By Archibong Jeremiah/Frank Edima
The Director, Cross River State Fire Service, Barrister Emmanuel Osim has enjoined the State governor, Senator Ben Ayade to continue in the good strides of his predecessor while lamenting the poor working environment and condition of service men and women in the state.
Osim who spoke to CrossRiverWatch in an interview revealed that the service in the state has two fundamental problems that have constitute serious challenges in the smooth running of their operations.
“These are categorized into two; human and material challenges. For quite a number of years there has been this shortage of manpower, we have been forced to do departmental transfer, that is transferring other people working in other MDAs.
“But I just thank God for the governor of the State, Senator Liyel Imoke as it then was, who thought of turning around the souring state of the Cross River State Fire Service. He constituted a committee for that purpose. Recruitment was made and about 100 firemen including engineers and most importantly the recruitment of nurses into the fire service.
“The idea is that when we have fire call, it is expected of the nurses to see how they can resuscitate the victim before they are taken to the hospital which is a very good innovation. For now, we have good strength but not quite good enough, we need more agile young men.
“The governor’s intention was to do this recruitment in phases. We are waiting for the government of the day to be well seated before we furnish them with the necessary information they need to know because we need to carry out the second phase of the recruitment. That is that for the human aspect.
“For the material aspect: Everyone is a testimony that the state fire service over the years has not had good equipment to render services for the people. The last time we had equipment for fire fighting was during the time of Governor Kizito Attah which is about 21 years ago. Those equipment are old and obsolete”.
Continuing his lamentation, he said “considering the duties of Fire Service. We move with time because of fast development of technologies. Those equipment were good as at the time they were made and brought to us. Now that we have advanced, some advanced equipment are equally needed. For 21 years those ones are old and are no longer road worthy”.
Adding that, “We don’t have official vehicles for staff. I myself as I’m speaking to you do not have one. If the government of the day will see to it and provide them I think that will not only increase the revenue generation but will also boost the service delivery that is expected of fire service.”
He gave kudos to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for donating some fire fighting equipment to all Niger Delta States of which Cross River is among.
He was optimistic that the Ayade led administration will continue from where the Imoke led government stopped by encouraging their second phase of recruitment and procurement of more sophisticated fire fighting equipment.
The Director revealed that the fire service generates revenue for the state government. His words: Fire Service was given target of about 13,240,000 (Thirteen million two hundred and forty thousand naira) a year. The revenue generation has not been very effective but by God’s grace when I took over I made so much difference. In 2013, we made about 9 million. It has never been made before. The highest that was made was 3 million; in 2014 we made about 11 million”.
Disclosing further that, The revenue is from the filling stations, road safety fees which are subject to renewal every year. The hotels, gas plants and so on. “By 2014, I made over 11 million Naira and this year, half of the year we have made about 6-point something million and I’m believing that before the end of the year we will make more than that so that we can meet the target. We pay to the coffers of the state. We also have challenges in our laws. The laws established for fire service. The laws were made about 1983. As at the time these laws were made they were very important. Now they need to be amended.
“The Fire Service working environment has been very poor over the time. If you go to Mary Slessor station, opposite College of Health Technology. As I speak if you go there you will feel terribly bad because now that it is raining almost always and people are hiding. You will see that the whole place is flooded. We need a fire service barracks most especially during emergency one will not need to call officers from different distant locations.”
Complaining of traffic challenges he said, “In those days you could use 5minutes from our office to eight miles but because of traffic situation now it is not possible that is why we made suggestions for decentralization of Fire Service stations to other strategic areas within the Calabar metropolis. For instance Calabar South there is supposed to be a station there, 8 miles there is supposed to be a station, airport side down to Atimbo there’s supposed to be a sub-station so that in case there is an emergency, we expect that the nearest station can attend and then we can now begin to turn on as the mother station. I know before long those things will be actualized.
“The major causes of fire out break have always been carelessness. With my experience in this number of years, a lot of people have died in just that singular act of carelessness. Cross Riverians should listen to fire service. Whenever they are having lectures they should take it serious because almost always when we send them the letters, the turn out used to be very low which therefore suggests that they are not interested. We should be part of the agencies to approve buildings, land or building plans so we can give professional advice on vital issues.” He concluded.
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