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Why police and security guards were arrested over MUK main building fire

By Charles Etukuri

Added 21st September 2020 09:56 PM

Why police and security guards were arrested over MUK main building fire

Makerere University's main building (Courtesy picture)

MAKERERE UNIVERSITY | FIRE OUTBREAK 

The Uganda Police Force is holding police and security guards in relation to the Sunday (September 20, 2020) night fire incident at Makerere University which razed down several offices at the main building.

Those arrested were guarding the premises at the time of the incident.

Addressing the media at the University on Monday (September 21, 2020), University Vice Chancellor, Barnabas Nawangwe disputed reports in the media which claimed CCTV footage had shown people entering the building before it caught fire.

"I haven't gotten any report about a CCTV footage showing two people entering the building before the fire incident. I don't know how the New Vision got that. I will check with my Chief Security Officer to confirm," Nawangwe said.

Sources who spoke to New Vision noted that close to four people have since been arrested.

Nawangwe declined to reveal the number though he noted that those arrested were the ones who were guarding the building on the fateful night.

"The main building is guarded by the University's Security services and the Uganda Police. At the time of the fire outbreak, the officers on duty were inside the building near the entrance and they apparently did not notice the problem until they were alerted by the Chief Security Officer.

Those officers are now under police custody. The Criminal Investigations Department and Directorate of Forensics Services of the Uganda Police have commenced investigations. Security on the main campus has been strengthened," Nawangwe added.

Speaking during a news conference at the Uganda Media Center in Kampala on Monday, Fred Enanga, the Police spokesperson said one of the guards remained asleep even after alarms to alert him about the fire outbreak rang.

"He absconded from duty when he remained asleep the whole night when there was a fire. People tried to knock at his door and it took him hours to wake up," Enanga said.

He said the Police have since retrieved footage from CCTV cameras at the wing of the University library, to help them with investigations.

He said the footage will help the investigations team to analyze the happenings at the university, before the outbreak of the fire, for clues on who accessed the university at that time.

Nawangwe noted that the fire incident was spotted by a police patrol team that was patrolling the University.

"At around half past midnight, a police patrol team at Makerere University noticed smoke coming out of the roof of the main administration building.

The patrol team alerted the Officer in Charge (OC) of Makerere Police Station, who had been deployed at Nateete Police Station for the night.

The OC at the time was in the CCTV control room and he zoomed the CCTV cameras to the main building and indeed the cameras could show that there was smoke coming out of the building," Nawangwe said.

He noted that, OC station then alerted Makerere University Chief Security Officer who rushed to the main building and arrived at 1:10 am.

"He first saw smoke coming out of the roof above the office of the public relations department and soon after the fire started coming out of the roof.

He immediately alerted the control room to request the fire Brigade to rush to the scene. The Chief Security Officer also alerted the Vice Chancellor and acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, who both rushed to the scene," Nawangwe said.

He noted that the fire brigade arrived at the scene at 1:10 am initially with 2 fire engines which did not have the capacity to jet water to the roof of the building.

"After about 30 minutes, more fire engines with better capacity arrived but by this time, the fire had spread through a big part of the roof. The fire engines experienced a challenge with lack of a fire hydrant within and in the vicinity of the University and had to fetch water from hydrants at the Fire Brigade Headquarters," Nawangwe explained.

He noted that the Fire Brigade managed to subdue the fire at around 4:00 am but by this time, the entire roof of the building had collapsed and the entire top floor and the entire Finance Department has been burnt.

"At around 5:00 am, the fire gained momentum again and spread to the office of the University Secretary damaging property therein. When it appeared to the Fire Brigade that the fire had been completely extinguished, despite smoke still coming off from the Central registry, they left the site.

Unfortunately, fire again broke out in the Council room at 8:00 pm on Sunday but the Fire Brigade arrived within 15 minutes and put out the fire within one hour," Nawangwe further explained.

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