The Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, popularly known as “Treasury House” was, yesterday, ravaged by fire which affected the last three floors of the sprawling building. Consequently, the Federal Fire Service (FFS) has announced a probe of the incident, a routine that is often conducted in the aftermath of fire incidents in the country.
Spokesperson of the FFS, Ugo Huan, in a text message to our correspondent, said the investigation was to ascertain the cause of the inferno.
“Fire at the Accountant General’s Office Abuja has been extinguished and investigation will commence immediately to ascertain the cause”, she said.
While the cause of the fire was not immediately known as workers are currently at home observing the sit-at-home order of the Federal Government, it was gathered that a handful of the workers especially at the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) who had to work on salaries of federal workers were mostly still going to the office.
It took a combined team of men of the Federal and FCT Fire Services to bring the fire under control.
Investigations show, however, that there is an ongoing massive rehabilitation work at the premises, a development which has led to the tampering of electrical and other fittings in the complex.
“There is an ongoing work within the complex. The workers normally work day and night and there have been debates about the sources of funding for the rehabilitation.
“The workers on the site had earlier tampered with so many things especially electrical fittings and so without prejudice to what the Fire Service would come up with later, one can assume that the fire may have been caused by an electrical malfunction,” said a security source who was among the first responders when the incident occurred.
The cause of the fire, which started about 10 am, is yet to be known.
It was gathered that as soon as the incident started, men of the Federal Fire Service were alerted to assist in putting out the fire.
They were later joined by officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, the Nigeria Police Force and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board.
The FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, who briefed newsmen at the scene of the incident, said an investigation into the cause of the fire had commenced.
He advised motorists to use alternative routes into the area, noting that the Ladoke Akintola Boulevard would be cordoned off during the investigation into the cause of the fire.
Ciroma, who disclosed that parts of the building had been damaged by the incident, said the fire was successfully put out without casualties.
However, the Federal Fire Service put out the fire that gutted the top floors of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (Treasury House) Central District Area of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
The AGF building is located beside the FCT Police Command and the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC).
The Fire Federal Service, which was about some 300 metres to the building, according to eye witness account, were able to mobilize their equipment and personnel into the area and brought the situation under control.
The immediate cause of the fire incident could not be ascertained as workers and staff of the Treasury House were observing the restriction order imposed by the government to curtail the spread of Coronavirus in the FCT.
An eye witness said the fire started from the third floor, razing the building upwards before the personnel of the Federal Fire Service came to the rescue.
The Public Relations Officer of the FFS, Sandra Ugo, told journalists that personnel of the FFS arrived on time and were able to put out the fire before much damage was done to the building.
“We have successfully extinguished the fire outbreak at the AGF office,” she said.
Ugo declined to comment on what could have ignited the fire but noted that the good thing is that the incident had been put under control in less than one hour.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded a full-scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious fire outbreak in critical offices at the Headquarters of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation in Abuja, yesterday.
In a statement, the National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiya, yesterday, accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of foul play and complicity in the inferno.
Ologbondiya claims the fire is not unconnected with the call for a probe into subsidy payments made by the government since 2015 when Buhari became president.
The statement reads, “The party says an investigation is 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.
“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 program of the Buhari government since 2015.
“Already, the National Assembly, riding on the gale of demands by Nigerians and championed by the PDP, has raised queries on spending in respect of social incentives program.
“Nigerians are anxious to know those behind this wicked 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 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.
“The PDP also demands that the complex be immediately cordoned off to enable an uncompromised inquest into this ugly incident”.
Court Orders FG To Pay Rivers $1,114,551,610; A’Ibom $2,258,411,586
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Hon. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo has ordered the Federal Government to pay Rivers State $1,114,551,610.00 and Akwa Ibom State $2,258,411,586.00, respectively.
The money is entitlements of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, based on the subsisting decision of the Supreme Court over production sharing contracts arising from the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts.
