While the general public is made to believe that the Fire Service is underfunded by the Federal Government, investigations have revealed that fraud, misappropriation of funds and mismanagement perpetrated by top officials of the Federal Fire Service have gone unnoticed.
Many Nigerians agree that the nation’s Fire Service lacks capacity, both in terms of manpower and equipment to adequately cope with the challenges that come with the discharge of its duties.
However, many also agree that the funds that have accrued to it over the years have not been judiciously utilized to warrant its desire to be better funded.
Sources at the service who spoke with aljazirahnews allege that the over N4 billion for the development of the running of the agency, the National Fire Academy and purchase of firefighting machines and other equipment to enable maximum efficiency in the discharge of its duties has not been well utilized by those tasked with its usage.
A source who is a senior official at the service said what is on ground is not commensurate with the amount that has been expended on it.
The source also alleged that the service under the present leadership of the Comptroller General, Anebi Garba has not departed from the sordid past of the past administration of Olusegun Okebiorun who was also alleged to have ran the service in a corrupt manner.
“Most of the equipment for which provisions were made in the annual budget were not procured and the funds were misappropriated,” the source said,
Interaction with a cross section of staff also revealed that there was mismanagement and nepotism in the area of staff promotions.
“Most of the staff who participated in the confirmation/promotion exams were not promoted; the Comptroller-General only approved the promotion of only his relatives and some who are in his ‘good book,’” a worker said.
It was also alleged that the CG and his deputies used the position as an avenue to enrich their private lives.
The present CG was also alleged to have diverted some of the equipment purchased for the office, such as air conditioners and fans to his house for private use.
The workers told our reporter that they wanted a total overhaul in the agency’s administration and that the minister of interior should look into that agency and employ closer monitoring of its affairs in order to curb alleged corrupt practices.
They were also of the opinion that “a change is inevitable to the leadership of the Federal fire service; the CG should be replaced over inefficiency and corruption.”
“The mandate of the agency is to protect lives and properties from destruction by fire, but how effective have they been in this regard?
“Gone are the days when people just sit and enjoy privileges without commensurate labour. He should be replaced with someone who is fit to handle the agency and bring more dignity and efficiency to firefighters’ responsiveness in Nigeria,” an irate staff member said.
Aljazirahnews made efforts to contact the CG over the allegations.
When our reporter put a call through to his line, a respondent who identified himself as the CG asked to be briefed on the allegations. But as soon as the allegations were reeled out, the respondent denied being the CG and cut the call.
The reported rot within the service becomes even more worrisome for some with the obvious inability of the service to tackle constant fire outbreaks across the nation.
Recently, the inadequacy of the Fire Service was exposed with the incidence of the fire outbreak in GTBank, where some bank documents relating to account opening and other financial transactions of the Senate President were destroyed by fire as was revealed by Micheal Wetkas, a staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), during Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Recently also, precisely on Wednesday, there was report of fire outbreak that gutted the popular Mararaba market located on the outskirt of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
On March 28th about N2 trillion worth of goods were destroyed in a Kano market fire outbreak.
Nigeria’s disaster management agency, NEMA, said over 3,800 shops were burnt in the inferno which it described as the worst market fire disaster in Nigeria.
This is not the first time allegations of impropriety will be levelled against the leadership of the nation’s fire service.
An online publication, Street Journal recently exposed some anomalies in the running of the organization.
The Federal Government a few years back had decided to open up the sector and allow private participation.
Findings by the media outfit revealed that the Fire Service did not consult any stakeholder in the industry before concluding the guidelines; rather, they were only invited to its public presentation.
Street Journal’s findings also linked the ownership of a private Fire Service company in the bidding process, Oke Fire to the CG, Olusegun Okebiorun and Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho, the former Minister of Interior.
There were allegations then that the two men floated the company in order to use their positions to corner jobs for the company by operating their company in a setting where they are regulators.
Street Journal has also found out that apart from the private interest of the Comptroller General of the Service conflicting with that of the Fire Service and the good of the Nigerian public once in a while, public funds meant for the use of the fire service could hardly be accounted for as allegations of mismanagement and private appropriation of public funds trailed officials.
Investigations revealed that most of the equipment for which provisions were made in the annual budget were not procured while the funds were expended. It was found out that public funds were diverted constantly to private accounts as companies’ names were used to siphon public funds without any work done.The erstwhile CG denied all the allegations.