No Official Records Lost to Treasury House Fire, Says FG

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Clement Agba

PDP demands investigation

Chuks Okocha and James Emejo in Abuja

The federal government wednesday allayed fears of destruction of official records by the fire that razed Treasury House, which houses the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, told reporters in Abuja after inspecting the scene of the incident that preliminary reports showed that all records were intact after the fire outbreak at a data centre in the OAGF.

However, despite the minister’s assurance, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for a full-scale investigation into the fire incident.

“We have not lost any record,” he said, attributing the fire to a spark from one of the cooling units.

He, however, said notwithstanding the preliminary explanation for the incident, a full-scale investigation would be conducted by professionals to ascertain the actual cause of the fire.

The minister said an officer who reported for work had tried to switch on one of the air-conditioners, leading to an electrical spark about 10.00 a.m.

He said it took the intervention of 25 fire trucks from a combined team from the Federal Fire Service in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including their counterparts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Julius Berger Plc, and the military to put out the inferno within 35 minutes.

The minister explained that though a few documents were burnt, “all our financial transactions are intact.”

He said: “We will be doing a full-scale investigation using the right professionals just to determine exactly what happened because what I am telling you now are what I have been told.

“So, the professionals will be able to tell us whether it was from the air-conditioner or whether it was something that was induced and if we have had any material loss.”

According to him, there’s no cause to worry because a significant percentage of the treasury operations have gone digital provided a huge reprieve and helped minimise the damage.

Agba said: “Even if the data centre were to be affected, we have a backup centre that is outside of Abuja for recovery in the event that we lose the data centre.

“The only thing that has happened to the data centre is the exterior where we have the cooling units at the back because the data centre has to be cool. One of the immediate steps we have taken is just to shut down the data centre since the cooling system is not functioning optimally.

“We have directed that these cooling units affected should be immediately put in order so that we do not lose anything in that data centre. So, as a government, I just want to assure you that our records are intact,” he added.

The Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, however, said he did not rule out an act of sabotage, adding that the fire outbreak would nonetheless be scrutinised.

He said: “I will not draw any conclusion now, there is going to be an investigation to be instituted and we should allow the investigation to say it as it is. Myself I stand to be a suspect and so why should I say this or that?

“For emphasis, our data centre is intact and not harmed in any way except for the cooling system which we are now working hard to put back to operation.
“We are again glad that there is no human casualty – our physical records can be easily replaced because we have them online real-time.”

PDP Demands Investigation

Reacting to the incident, PDP called for a full-scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding what the main opposition party described as the mysterious fire outbreak.

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the investigation was imperative given apprehensions in the public space regarding the time and the offices involved in the fire outbreak.

“Our party expresses shock that the fire incident came on the heels of our heightened calls for a forensic audit into the hazy oil subsidy regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for which trillions of naira is being claimed to have been spent,” PDP said, adding: “This is in addition to recent demands for an investigation into allegations of fraud and diversion of COVID-19 intervention funds as well as social investments programme of the Buhari’s government since 2015.”

The party explained that Nigerians were anxious to know those behind the arson because the fire outbreak reportedly occurred on the part of the building which hosts critical offices, including the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Funds, Federation Account Allocation Committee and Revenue Department among others, relevant for the demanded financial inquests.

“Our party, therefore, calls for an immediate investigation to determine the actual cause of the fire, as well as ensure that critical documents and data on government revenue and expenditure are immediately retrieved,” it added.