Taiwo delivered the judgment in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/174/2021filed by the Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State against the Attorney General of the Federation.
It would be recalled that in 2016, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states, through their Attorneys-General, had sued the Federal Government, represented by the Attorney General of the Federation at the Supreme Court in Suit No: SC.964/2016, seeking a declaration that there is a statutory obligation imposed on the Defendant (the Federal Government) pursuant to Section 16(1) of the Deep Offshore Inland Basin Production Sharing Act, Cap.D3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, to adjust the share of the Federation in the additional revenue accruing under the Production Sharing Contracts if the price of crude oil at any time exceeds $20.00 per barrel.
The states had asked the court to declare that the failure of the Defendant to accordingly adjust the share of the Government of the Federation in the additional revenue in the Production Sharing Contracts (variously approved by the Defendant) following the increase of price of crude oil in excess of 20.00 per barrel in real terms, constitute a breach of the said Section 16(1) of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, and has therefore, affected the total revenue accruing to the Federation, and consequently, the total statutory allocation accruing to the Plaintiffs by virtue of the provisions of Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
The three oil producing states further prayed the court to issue a consequential order compelling the Defendant to adjust the share of the Government of the Federation in the additional revenue under all the Production Sharing Contracts in Nigeria’s oil industry within the Inland Water Basin Deep Offshore areas as approved by the Defendant from the respective times the price of crude oil exceeded $20.00 per barrel in real terms and to calculate in arrears with effect from August, 2003, and recover and pay immediately all outstanding statutory allocations due and payable to the Plaintiffs arising from the said adjustments.
It would be recalled that at the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General of the Federation opted for an out of court settlement, and consequently, terms of settlement were duly drawn up by the parties and entered as the judgment of the court.
The judgment specifically stated that the reliefs in the amended Originating Summons relating to the larger interest of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the entire citizenry of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be diligently implemented.
It was also agreed that the Attorney General of the Federation, working jointly with the Plaintiffs should undertake to immediately set up a body and the necessary mechanism for recovery of all lost revenue accruing to the Federation Account in the past and up till the date of full recovery and accruing in future or an acceptable instalmental payments thereof within 90 days next from the date of execution of these presents or its being made judgment of the court.
Following the judgment of the Supreme Court and in compliance therewith the Attorney General of the Federation, the Defendant, constituted a body to determine the respective liabilities including the amount due to oil mineral producing states as derivation proceeds.
The report of that body stated among others that Rivers and Akwa Ibom states were entitled to $1,114,551,610.00 and $2,258,411,586.00, respectively, as derivation proceeds.
However, Attorney General of the Federation, without recourse to the governments of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, unilaterally claimed to have settled with International Oil Companies (IOCs).
It was gathered that this unilateral action on the part of the Attorney General of the Federation as the Defendant in the judgment of the Supreme Court that led Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, to fill the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Based on the suit filed by the state, the Federal High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo, declared that Rivers and Akwa Ibom states were entitled to $1,114,551,610.00 and $2,258,411,586.00, respectively, as derivation proceeds.
The court also awarded a post judgment interest of 10 per cent in favour of the Plaintiffs until the final liquidation of the judgment.
Declare State Of Emergency On National Assets, Experts Tell Buhari
Against the backdrop of challenges facing national assets across the country, the Association of Facilities Management Practitioners of Nigeria (AFMPN), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to declare state of emergency on public infrastructure.
The call was made by AFMPN President, Collins Osayamwen, in an interview with newsmen, while speaking on the new vista his leadership has opened for the association to play a strategic and critical role as a professional body charged with the responsibility of maintaining and managing public infrastructure if the bill at the National Assembly was passed into law and assented to by Buhari in order for Nigerians to enjoy public assets.
However, Osayamwen pointed out that public infrastructure has not been given the desired attention over the years as a result of not giving recognition to professional facilities managers who government needs to collaborate with to maintain critical national assets worth billions of Naira.
