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The sorry state of emergency numbers and Fire Service

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The sorry state of emergency numbers and Fire Service

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The time was 9:30 am. It was on a Sunday morning. And the date was February 25th, 2024. The location was a property located at No. 9, Justice Roseline Ukeji Close, Off Mark Okoye Street, Asokoro, Abuja.

And there was a smoke and then a bang, a fire outbreak on the property which happens to be the private residence of the Minister of State of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Mariya Mahmoud. It was a seven-bedroom duplex, in Asokoro, high brow area of Abuja.

A call was made to Federal Fire Service, it rang ceaselessly but there was no response, the emergency numbers refused to yield to the calls and refused to go through and multi million naira properties was watched helplessly being consumed by the fire propelled by the harmattan breeze.

The family of the second citizen of the Federal Capital Territory were on the ground floor. They did not discover the fire on time, neither did they perceived the raging inferno on the pent house, probably an empty room where nobody was staying in the newly acquired building less than a year ago. Good neighbourliness came to play out as concerned neighbours seeing the smoke raised the alarm and panic took over the serene home of the Minister of State.

Tried as much as she could, she called all the emergency numbers at her disposal, but they all failed her when she needed them most, in some instances, the numbers kept ringing while others refused to connect. The amiable minister watched as everyone was running helter skelter to help salvage some property where possible but all efforts yielded no results.

As a last resort, an agency which she supervises as a Minister, the FCT Fire Service was approached, no help also. And the husband has to drive down to the FCT Fire Service, and by this time, the upper chamber of the building had gone beyond rescue. The fire was hungry and there was none to appease the inferno.

According to the Acting Director, FCT Fire Service, Amiola Adebayo, It was a running call that came to them. A running call means that rather than calling the emergency line of the fire service, or where there was no response, responders usually insist on going to the office to get the attention of the firemen.

According to him, “From our findings, they said they called the Federal Fire Service, but they didn’t respond on time. That’s when the running call came to our office. All of them were on the ground floor. They did not discover the fire on time, and they didn’t call the FCT Fire Service.

“On reaching there, we saw that the first floor, the upper floor, was completely engulfed in fire. So, what we could do was just to prevent the fire from spreading to the ground floor, and to the adjacent structures. No lives lost”, he said.

But by then, a substantial damage had been done and with virtually nothing salvaged in the property the beautiful edifice was in a pitiable state.

Also there were noticeable cracks on the walls while the roofs were flattened by the heat from the inferno.

The fire also destroyed all the household items on the upper floor, ranging from air conditioners, beds, clothes, documents, credentials and jewelery among others.

A combined team of FEMA, Federal Fire Service and FCT Fire Service later joined effort when the damage was beyond rescue.

The cause of the fire incident is still being investigated, but according to reports, fire-fighters were slow to respond and nothing was saved from the property.

While investigation is ongoing as to what really happened, whether the fire was caused by suspected electrical fault inside the children’s room or not, there are some flaws we need to address and find lasting solution to them.

Firstly, the emergency numbers need to be redefined, it was gathered that most often than not, these numbers hardly go especially when one needed them badly. One wonders the helplessness of the Minister of State, especially taking into consideration her status in the society.

To be a Minister is not picked on the street and one therefore wondered what the common man goes through in such instance.

“What would happen to an ordinary man on the street. If “a whole minister of the Federal Republic “ could go through this hassle, what will be the fate of the man on the rung of the ladder”.

Though no life was lost while the fire was brought under control at around 2:51 pm. This incident has brought to the fore, the state of the operational vehicle of both the Federal and state Fire Services. Take a stroll to any fire service station and you will be wondering whether they are really prepared to quench any fire incidents. In some stations, the truck are not in good shape, and where it is, the hose may not be working fine. And in some instances, the trucks may not have water and were the water is available, it may not be enough to address the challenges of the moment.

Today, it was the Minister, who knows who will be next. In order to avoid future tragedy, effort should be made to have modern day equipment for the various fire service out lets and the emergency numbers should be reactivated for efficient and workable mode.

. Abdul wrote in from Abuja