QUESTION: Tell Nigerians, what are the sole responsibilities of federal fire service?
CGF: Our core responsibilities at the Federal Fire Service are;
o To extinguish, Control and prevent fire outbreaks
o To effect search and rescue of lives during emergencies
o To sensitize, enlighten and educate Nigerians on fire safety
o To ensure compliance with fire safety regulations as well as enforce the fire safety code
o Carry out humanitarian services and
o Any other duties that may be assigned by the Honourable Minister of Interior.
QUESTION: What is your agency doing in educating the public on precautionary measures against fire outbreaks?
CGF: Our most preached message is prevention of fire, which is a better way to tackle fire than trying to control it. Creating awareness on fire safety is one of our responsibilities. And that we are doing, we have a department called Investigation, Inspection and Enforcement (IIE) that is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the public is educated on fire safety, they also ensure that the laid down safety rules are implemented.
They visit both public and private buildings to enlighten the people on fire safety. The Inspection team goes out to carry out risk assessment on buildings in ensuring compliance with appropriate safety provisions. The enforcement team is always out there to enforce the fire safety code on all buildings.
The public awareness unit is not left out in this effort to enlighten the public on the dos and don’ts to prevent fire outbreak or limit its spread. We try to enlighten the public through our social media handles (instagram, twitter and facebook ); produce pamphlets, publish quarterly magazines; hold interviews on live TV/radio; we are also in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education through FOWA for schools outreach programmes; our factories, industries, places of worship are also not left out as safety lectures take place there also.
QUESTION: How can you describe the agency’s position before your appointment and the value you added so far?
CGF: I came on board in 2019 as the CG. Though a lot had been done by the present administration, challenges are still staring us in the face, funding releases is a major challenge. Of course, I have a whole lot of plans to turn the service around, my major concern was the fact that as a Fire Service saddled with the mandate of fighting fire I saw the need to address the deficiencies in firefighting assets. Here, I mean equipment and firefighters as well as manpower development.
I began to look at this challenges one after the other, including the issue of stagnation of staff due for promotion, which I was able to address in a timely fashion.
Very key on what we have done since I took over is the procurement of firefighting engines, like I said from the budgetary provision of 2016 we were able to procure water tankers, firefighting engines and other utility vehicles. We have spread our operational command to about 12 States in the Federation, as we speak we have our presence in all the six geopolitical zones of the nation with firefighting engines and water tankers deployed to all the zones, as well as men to man this firefighting trucks.
Our National Fire Academy (NFA) Sheda which is now affiliated with the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) to run Post Graduate course in Disaster Risk Management is also doing very well; we established 6 additional training schools to compliment the ones in Lagos and Abuja. We are developing a National Policy on fire; we have been able to improve the infrastructure of the National Fire Academy Sheda, the headquarters and Lagos training school.
We’ve done much in the area of promotion; since I came on board over 1000 staff have enjoyed promotion among who are many that have suffered stagnation for more than 10 years, so we are doing our best to ensure that the fire service meets international standard.
QUESTION; Should we say the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing the needful in supporting Nigeria’s Fire Service?
CGF: Security is a cardinal responsibility of all governments world over, it is not surprising therefore to find a chunk of national budgets allocated to Security. The Federal government has not relented in this wise, and the Fire Service in recent past is beginning to get the attention it deserves.
With the coming in of President Mohammadu Buhari, we experienced a turn around, our firefighting assets have more than doubled from no fire trucks to 92, we have so far taken delivery of 62 and yet to take delivery of 30 and what that means is that we have more of our presence across the country.
QUESTION: Fire outbreak is no doubt an unforeseen incident. How has your agency been able to respond to such incident on time?
CGF: Response time is very paramount in firefighting. That’s why we’ve always informed the public to ensure that they have our emergency numbers and to call us immediately the fire starts. The earlier they call us the quicker our response.
So far we’ve increased our public awareness, and that has helped the public acquaint with our emergency numbers. More also our expansion like i said earlier has helped in reducing our response time, because the closer we are to the people the faster our response.
Training and retraining has also been one of our major focus, I believe that there cannot be efficient service delivery without adequate training and so under my watch we have ensured that our officers and men are given the requisite training on regular bases within and outside the country so as to enable them give their best, this I can assure you that we are doing, with the spread of our zonal offices and presences to now 12 zones means improve in response time as well.
QUESTION: How can you describe the current performance of the Federal Fire Service in comparison to the world standard of firefighting?
CGF: Looking at where we were before now, I can sincerely tell you that we are making tremendous progress. And of course our plan is to ensure that our operation is of world standard. That’s why our new trucks are modern fire trucks and the training we provide for our staff is world class. The Federal Fire Service you see today is not what it was seven years ago. I can boldly tell you that we are running a world standard Fire Service.
QUESTION: How has COVID-19 pandemic affected the functions of Fire Service and what you are doing to overcome the situation if any?
CGF: The Service was not affected in anyway by the pandemic. As a first responder agency we were involved in the fight against the pandemic. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, we were involved in the decontamination of public buildings in order to curb the spread of the virus. The Service has been playing its own role in the fight against COVID-19.
QUESTION: Undoubtedly, lack of funds is likely challenge agencies faced. How is the situation with FFS?
CGF: Well, lack of funds is an issue that not only FFS wrestles with. It’s a general thing and despite the fact that the Federal Government has been supportive, the overwhelming challenge posed by the lack of adequate funds is unending and that is why the call to be Fire Safe and responsible is to all and sundry.
Like I said earlier, we are appreciative of what we have enjoyed under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari but there are still challenges that require funding, for instance some of the procured trucks are yet to be fully paid for so that they can be delivered. We still need more funds so be able to pay and take delivery of the trucks. We also need funds in the area of training.
QUESTION: What other challenges can you say Nigeria’s Fire Service is faced with, and how do you intend to overcome same?
CGF: Fire Services in Nigeria are faced with numerous challenges especially the State Fire Services. Inadequate equipment is the major challenge; most of the State Fire Services are in a very sorry state. That is why I have personally decided to interface with the various state governments to see how to encourage them to do more for their State Fire Services. More so, we have been appealing to Nigerians to desist from attacking firefighters at fire scenes. That is a major challenge.
The Agency faces other challenges but most of it is not unrelated to the aforementioned. However, just to mention a few that the Agency has been battling with, i would say. The Agency needs more manpower, training and retraining of staff, more stations established, built and well equipped to ensure effective coverage.
QUESTION: What would you call on the government and Nigerians to do that will aid the FFS in actualizing more and better Services?
CGF: For government at all levels I appeal for more funding for the various Fire Services, also call on the government to ensure amendment of the Federal Fire Service Act to reflect only what supports the growth and aspirations of the Service, be more flexible in its consideration for the financial demands of the Service.
For Nigerians I will appeal for support for the Fire Service for effective service delivery.
The citizens must ensure absolute compliance with safety measures. Citizens should ensure they have our emergency numbers and always call the emergency numbers anytime there is fire or any emergency.
Establishment of Fire Service Training Schools in the Geo-political Zones will enhance the capacities of Federal and State Fire Services personnel as well as private Organization’s Fire Safety personnel.