He said, “It is evidently clear that our public infrastructure is in a state of emergency and the government needs to declare a state of emergency in order to rescue our public infrastructure from total collapse.
“The reason for lack of maintenance of our infrastructure is not far-fetched.
“It is because, in Nigeria, the profession that is saddled with the responsibility of looking after the built environment does not exist in the list of professionals that constitute the building team.
“We are seriously concerned about the deplorable state and deficit of public infrastructure in Nigeria. In 2012, the Infrastructure Council of Regulatory Commission (ICRC), alluded that $12billion to $15billion was required annually for the next five to six years to bridge the infrastructure deficit gaps in Nigeria.
“It is worthy of note that if these figures are anything to go by, the situation should have become worse by now, nine years later.”
He also explained that in the built environment, architects are responsible for conceptualisation, design and supervision of the project; the Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and even the IT engineers are responsible for design and construction of the building systems; the building engineer carries out the physical construction of the building.
“Now, let’s examine the role of these professionals. They all perform a certain function and they leave the site once their assignment is completed. Not even one of the professions listed above is trained to look after the building. Once the building is commissioned, they all leave the site for a new project.
“Unfortunately, all the activities carried out in the building up till the stage of completion is less than 20 per cent of the life cycle cost.
“The remaining on-going activities and cost of over 80 per cent is operations and maintenance cost and activities.
“This critical stage in a building life cycle is often neglected, hence, the poor state of our infrastructure. I cannot overemphasize the role of the facilities management practitioners in managing our built environment,” he stated.
According to him, the main reason Nigeria has not been able to maintain her infrastructure is because “the profession responsible for maintenance is not yet recognised for its strategic role in Nigeria as a profession and Facility Management profession is not recognised as a member of the built environment practitioners.
“Maintenance starts from the design stage of a facility. It requires painstaking planning, scheduling, budgeting, sustainable programme management and implementation of maintenance technologies, and others.
“It takes more than culture to effectively and efficiently maintain a facility. It requires time, money, and experience to maintain infrastructure,” he added.
Flood Ravages NASS As Senate Confirms New COAS
There was a downpour in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, yesterday morning, leaving several parts of the National Assembly Complex flooded.
The central lobby at the ‘White House’ section of the building, which adjoins the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, was flooded.
Other areas affected include the third and last gate to the premises as well as the road linking the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to the National Assembly.
The Senate had resumed plenary, yesterday, while the House is to resume on June 28, 2021, as the National Assembly returns from a mid-term break.
At the lobby, workers of the two private firms engaged for cleaning services at the complex were busy mopping the floor while it rained.
Water could be seen dropping from several points on the famous green roof.
Some senators watched as the workers struggle to keep the floor dry.
During the plenary, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Maj-Gen Farouk Yahaya as the new Chief of Army Staff.
The Red Chamber took the decision after the consideration of the report of its Joint Committee on Defence and Army led by Senators Aliyu Wamakko and Ali Ndume.
Earlier, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, had on June 2, referred the request of President Muhammadu Buhari for Yahaya’s confirmation to the committee.
The Defence Committee, which is chaired by Wamakko, was mandated to be the lead panel to screen the newly appointed Army chief.
Yahaya was appointed to replace Lt-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, who died in a plane crash with 10 other military officers while on an official trip to Kaduna State, last month.
Until his appointment, Yayaha was the Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East.
Meanwhile, at the House, the downpour delayed legislative activities as several committees which had scheduled the meetings and hearings for the morning were forced to delay the events, as several workers and guests were said to have been trapped in their vehicles.
For instance, the House Committee on Disabilities, which was to begin an investigative hearing on ‘The Need to Investigate the Alleged Violation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria and Private Airline Operators’ at 11am had to commence the event at about 12:15pm.
Also, the House Committees on Communications; Justice; Information and Culture; and National Security and Intelligence, which were to hold an investigative hearing on the recent ban placed on Twitter by the Federal Government shifted the event from 10am to 1pm.
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
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