The House of Representatives on Wednesday called for reform and overhaul of the Fire Service management and operations in the country.
The House position was expressed during the debate on the general principles of a bill which seeks to amend the provisions of the Fire Service Act, 2004 and make provisions for the establishment of building safety measures, regulations, and penalties for the default’, sponsored by Hon. Unyime Idem.
In the bid to ensure strict compliance with extant laws, the Sponsor of the bill proposed an N1 million fine or five months imprisonment or both for the offender.
In his lead debate, Hon. Idem underscored the need for the establishment of requisite prevention mechanisms and global best practices and safety world standards of measures, regulations, and penalties for default.
While stressing the need to take necessary measures toward ensuring the safety of lives and property, he lamented that: “Government establishments are not left out, recently, fire incident has been recorded from headquarters of the Federal Inland Revenue Service in Abuja, Accountant General office in Abuja and many government parastatals and establishments.
“Statistics released indicate that property valued hundreds of billions of naira were lost to the fire incidents in few years, hundreds of lives lost, and the number of razed buildings and property by fire are incalculable.
“The cost and pain of the fire incidents are generally unbearable as it leads to pains and death of victims, thousands displaced, money and materials, and damages to equipment and structures generally depicted the socio-economic loss which is quite alarming.
“Fire prevention and preparedness are more than just firefighting and hazard reduction. It involves a risk planning process, which includes identifying assets within a community at risk, assessing those risks, and developing specific strategies to deal with those risks.
“Despite the fact that nothing could be sustainably done to completely stop the occurrence of fire disaster, something can be done to mitigate the spread,” he noted.
While stressing the need for enactment of the legislative framework, Hon. Idem argued that: “Fire outbreaks in Nigeria have risen to worldwide attention in recent years causing great loss to both the environmental and economic lives and Nigerian government and people have continued to record high loses as a result of fire disasters and outbreak and critical sectors of the nation’s economy and infrastructure are consumed by fire leaving in their trail huge economic loses to individuals and the nation at large.
“Private homes, public buildings, markets, warehouses, sawmills, fuel tankers, educational establishments, shops, clubs, hotels, and restaurants are all victims of unpreparedness in management and fighting fire incidences.
“This bill has an amendment of about 6 sections, which are vital and significant to the management and prevention of fire disasters in the country. In order for the innovation to be effective, Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by adding the word ‘management’.
“Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended by the introduction of the fresh paragraph to read: ‘give approval for building after a thorough perusal of the submitted building plan and compliance with the provision of necessary fire services prevention and management kits and supervision protocols.’
“Section 24 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting a fresh sub-section to read: ‘Subsequent upon submission for an approval for a building compliance with the fire service protocol, the officials of the Fire service shall charge a particular fee to the intended developer and such funds shall be remitted to the covers of the Government of the Federation’.
“Section 28 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the addition of a fresh paragraph to read thus: ‘Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Act, or with any regulation or requirement made thereunder, for which no other penalty is specifically provided shall be guilty of an offence and on summary conviction, thereof shall be liable to a fine not exceeding N40 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months or to both such fine and imprisonment’.
“Section 28 of the Principal Act is hereby and further amended by inserting to read thus: ‘Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of Section 5(e) of this Bill, or with any regulation or requirement made thereunder shall be guilty of an offence and on summary conviction, thereof shall be liable to a fine not exceeding N1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five months or to both such fine and imprisonment’.
“All the above amendments are imputed to strengthen the administration, organization, and management of fire prevention mechanisms and protocols within the country in line with best practices and global standards,” he noted.
On the cost implication of the implementation of the law, he disclosed that: “The enactment of the bill into law will definitely have no direct cost implication on the public fund and will produce general benefit for the country as revenue will be generated from commercial buildings seeking fire service approval and a penalty from the defaulters and job opportunity created for building examiners.”
After the debate, the bill was referred to the relevant Standing Committees for further legislative action.
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