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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

FIRE SERVICE BOSS, INTERIOR MINISTER FINGERED IN MULTIPLE FRAUD SCANDAL!


The notion that the Fire Service is not well funded might be a ruse after all considering the recent expose.  In-depth investigation conducted by this office, has revealed that the nation’s Fire Service might have been involved in some frauds while the general public is made to believe that the Fire Service is underfunded by the Federal Government. It was exclusively disclosed that serious frauds are being perpetrated by top officials of the Federal Fire Service and might have gone unnoticed over the last few years. It would be recalled that not too long ago, the Federal Government decided to allow private participation though It was however found out that the guidelines put in place for the take off were such that could not be met, not even by the Federal Fire Service. Findings revealed that the Fire Service did not consult any stakeholder in the industry before concluding the guidelines; rather, they were only invited to its public presentation. Findings linked the ownership of a private Fire Service company, Oke Fire to the Comptroller General of the Fire Service, James Olusegun Okebiorun. Further probe also yielded that Oke Fire is a joint venture between the Comptroller General and Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho, the former Minister of Interior. There were allegations then that the two men floated the company in order to use their positions to corner jobs for the company by operating their company in a setting where they are regulators. It was also found out that apart from the private interest of the Comptroller General of the Service conflicting with that of the Fire Service and the good of the Nigerian public once in a while, public funds meant for the use of the fire service can hardly be accounted for as allegations of mismanagement and private appropriation of public funds have trailed officials. Investigations revealed that most of the equipments for which provisions were made in the annual budget were not procured while the funds were expended. It was found out that public funds are diverted constantly to private accounts as company names are used to siphon public funds without any work done. Example is the case of Kingsville Educational Services, which checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed to be jointly owned by the present Comptroller General and his wife Temilola.  A Chartered Bank Cheque was issued to one G.J Anebi, an official of the Federal Fire Service and the funds were meant for an official assignment. Incidentally, the cheque issued on April 30, 2003 belongs to Kingsville Educational Services with the account number 7200013352.The Federal Fire Service has also received more than N 1.5 billion for the development of the National Fire Academy, and what is on ground is not commensurate with the amount that has been expended on it. It was further revealed that cases of tender splitting have become a regular occurrence in the Federal Fire Service with the Comptroller General ensuring that the scrutiny of Due Process is prevented, an act that contravenes Section 58(d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007. Investigations also revealed that though the Fire Service is expected to have established at least 15 Fire Stations nationwide, but as at now, the Service cannot boast of five. Over the last four years, the Federal Fire Service has recorded not less than N 3 billion in capital allocation, yet the Service is alleged not to have effective fire fighting equipments. The alleged rot within the service became obvious after the bomb attack on the Police Headquarters in Abuja where the inadequacy of the Fire Service was greatly exposed. Findings revealed that on the average, a good fire fighting truck costs about N 40 million, thus indicating that the Federal Fire Service should be able to conveniently purchase a number of such. The alleged fraud in the system we further gathered dates back to many years ago as the then Comptroller General, Akpogo was also investigated by the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) concerning over 160 Million Naira fraud allegation, but buttons were allegedly pressed from the top to scuttle the investigation. The Investigating Police Officer, one Chiedu Nwokoma was suddenly transferred outside the Federal Capital Territory on the orders of the then Inspector General of Police who happened to be a close pal of the CG. The money that was mismanaged was meant to purchase a good number of fire fighting trucks based on the market rates then in 2004 to be precise. A look into the budget of the Fire Service for the year 2010 showed that a number of capital projects were listed, they include the supply of furniture items to the Federal Fire Service Headquarters, Garki, Abuja for which the sum of N 9.51 million was expended, supply of 5 Bulls Eye Trainer Packages, which gulped N 9.7 million, the purchase of fire protection clothing and hot fire gears for training purposes gulped N 28.013 million. Protection clothing and shoes were also supplied at N 8.65 million. Meanwhile, a lot of officials have disclosed that most of the items on the list have not been sighted by men of the service. Despite insinuations and affirmations from its officials that the service is underfunded by the government, its budget for 2011 was N 490, 054,000 (Four hundred and ninety million and fifty four thousand Naira). Interestingly, in the 2011 budget proposal, the Fire Service earmarked about 10 million Naira for the purchase of Protection clothing and Hot fire gears for training purposes while N 5 million was to be spent on the procurement of 500 Library books, journals and training CDs. The sum of N 2,000,000 also appeared in the 2011 budget for the furnishing of the Comptroller General’s house with items to be procured listed as bed/ beddings, kitchen cabinet/wares, laundry equipment, electronics, settee, dinning sets, fridges, A/Cs, shelves and curtains. N 5 million was voted for the furnishing of Senior officers’ quarters, while N 7.5 million was voted for the purchase of office equipment including photocopiers, computers, printers, UPS, stabilizers, fridges, A/Cs and Fans but none has been sighted till date.

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