Everything should be done to ensure the trucks are put into use 

It is hard to tell why, for almost 20 years, eight fire-fighting trucks the federal government ordered through the now-defunct National Sports Commission (NSC) for use during the All Africa Games (COJA) in 2003 are still parked at the National Stadium in Abuja. According to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), an independent, non-profit news agency, these eight trucks include five Simon ALP 340 aerial platform fire trucks and three SG-170 (water and foam tank) vehicles. They are reportedly worth over N8 billion, based on 2023 monetary value, and have been left to rot at the Package B Section of the Abuja Stadium for the past two decades.

The story of these trucks, that have become monuments to the waste, largely defines public conduct in Nigeria. The procurement was part of safety recommendations made by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) required for Nigeria to organise the 2003 edition of COJA. At the period, Amos Adamu was the Commission’s Director General, while Olusegun Obasanjo was the country’s President. With the backing of the Presidential Task Force on Stadium Project, the trucks arrived from China, but that was about six months after the game had ended. Regardless, they were commissioned in 2004. Particularly disturbing is that even the Federal Fire Service said they have no knowledge of the fire-fighting trucks, parked close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) building with their tires deflated, and their paint fading.

Between 2003 and now, there have been three ministers of Sports and Youth Development– Musa Mohammed, Solomon Dalung and the incumbent Sunday Dare. But none has lifted a finger to put the trucks into use or ask the Federal Fire Service to take them over. Besides, there is no document or file to show that the Fire Service was in the know about the existence of the trucks or were in partnership with the Sports Ministry regarding the trucks. Available reports indicate that Dalung once attempted to auction the trucks and pay the money into government coffers only to discover that there was no documentation for them.

Dalung, who served as minister from 2015 to 2019, painted a pathetic picture of the lack of accountability in the Nigerian public service. “When I assumed office in 2015, my first visit and comment was the abandoned fire-fighting trucks. I asked questions but nobody came forward with any information on how they were acquired,” said Dalung. “I did my own personal investigation but there was no document or record found. I also went through the Tenders Board of the then National Sports Commission but there was no record or trace of such equipment till the day I left office. It’s sad and it pained me to see such investment rotting away due to negligence. Also, I found out that each of the fire-fighting trucks cost between N220 and N250 million. What a waste and unfortunate situation.”

We commend the ICIR for the detailed report. But this is a shameful, almost criminal, neglect that deserves immediate intervention by relevant authorities. In a nation where many lives and property worth billions of Naira are being lost almost on daily basis to incessant fire outbreaks, not a few Nigerians would have wished that these trucks be overhauled and deployed for use where they are desperately needed. Whatever the situation, the federal government must find a closure to this disturbing saga. At the very least, the Federal Fire Service should be invited to take custody of the firetrucks to see if they can still be put to any use.

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