By Umar Usman Umar
I am amazed when I heard the the Public Relations Officer, PRO, of Kano State Fire Service, Sa’id Muhammad on air admitting the agency’s lack of motor vehicles to transport its men to rescue lives.
When answering questions from a radio correspondent via telephone, the PRO confirmed that they received a distress call from the relatives of a drowning teenage boy at a time when there was no functional vehicle available to go to their aid.
He further revealed that whenever such incidences arise, the relatives of a victim have to come with their vehicle or be ready to hire at least a tricycle (a daidaita sahu) for the operatives of the Fire Service to rescue their beloved ones.
This is a team that are vested with the responsibilities to respond to various types of emergencies at any given time. These emergencies can include fire, natural disasters, chemical spills, and water rescue.
No doubt, carrying those responsibilities requires trained and dedicated personnel, coupled with the provision of sophisticated firefighting and rescue equipment. These will undoubtedly function well if the morales of the fire service workers are boosted through various motivations.
I am not questioning the morale of the fire service workers the way the Nigerian chief of army staff was quoted as questioning the morale of some officers and men of the Nigerian Army. Rather, I will like to consider the aforementioned requirements and try to evaluate how they work, even though it is difficult to asses the full extent of the problems.
Let us first look at the issue of personnel. The guiding questions that may lead the right assessment are: Do Kano State Fire Service have adequate personnel? Are the available personnel given the required training? “NO” is arguably the right answer to both questions.
We can clear the doubt if we make a critical look at the amount of money allocated for salaries and wages of the agency. In Kano State 2019 approved budget, Five hundred and twenty nine million, eight hundred and eighty six thousand, four hundred and seventy two naira, sixty two kobo (N 529,886,472.62) was approved for their salaries and wages, less than the amount allocated for the same purpose in 2018.
We can guess that their staff maybe less than two thousand. And precisely, the amount slashed down between 2018 and 2019 for salaries and wages was (N57, 766, 476. 11). Well, this may be attributed to the incidences of deaths and retirements- and the discovery of “ghost workers”?
Whatever the case may be, i think Kano State Fire Service need to look for casual workers. Sadly, the amount allocated to the agency for casual workers’ allowances was one hundred and twenty thousand naira only (N 120, 000), while fifty million naira (N50, 000, 000) was allocated to the Kano State House of Assembly for the same purpose- do we still need to prove the issue of staff training?
The next point is whether sophisticated firefighting and rescue equipment are well provided. If we are satisfied with the revelations from the PRO, then we can boldly say that the agency lack the said equipment.
And that the few ones available suffered poor maintenance, so are being scrapped. Sadly, the amount allocated for the maintenance of motor vehicle / transport equipment is not helping the matter because it has been reduced to N 2.5 million form N2.901 million of 2018, just as that of the Kano State House of Assembly has been increased to N12.5 million against the allocation of 2018.
When the population is increasing, and the incidences of fire and other accidents are also increasing, the number of personnel and equipment have to also be increased, otherwise there will be a total failure. This is the current situation. Surely if this persist no matter how dedicated the staff are, their efforts may not pay off.
As a matter of fact the actions and in-actions of Kano State Fire Service affect all. We should therefore put a collective effort to solve the problems. Government should make appropriate policies and implement them. I have heard a member of Kano State House of Assembly promising to take the issue to the floor of the house- we are looking forward to see it.
The media should also contribute. It already started by bringing the issue to the fore. We therefore expect more sensitization, public enlightenment and civil societies participation in that regard.
Umar Usman Umar sent this piece from Gwammaja Quarters, Kano State