically located to protect all urban towns, and have them manned by firemen, trained continually to sharpen their efficiency.
The good effects of this opinion are that towns and cities other than State capitals will be covered, and the rural areas around them will have prompt fire service response to fire emergencies in their areas.
Now that emphasis is on agriculture for food sufficiency, employment opportunities for youths, and enhancement of the national economy, it must be realized that farms that must not be abandoned to be destroyed by fire will mostly be cultivated in the rural areas. In this direction, the importance of rural areas in the national economy will be on an increasingly rising curve. Safety in rural areas must be planned for in the country’s transformation agenda.
It may be of interest at this point, to recall the question an attendee asked at one of the Association’s public lectures in the eighties when at the National Theater, he queried why the fire statistics in the paper presented did not include the fires which devastated many cocoa farms in the rural areas. Some of the affected farmers, he said, died as a result of their losses to the fires. My heart was touched. Many people, including market traders, suffered the same faith unnoticed, except by their immediate relations.
It was to redress the worsening situation in the fire safety scene that the Fire Protection Association in their 1998 Conference/AGM came out with the following resolutions; in order to ensure uniformity and efficiency in fire service training and service delivery throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria:
- That the Federal Fire Service be transformed into Fire Service Inspectorate – an authority to regulate fire service practice in the Country. That was the thought at that time.
- That the Federal Fire Service Stations, except Campos and Surulere Fire Stations in Lagos, and the ones in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, be handed over to Lagos State Fire Service and FCT Fire Service respectively.
We saw a great wisdom in the Federal Government allowing the establishment of FCT Fire Service; and equally, at that time, felt that running the Federal Fire Service, as a fire fighting force, in Lagos State and FCT, amounted to a wasteful duplication of efforts and money which would not allow thoughtful provision of adequate and appropriate equipment and training that a modern fire service would require. There was no Federal Fire Service anywhere-else other than Lagos and Abuja. In any case, which of the fire services can a State Government hold accountable for fire safety matters other than its fire service? The obvious answer is the State Fire Service.
- That the Federal Government should be granting incentive subvention
annually to the States Fire Services. This was informed by the fact that Federal Government has overall responsibility to secure the safety of every citizen, including corporate organizations, in the Country. Administration of the recommended subvention could follow the same procedure as for ecological funds. The communiqué specifically stated that the subvention should be administered by the recommended Fire Service Inspectorate – a regulatory body for fire services in the Country.
- That a National Fire Service College under the supervision of the Fire Service Inspectorate, be established to train officers of the States Fire Services, for a uniform standard in fire safety education and operational techniques throughout the States of the Federation. The recommendations were circulated to the Federal Government. Further descriptions of responsibilities expected of the Fire Service Inspectorate, contained in the recommendations were:
*To formulate and update fire service policy and fire safety code of practice.
* To carry out regular inspection of States’ fire service equipment and training facilities.
*That in the meantime, pending when a suitable site was found and structures were ready for the recommended National Fire Service College, to convert Campos Fire Service Headquarters and Surulere Fire Service school to fire service college for senior and junior fire officers respectively. That was an indication of the urgency Fire Protection Association of Nigeria attached to the transformation of fire service in Nigeria
- That States Fire Services should be responsible solely for fire prevention and control in their States, in accordance with National Fire Code requirements, and regulations/guidelines by Federal Government established regulatory body, then suggested as ‘’Fire Service Inspectorate’’,
- That with developments and economic advancements, each State Fire Service should decentralize.
It’s administration and give the Local Governments in the State some measure of authority, making Local Governments accept some responsibility in the maintenance and provision of Fire Stations, fire service personnel, and Fire Fighting Appliances. SAFETY WORLDWIDE is a collective responsibility.
Article written by
Dominic O. Aigbogun, founder and former Chairman BOT (1980-2013) Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) and Vice President Fire Protection Association of Nigeria
First published in Safety Record Newspaper in October 2013