Recently, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, commissioned ten high-capacity firefighting vehicles as part of the efforts to improve safety and emergency response at airports across Nigeria. While this move has received commendation from some quarters, others have raised concerns about the cost of the vehicles and their necessity.
In a tweet on his official Twitter handle, Sirika announced the commissioning of ten firefighting trucks worth over 12 billion naira, adding that there would be more to come in due course. He also highlighted that safety has been a focus in aviation since 2015, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has not bought new trucks in 15 years.
However, some Nigerians on social media have expressed skepticism about the cost and effectiveness of the firefighting vehicles. Omoyele Sowere, the 2023 presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, described the cost of a single fire engine as over $2 million and criticized the purchase, saying it was a waste of resources.
Another Twitter user, @n6oflife6, questioned the purchase of the trucks, suggesting that it was a way for the current administration to loot public funds before leaving office.
Similarly, @yuteoflondon expressed skepticism about the trucks’ cost and quality, stating that the most expensive firefighting trucks cost $650,000 and questioning what made the Nigerian ones worth $2.8 million. @aisosaigiebor also expressed concern about the cost of the trucks, stating that they do not work well without a direct source of water, which is not available in most places in Nigeria.
Despite the criticisms, some experts in the aviation industry have commended the minister’s effort to improve safety at Nigerian airports. Olumide Ohunayo, the Secretary-General of the Aviation RoundTable, noted that firefighting trucks are part of the safety requirements for airports to operate and be certified.
He added that the purchase of the new trucks would help improve the certification process and reduce the cost of insurance for the general use of airports.
However, Capt John Ojikutu, the CEO of Centurion Security, raised concerns about the deployment of new firefighting vehicles to Nigerian airports. He noted that while the vehicles are sophisticated and of high quality, there is a lack of skilled manpower to sustain their operations and ensure periodic maintenance.
Ojikutu emphasized the need for proper funding and planning, questioning why such contracts were only being awarded at the end of the administration’s term when funds were scarce and external borrowing was necessary.