Niger State suffered a great loss on Thursday when fire gutted sections of the offices of the state Ministries of Finance and Health and Hospital Services at Lafene Secretariat in Minna, the state capital.
The fire, according to eyewitnesses, started at about 11am in the three-storey building housing five ministries.
It was first noticed in the Ministry of Health and Hospital Services, where it razed down the office of the Director of Public Health, Dr. Mohammed Usman, and his Personal Assistant.
The inferno also spread to the second floor of the build where the office of the Director of Final Account in the Ministry of Finance was also gutted by the fire.
But for the vigilance and courage of some civil servants, the entire building would have been razed down as the Fire Service Department stationed in the secretariat had no fire fighting engine, thereby leaving the people at the mercy of fire extinguishers.
Though no life was lost, valuable and vital government and personal documents went up in flames while electronics and computers were burnt in the two offices.
Speaking after inspecting the affected offices, the state’s Head of Service, Barrister Abbas Bello, expressed regret over the incident.
Bello said investigation will be instituted to ascertain the cause of the fire and the level of damage.
He said the news of the incident was broken at the weekly State Executive Council meeting and that he was directed by the state Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, to proceed to the scene of incident.
At a press briefing on Thursday, the Commissioner for Health and Hospital Services Dr. Ibrahim Sule, lamented the great damage caused by the inferno, which included loss of vital documents that can only be retrieved by assistance from the World Health Organisation.
According to Dr. Sule: “We lost vital medical reports and documents to the fire incident and the only way we can get such reports and documents back would be by writing to the WHO to help us with same copies they have in their archives.
“Although no lives were lost but three of our health staff suffered from mild carbon-dioxide poisoning and they are responding to treatment.”
Also speaking to reporters, Dr. Usman, Director of Public Health, in whose office the fire started, said he was at a loss in view of the vital and sensitive documents gutted by the fire.
The Deputy Director (Operations) of the State Fire Service, Nathaniel Kolo, admitted that the spread of the fire would have been curtailed but for lack of functional fire fighting engine in the secretariat.