Gentlemen of the Press Good day.
Let me start by giving all the glory to God Almighty for His benevolence and mercies in making this day a reality. With due respect, I wish to acknowledge and appreciate the President, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR who from the instance of his assumption of duty has been supporting the Federal Fire Service till date.
As a matter of fact,Mr President has never taken anything that has to do with firefighting and rescue with levity.So also is the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, for giving us such a large opportunity and backing in ensuring that the Service is able to make the giant strides that so evidently has changed the rhetoric about us. We can boast of having a robust support and shoulders to lean on in future as we look forward to nailing it again and again following the footsteps of the greats.
My sincere appreciation to you for honoring this invitation.
I want to heartily commend your robust partnership and efforts diligently put into your duties in the matters of the Federal Fire Service. I may have met with some of you at different fora, but it gives me joy having my first parley with you,no serious agency or organisation can do without you. As watchdogs, I believe beyond providing publicity for what we do, you also put us on our toes by keeping a check on what we do.
And so, the purpose of this parley is to familiarize, strengthen partnership, unveil my visions, plans and deliverables so you can be brought into what we are doing and where we are headed while I hold the swing.
I took over the leadership of the Federal Fire Service on the 30th of December, 2022 after the retirement of my predecessor, Dr. Liman Ibrahim, and I have since set the ball rolling.
When I met with my immediate boss, the Honorable Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola after my assumption of duty, the Minister confirmed my heartbeat for the Service which are rolled out through the visions I have for The Federal Fire Service. These include; massive public enlightenment campaign on fire prevention, developing a robust capacity for public and private buildings, ensuring improvement on fire protection installations, and synergizing with the Nigeria Air Force on building their capacity for aerial firefighting.
It is said that “prevention is better than cure” as a fire man who has spent over 3 decades of his life fighting fire, that saying is key, because fire prevention is cheaper and safer than firefighting. We can only reduce or prevent fire occurrence through massive public enlightenment, and for me that is paramount in the months ahead
We are developing a strategic framework on fire drills/simulation in all Federal Government buildings across the states of the Federation. The essence of these fire drills is to ensure that occupants of these buildings are trained on what to do in a situation of fire.
We are working towards deploying technology (e.g., Drones) to provide intelligence on threats around fire scenes, this is due to incessant attacks on firefighters across the country. I am glad to also mention that the Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbeshola has also directed NSCDC to provide security for our firemen at fire scenes.
Recent fire incidents at malls, shops and other public buildings have shown that owners of such buildings need to wake up to their responsibility of ensuring the safety of their business premises through absolute compliance to all fire safety requirements.
Response time to fire scenes has been a challenge, due to bad roads, distance of fire stations from fire scenes and many other factors. One way of reducing response time is to increase the number of equipped fire stations, for this reason we call on the NASS, UNDP, Multinationals, Foundations, and other relevant stakeholders to support the bid to increase the number of fire stations in the country.
The NASS should make the provision of fire stations and equipment such as fire and rescue trucks, Hydraulic Platforms, Rapid Response Power Bikes are needed, including ambulances and rapid response trucks as part of their constituency projects. As a matter of fact, the Federal Fire Service is willing to freely deploy her men to any station built and equipped by any organization or individuals.
Considering the current staff strength of the FFS which is 6,000 vis a viz a population of over 200 million Nigerians, you will agree with me that there is need for additional personnel as the number at the moment is way below par considering the population surge. In a bit to complement our staff strength, the Service has established a fire marshal unit that avail Nigerians the opportunity to volunteer in the area of fire prevention and fighting as well as rescue.
Climate change is a big issue globally and we are a part of it, hence, turning a blind eye to the realities surrounding the effect of this change as regards fire hazard is to sit on the edge of an active volcano. Climate change has been a factor in increasing risk and extent of wild fire around the globe. Climate change enhances the drying of organic matter in forest (the material that burns and spreads).
The risks of the attendant effects of climate change are imminent in this country though we might not have experienced much of it yet. The The Federal Fire Service which has as part of its mandate to create an awareness, educate and be prepared to deal with issues bothering on rescues associated with natural and manmade disasters as well as fire prevention and protection is rising to the occasion. We want to also use this opportunity to call on Nigerians to be mindful of human activities, such as deforestation, bush burning, gas flaring etc. Let me say categorically that the Service is beginning to set a legacy in the Safety Industry.
However, it is becoming clearer too that the call to assist DR Congo’s Fire Department to develop and grow into a Service like ours occasions the need to expand the capacity of our National Fire Academy to an international standard in structure, infrastructure and technology; the quality of lecturers/curriculum nonetheless. An extensive work must be done to raise all our training schools to international standards if we must measure up to a fire service that must stand at per with its global counterparts in performance, preparedness to respond to fire hazards and other disasters/emergencies and technology.
The degree to which our men are exposed to hazard on a daily basis each time they combat fire or are out on a rescue operation is phenomenal.
Straight from the field we have had reports of exposures of our men to what could trigger Post Traumatic Disorder Syndrome PTDS as first responders to traumatic scenes. In some cases, they get away with serious respiratory challenges, near death explosions of gas cylinders just to mention a few. For a fireman to risk his life, stay up round the clock attending to life threatening situations without a commensurate reward system is cruel, inhuman and very wicked.
It does not only affect efficiency but it destroys productivity. Hence, one of my visions is to improve on the welfare of officers and men of the Service. For me to get a better output from staff, their welfare has to be a priority. I am going to ensure that the welfare of staff is top on my agenda, and we have commenced that. Uniform is now provided for all junior staff in the Service and we are working same for senior officers.
Thank you once again for coming.