N12bn 10 firefighting trucks costly and untimely


The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s disclosure of spending a whopping sum of N12 billion to acquire 10 firefighting trucks in Nigeria Airports is baffling, as they are too expensive for the economy at this point in time.

The Minister who gave the information in his post through Twitter, a microblogging site, that he commissioned 10 firefighting trucks for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), justifying that FAAN had not bought firefighting trucks in 15 years.

“Just commissioned 10 Firefighting trucks, the total cost of over N12 billion. More to come in due course. Safety has been the Buhari focus in Aviation since 2015. Hitherto, FAAN has not bought new trucks in 15 years,” Sirika posted.

In a statement by FAAN’s spokesperson, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, the authority said the Lion Volkan 6×6 Brand, Major Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles (MFFV), have the capacity to carry 14,000 litres of water, 1,700 litres of foam, 250kg powder capacity each, and monitors the discharge rate of between 6,000 litres to 10,000 litres per minute.

The trucks, according to FAAN would be deployed to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano respectively.

With an acceleration rate of 0-80 km per hour in 30 seconds, the agency explained that each of the trucks possessed the limitless capacity to discharge while in motion and that they are also equipped with under chassis nozzles to tackle running fuel fire.

The tweet was received with mixed feelings. Some compatriots have expressed their displeasure, saying spending N12 billion on 10 firefighting trucks is a “fraud.” This school of thought queried how 10 firefighting trucks would be bought for N12 billion.

In his reaction, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress and an activist, Omoyole Sowore,  said the Minister and President Muhammadu Buhari had finished Nigeria.

He tweeted, “Wow! You mean you bought a single fire engine for over $2 million each. Wonders shall never cease. You and @mbuhari really finished Nigeria!”

Another Tweeter user, @Mood Obidient noted that firefighting truck’s cost depends on the model. He opined that it was in the interest of Nigerians to know the exact specification before.

“Yes, the 10 Firefighting trucks can also cost 12billion naira depending on the dollar exchange rate.”

Another group has demanded of the Minister to be more accountable and transparent by  providing the public with detailed information on the specification of the vehicles and the cost. Truly, the tax payers deserve some more explanations.

Nigerians in their curiosity have made enquiries on some brands and their cost. In their quest, it was discovered that NYC fire fighting trucks cost $550k each, while a ladder truck for Forks, Indiana goes for $2.5 million.

A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili too expressed concerns about the actual cost of the vehicles, wondering if the fire trucks are diamond-plated within and without. In her inquisitiveness, she offered to volunteer to do a Public Due Process review of the transaction for FAAN.

In any case,  a few people have lauded the procurement, maintaining that it is a step towards improving Nigeria’s safety and emergency response across airports in the country.

It would be recalled that in 2013, the then Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, was embroiled in the car purchase allegations, when reports emerged that she had compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), an agency under her, to procure the vehicles for her. She was accused of facilitating  the  purchase of two BMW Armoured cars at N255 million for her personal use.

The purchase drew nationwide controversy, as some notable activists agitated for a probe by EFCC, to conduct a thorough investigation with a view for prosecution. The then Minister, even as the scandal raged, maintained her innocence.

In response to a query by President Goodluck Jonathan in October 2013 insisted that the procurement was duly provided for in the NCAA budget that year, which also adopted lease payments in installments over 36 months.

The purchase of the armoured vehicles by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority while Oduah was in office attracted public criticism over allegation that the prices were inflated. Of course, she was only relieved of her office at the end of the day.

And now, in the same ministry, it is another procurement that is  generating another entanglement. When exactly is this going to stop?

In Nigeria, it has become a norm for leaders to  misplace priorities. Personal interest is rated above national interest. Regrettably, some of these actions and inactions culminate in loss of lives. When their immediate family members are not involved, who cares? At best, they pay condolence visits. Like in the case of Stella Oduah, it was alleged that several air accidents were experienced while she was in office due to lack of equipment at the airports. We also understand that funds were not released for the training of personnel in the aviation sector. But the Minister found it more pressing to go for two armoured cars at N255 million.

Worse still, these same public officers pad their budgets. The money expended most of the time are rather too high on projects executed. It’s more disturbing when  such officer is found guilty and he goes scot free. This explains why the act hasn’t stopped. The few ones indicted, you will see their associates alleging that it’s politically motivated.

The case at hand calls for thorough investigation. And if there is any hanky panky, those involved should be made to face the music.

Whether the trucks are so compelling is an  argument for another day. More importantly, we need to tackle first the procurement procedure.

The country at the moment is contending with economic hardship. We can’t afford to engage in any wasteful spending at this time.

Again, our advice goes to our leaders to abstain from those activities that are anti-development. The economy is so fragile now, and should be handled as such. We must, as a matter of compulsion, have the love of our nation at heart for posterity sake.