A massive fire of unknown origin ripped through Nigeria’s treasury office on Wednesday, officials said, destroying two key departments, including the one that processes consolidated revenue sharing amongst the three tiers of government.
The Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, also known as Treasury House just southeast of Abuja city centre, suffered the blaze just before 11:a.m. Videos shared on social media showed thick smoke billowing from the building, which was largely empty amidst a nationwide shutdown of activities over the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Fire services and other first responders, including the police and emergency management officers, raced to the scene shortly after the outbreak and successfully contained the inferno within an hour, officials said.
At least two key offices were razed by the inferno before it was put out. The fourth and fifth floors were affected, according to two senior officials briefed on the development.
“The fire started at the fourth department where federal, state and local government allocations and other crucial payments are processed and then found its way up to the fifth floor where the accountant-general has his office,” an official said.
The official said the fire started shortly before a meeting of senior management officials was scheduled to take place.
“We had to suspend a meeting we had scheduled for 11:a.m. via video conferencing,” the official said.
Officials have not been able to examine the extent of damage to the notable structure, but we learnt that the destruction would be minimal.
“The fire did not affect our data centre, which is actually fully backed up,” another official said. “We have been using computer to process and back up information for the past 11 years.”
The two senior officials at directorate levels who spoke with news reporters wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorised to speak to the media as the situation was still largely hazy. News reporters from Premium Times who released this news agreed not to identify them in accordance with its policy on anonymous sources.
Ahmed Idris, the account-general, was scheduled to be at the office Wednesday morning, but he had not arrived before the fire broke out, according to one of the officials.
Mr Ahmed did not immediately answer calls seeking comments on the development
In other developments known to 9News Nigeria, members of the Federal Fire Service have been contacted in order to ascertain possible cause of the inferno.
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.
News reporters checks, however, revealed 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.