Philip Clement, Abuja
The Federal Fire Service have not been able to pay it’s officers’ salary for the past two months, Daily Times has learnt.
The federal government agency saddled with the responsibility of responding to incidents of fire outbreaks and other natural disasters last paid it’s personnel in August.
The Service has its personnel in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT where it is headquartered and currently headed by Dr. Liman Alhaji Ibrahim.
In a memo dated 14th October 2020 and signed by one Agholor Micheal on behalf of the Director, Finance and Account of the Service, and obtained by this Newspaper, the Service excuse for not paying salaries since August was attributed to lack of funds from it’s personnel cost.
The Memo reads: “This is to inform personnel of the Service that delay in the payment of September 2020 salary was due to insufficient funds in the Federal Fire Service personnel cost head just like other MDAs.
“Consequent upon the above, relevant agencies have been contacted and efforts are in top gear to resolve the issues as soon as possible,”
Despite explanations rising from the memo on the inability to pay their salaries, personnel of the Service are not convinced on why their salaries are not paid while their counterparts in other agencies get their monthly pay as at when due.
They told Daily Times that many staff have lost interest in he fire fighting job after not getting paid for almost two months.
One of the personnel who spoke on condition of anonymity to our reporter stated that “Some junior staffs have been sleeping in the office because they don’t have transport fare and cannot afford the luxury to of coming to work and returning daily.
“Since August I have just been managing with the little little money from business because there is no any form of allowances for now and you have to come to work despite the fact that there is no cogent explanations as to why you’re not being paid.
“People are angry. My last duty, we had to contribute money for a junior staff at the security unit to enable eat and pay transport fare home. It is not funny anymore.
“Imagine family people that livelihood depends on their monthly income and you don’t get paid,” the personnel lamented.
In the same vein, another personnel of the Service who does not want to be named wondered why it’s only the Fire Service whose personnel cost is dry at this time.
“I don’t know of any other uniform agency that have not been paid for almost two months now except us.
“As critical as our work is, we can’t receive our pay as at month due. We know they will eventually pay but delaying it for like two months is not solving matters.
“People are hungry and have families to cater for. Which magic can they perform at this time? We call on the federal government to please come to our aid because the morale of work here is reducing and we know how critical our work is,” says another personnel of the Service.
Checks by Daily Times shows that the constitutional mandate of the Federal Fire Service is “To extinguish, control and prevent Rescue victims during an emergency and save life and protect Property”
Also the Service mission include ensuring safety of lives and properties by extinguishing, control and prevention of fire outbreak across all the nooks and crannies of the country.
The job of firefighters in advanced countries is considered as essential service while the welfare and renumerations of their personnels are considered topmost priority, however that seems not to be the case in Nigeria.
The Fire Service is not the first federal agency to delay payment of staff salaries as pockets of such incidents have occurred in the past although it was later rectified.
Many development stakeholders had in the last advocated a robust welfare pack for uniform personnel in the country considering the complexity of the work they do.
Only recently, part of the #EndSars agitators included as part of their demands improved welfare for the Nigerian Police Force so they can discharge their duties of protecting lives and properties of citizens effectively.
However, the current narrative does not evidently show that the government take welfare of it’s essential service providers as a top priority.
For instance, during the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) went on strike to press home their demands for payment of hazard allowance to their members who have risked their lives to take care of Covid-19 patients, while others had paid the ultimate price in the course of discharging their duties.
Development Experts have advocated that the only way corruption among government officials can reduce to a barest minimal, is only to ensure that welfare of staff and personnel are not taken for granted.
Commenting on the development, a top official at the federal ministry of finance, budget and national planning told this reporter that the only reason why any agency of government cannot pay salaries will be that they have expended the funds on another thing other than personnel cost.
According to him, “If there is no money in their personnel cost, it means they have overspent their money, there is no other language to it.
“The agency must have used money for personnel cost on other things, because each government agency is paid through the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), so the Controller General may have to explain to his staff what happened to the money because it’s just within the Service and not from government,”
He also stated that another reason that could necessite such crisis is when government agencies over-employ, thereby creating extra expenses.
For now, it is hoped that the government will swing into action and pay the country’s firefighters their September and October salaries so they continue discharging their duties effectively.