The sad and painful incidents of destructive fire incidents continue from State to State with promises by top government officials annually to stock-up their Fire Service with fire engines and equipment.
Most recently, Anambra did after the fire that razed Onitsha market, claiming lives and hundreds of millions of Naira worth of goods and structures. The State Government made lofty promises, after years of neglect, to provide fire-fighting equipment to tackle fire incidents in the State.
The story is same year-in year-out in many States after fire disasters. Whether the governments follow up on the promises comes into the open the following years.
Scandalously, some States Fire Service do not have up to five fire engines covering their entire States, while financial allocations are made yearly in the budgets.
Now it is the turn of the new administration of Oyo State, where the State Government said on Sunday that it was set to acquire 10 modern fire-fighting equipment through a competitive bidding process. Many believe that the government, based on the initial steps taken by the seven months old administration, will live up to the billing, time will tell.
The State’s Commissioner for Infrastructure, Transportation and Public Works, Professor Raphael Afonja, who made the disclosure while undertaking an on-the-spot assessment of the fire-ravaged Akesan Market, (Oja Akesan) in Oyo town, said that the process that would lead to the acquisition of the equipment would start on Monday.
This position is coming on the heels of fire incidents that led to loss of lives and destruction of goods and properties worth multi-million Naira in Ibadan and Oyo, with the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, expressing sympathy to all victims of the incident.
Earlier in a post on his Facebook and Twitter handles, Governor Makinde sympathised with the victims of the Akesan Market and promised to get to the roots of the incident.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the Governor and the Commissioner for Works as speaking on the unfortunate fire incident that ravaged Akesan market in Oyo Town in the early hours of Sunday.
The Commissioner for Works, who visited the scene of the incident with the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Kehinde Ayoola and the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health, spoke at the Akesan Market and the Palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.
He stated that the Government of Engineer Makinde inherited a Fire Service Department with weakened capacity as a result of obsolete equipment.
According to him, the incumbent Government in Oyo State had flagged off a process of rehabilitating the serviceable fire-fighting trucks so as to provide immediate service to the people.
He also stated that the process of rehabilitating the inherited trucks was still ongoing when the outbreak of fire incidents occurred repeatedly.
The Commissioner said: “The last time fire-fighting equipment was procured in the state was in 2006. The present government has, however, kick-started the rehabilitation of the few serviceable fire-fighting trucks. The one that was vandalised in Oyo was just repaired the day before when it developed gear problems after returning from an assignment.
“Last month we engaged a company that will help us refurbish and salvage some of our existing trucks including the one that was vandalized in Oyo.
“We are also publishing by tomorrow (Monday) the tender request that will allow companies to bid for and supply the State with 10 modern fire-fighting trucks through an open and competitive process.”
In a post on his social media handles, Governor Makinde had commiserated with the victims of the fire incident, assuring them of his Government’s determination to end such disasters.
The Governor wrote: “I received with shock, the news of the fire outbreak at Oja Akesan in Oyo Town, in the early hours of this morning (Sunday morning). Words cannot convey my deep sadness at this incident and I sympathise with the victims. I appeal for calm as we investigate the circumstances around the unfortunate incident.”