In October 2019, a section of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) building located in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was destroyed by fire.
The news spread like wildfire on social media, so former spokesman Wahab Gbadamosi confirmed the incident with the assurance of providing details of the losses suffered due to hell .
The fire was later brought under control by firefighters.
Similarly, in January 2021, the FCT witnessed another fire at the Kugbo furniture and wood market. Around 100 shops were engulfed in fire while goods worth N3 billion were lost in the inferno.
It was not the first time that the furniture market experienced such a disaster.
Around the same month in 2020, a similar incident had occurred where traders lost goods and huge sums of money.
In July 2021, the FCT recorded another fire in the Karmo market. According to a Toluwani Ajayi, who was an eyewitness, a generator explosion had caused hell.
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It gradually spread, covering more of the stalls. Property worth millions was lost in this unfortunate incident.
But that was not all. About four months later, on November 5, 2021, another fire broke out in Kubwa, another FCT suburb. It happened precisely at the ultra-modern Kubwa market, killing five people.
Police later confirmed the incident.
The latest in the series of fires at FCT was the Next Cash & Carry inferno from Abuja. It attracted so much public attention and concern that authorities promised to investigate the cause.
It is uncertain whether an official result of the supposed investigation has been made public.
The series of incidents simply means the FCT administration needs to be proactive in dealing with the recurring fires.
Therefore, he developed an online portal (www.myfctagov.ng) where members of the public could easily contact the FCT Fire Service in times of emergency.
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The platform boldly displays three phone numbers with large font sizes: 0814643440, 092006118, 092914089. That is to say, at a glance, the public could easily enter the numbers and call the service.
The initiative, according to the FCT Administration, is the “Federal Capital Territory Resident Engagement Platform designed to connect FCT residents with the FCT Administration for interactions, communication and collaboration between government and residents”.
Inaccessible, incomplete fire emergency lines
January 11, CIRI call the numbers to check their accessibility. The emergency numbers were all unreachable.
At first, this reporter observed that the first digits of the hotlines were incomplete. Instead of the usual 11-digit number, they were 10. They did not look like the usual abbreviated numbers such as the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) 122 or the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) 622, among others.
Meanwhile, the other two numbers also remained unreachable after several attempts. This reporter attempted to check the emergency lines through the official FCT Fire Service website – www.fireservice.abj.gov.ng. But, in the same pattern as the phone numbers, the website was inaccessible.
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On Thursday, January 27, CIRI did the same routine calling the numbers. They all remained inaccessible because they were unrelated to the firefighters.
This implies that in the event of a fire, FCT residents who randomly call the numbers listed on the website may not get through.
On Friday January 28, the same deliberate effort was made to dial all three numbers but they remained unreachable. This usually calls into question the effectiveness of the FCT Fire Department in the event of a fire.
The recurring fires have unfortunately raised some investor concerns. If the situation persists, experts say it could have a negative effect on the economy. For example, a recent report estimated the country’s losses from fires at 41.54 billion naira in just two years.
FCTA and FCT Fire Services Respond
The FCT Minister’s Chief Press Officer (CPS) Tony Ogunleye called the error a minor one in reacting to the story, but pledged to link this reporter to the correct department.
He later shared with CIRI on contact of Acting Director of Service Reform and Improvement Coordination Jummai Ahmadu. But, all efforts to reach the official have since proved futile.
To respond to inactive emergency lines, CIRI also attempted to contact FCT Fire Department Public Relations Officer Ibrahim Muhammad.
Additionally, the results show that the FCT Fire Department share the same location as the headquarters of the Federal Fire Service, also in Abuja. Therefore, this reporter contacted Federal Fire Department spokesperson Huan Ugo to provide the necessary contact. She did it.
Muhammad later confirmed that the numbers on the FCT portal were wrong when CIRI shared a screenshot.
He then provided the correct numbers below.
Next, CIRI called each of the emergency numbers representing the fire stations in certain parts of the territory to confirm their availability. The numbers were all connected except for the Kaura fire station which was unavailable.
The Kuje Fire Station hotline was called but was answered by a child who asked this reporter to call back later that night around 8pm once his mother was available.
However, the situation means that although the FCTA and the fire service have emergency numbers, there is a need to improve efficiency and access to emergency lines to limit persistent fires.