Fire fighting impaired, as over 60 trucks are grounded in Maiduguri
Over 60 fire fighting trucks bought by the Borno State government at an estimated cost of N76 million each have been grounded since 2011.
When The Guardian visited the fire service headquarters in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on Wednesday, vehicles estimated at N4.5 billion were parked in an open space.
An official of the service said there were no personnel to drive the vehicles. It was learnt that the vehicles, which were exposed to rain and sun, had not been kick-started since they were brought into the headquarters about six years ago.
The spokesperson of the fire service, Mr. Mbursa Pindar Iza, told The Guardian and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), that there was only one driver in the service after seven of them had retired in December 2016.
He said they were yet to be replaced, despite the fact that several letters and reminders had been written to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Culture before their retirement.
“The drivers’ retirement poses a huge challenge to the department in providing rapid response to fire incidents,” the spokesperson said.
According to him, in the last five years year, 749 fire incidents were recorded in Maiduguri city alone, out of which 114 incidents that were unconnected to bomb blast occurred from January to June this year.
“Our director has driven trucks to fire incident scenes on several occasions because there was no driver to do so. He also drove to the quench the recent fire outbreak at Konduga IDPs camp,” he said.
He explained that the state lacked the capacity to attend to multiple incidents, adding that it could not cope when four fire outbreaks happened recently.
When our reporter visited the permanent secretary’s office, three times to confirm the threat, he was not available. His staff did not also provide his phone number.
A top official in the State civil service disclosed that the state maintains a firm control over government information.
“Nobody can criticise this government openly without a repercussion,” a senior civil servant, who pleaded not to be mentioned said.
The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Mohammed Bulama, confirmed that the last seven drivers were retired in December. He, however, said the state government had re-engaged the retired drivers in an informal way to continue to render their service.
“The director also drives fire vehicle. So, you can say we have nine drivers and there are plans to redeploy33 civil servants in other establishments to the fire service.
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