On April 1, 2023, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, took delivery of the remaining eight out of the 10 Lion Volkan 6×6 Brand fire fighting vehicles delivered to the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Aeronautic Rescue and Fire Fighting Services, ARFFS in Lagos.
It was gathered that the equipment was worth N12 billion, which implies that each truck cost the federal government about N1.2 billion.
Sirika disclosed during the commissioning that more of the same specification of the truck will still be purchased before the administration leaves office.
A firefighting truck or water tender is a vehicle designed primarily for firefighting operations – to extinguish fire efficiently to prevent fire spread, reducing the loss caused by fire maximally.
The equipment according to the Sirika would be deployed to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
Currently, Uganda, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and seven other countries use the same specification in their airports.
Meanwhile, Sirika during the commissioning stated that the importance of this safety equipment is not emphasized enough, as it is key to the safe, secure and efficient take-off and landing of the entire sector.
He said: “To non-aviators and onlookers, you see firefighting equipment, but the importance and relevance are not brought into focus, especially for people watching from afar whose only concern is to board aircraft and use air-conditioned terminals.
“Well for us, that is important too, but most important is to keep you safe. Do you all remember our children that left Abuja for Port Harcourt in the Sosoliso crash? We couldn’t save those children because even though the plane landed, and crashed they were still alive, but the airport did not have adequate fire cover to save those and parents were seeing their children burning alive. The same children they sent to school. That is so sad.”
A breakdown of the equipment composition according to Saturday Vanguard shows that Lion Class ARFF vehicles are designed for the requirements of civil airports and air forces in large stations. The vehicles are produced on different chassis with 4×4, 6×6, and 8×8 axle configurations.
The vehicles are designed and manufactured by Volkan, a Turkish-based company, from chassis to all superstructure components.
Also, the Major Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles (MFFV), carry 14,000 litres of water, 1,700 litres of foam, 250kg powder capacity each, and monitors the discharge rate of between 6,000 litres to 10,000 litres per minute.
It also has an acceleration rate of 0-80km per hour in 30 seconds, each of the trucks possesses a limitless capacity to discharge while in motion, and they are also equipped with under-chassis nozzles to tackle running fuel fire.
Stakeholders have argued that fire tenders with similar specifications are sold for far lesser than the price revealed to Nigerians by Sirika. With the price revealed, the cost of one can get Nigeria three to four of the same kind of truck.
For example, one Japanese Brand Giga 16,000 litres fire truck with 4000 gallon powder foam, fire rescue truck price ranges from $59.8 million to $65.8 million. Also, the Chinese 18,000 litres 3M3 Water Tank, Dongfeng Fire Fighting Truck, is sold at $100,000.
Also, according to available statistics, the most expensive fire truck in the open market is sold at $250,000 which is estimated at N187 million using the parallel market rate.
State of fire tenders
But the development is generating mixed reactions from Nigerians in the country and the diaspora.
According to the Principal Partner, Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster, “While some queried the minister for his inability to clear the backlog of foreign carriers trapped funds currently at $802 million, others questioned the rationality behind the purchase of the equipment.”
For instance, during the commissioning, the firemen were reluctant to display the working modalities of the newly acquired state-of-the-art equipment, instead, they took the Minister and the Managing Director of FAAN on tour.
The beauty of newly acquired equipment of this significance and status is for users to make a show of its capacity and capability. Why was there no special drill?
It was also gathered that some parts of the equipment did not arrive in the country. In particular, a valve which regulates the flow of liquid in the vehicle.
It was discovered that after pre-shipment inspection and testing of the equipment at the country of purchase, these valves were removed from the machine to allow them to empty the water in the tanks for easy shipments. Unfortunately, the valves were left behind in the country of purchase.
Until these valves are brought to Nigeria, the multi-billion naira fire tenders remain toys wherever they are deployed to.
Also, an Aviation analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, said: “Basically, acquiring a firefighter hydrant is a necessity for the safety certification of our airport and should be available in all airports.
“This development should not be news, it should be part of a normal process as without fire cover, an airport would be downgraded or shut down.
“The challenge here is the late announcement and cost of the equipment. Imagine the equipment is purchased from Turkey when we have a Nigeria company, Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing Company, IVM, that can produce the same truck and run maintenance at a lower cost.”