Many govt structures in FCT unsafe, workers’ safety endangered —CG, Fed. Fire Service
By Soni Daniel, Olalekan Bilesanmi & Omeiza Ajayi
A section of the massive Federal Secretariat building in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, housing the Ministry of Health was, on Saturday, gutted by fire.
The ministry, however, said the ugly incident was not a serious one, and did not destroy any government property.
But authorities of the Federal Fire Service, FFS, had, in an earlier interview with Sunday Vanguard, raised the alarm about the safety of most public buildings across the country, and especially in the FCT, which it said, was not safe for workers as a result of non-compliance with fire safety requirements.
The agency, however, warned that if the occupants of the said buildings failed to install the fire-fighting requirements, they would be forced to close them down.
According to the Controller-General of the Service, Engr. Joseph Garba Anebi, “so many government structures here (Abuja) need to be sanctioned because the lives of people working there are not safe. Some of these public buildings that have been found wanting should do the needful to avoid being sanctioned very soon because we have met with the occupants of these buildings.”
Anebi said if the agency was to carry out its responsibility, as expected, the FCT would grind to a halt as most public buildings in the territory would be closed down.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
The position of the ministry was contained in a statement signed by its Director of Media and Public Relations, Mrs. Boade Akinola, who confirmed that the fire was caused by an electric spark from burnt cables and wires.
The spokeswoman said the spark resulted in a ‘small fire on the corridor of the third floor, Wing B of the Federal Ministry of Health Headquarters and was immediately contained before it could spread.
“After assessing the situation, it became clear that the fire did not destroy any government property,” Akinola said.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the prompt response from the FFS, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and some private security outfits manning the Federal Secretariat saved the situation.
Meanwhile, a competent source in the federal government fire service has expressed fear that it might be difficult for the service to swiftly contain any major fire outbreak at the federal secretariat given the way it is constructed and the type of materials used.
The official, who pleaded anonymity, said that it was doubtful if there was a functional fire alarm system at the massive building.
The source also said that the way the building was constructed makes it difficult for fire fighters to be able to determine the exact position of fire whenever there is an outbreak.
“The main challenge at the secretariat is that it is difficult for fire fighters to locate the exact position of fire outbreak and be able to deal with it because of the way the building is,” the source who has been working with the fire service for many years, said.
“And you know, unlike in other countries where you precision firefighting equipment that does not require firefighters to enter the burning structure, we need to physically enter the building and stop the fire,” the source added.
PREVIOUS FIRE OUTBREAKS
Previously, there had been serious fire incidents which affected important public buildings in Nigeria.
A fire outbreak had crippled the Nigeria External Telecommunications, NET, building, considered the tallest in Nigeria in the 1980s with 37floors, in April, 1983.
It has since been rehabilitated but has lost its prestige.
In a related development in 1985, Cocoa House, completed in 1965, at a height of 105metres, the tallest of in the West African sub-region then, and a subsidiary of O’dua Group of Companies, was gutted by fire on January 9, 1985. It was rehabilitated and put back to use in August 1992.
In 1995, the Ministry of Defence building, situated near the Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, in the Onikan area of Lagos was also gutted by fire
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