By Remilekun Samson Aremu RSA
Amuwo Odofin is seemingly exhibiting laxity over the indiscriminate siting of oil and gas stations as well as tank farms in residential areas, despite multiplicity of government agencies saddled with the responsibilities of issuing permits and regulating them so as to ensure safety and prevent health hazards.
There have been deaths from gas explosions which are avoidable. However, with gas plants springing up in residential areas, it becomes a challenge to control the damage such action can cause;
On Sunday,15th of March 2020, lives of many great and potential Nigerian leaders were lost, properties worth billions of Naira destroyed while scores sustained injuries from a gas explosion at Abule Ado Festac Extention in Amuwo odofin Lagos state. As at the time of this piece the numbers of casualties cannot be ascertained also the cause of the gas stimulated inferno is unknown. According to witnesses, the incident occurred early hour of the day.
The issue of safety in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas subsector is increasing becoming a safety concern as industry stakeholders continue to express concerns over existing safety gaps as the drive to boost cooking gas consumption gains momentum.
A closer look at most explosions will reveal a troubling combination of poor safety procedures, below-par response measures and public ignorance which invariably boils down to system failures that could have been avoided if tighter regulations had been in place.
For instance, Vina has a gas plant situated at Alakija, ie 3rd gate area of Festac and it is within a residential area.
Also at First gate in Festac, a major entrance of the Federal Housing property, a gas station is also located within residential area.
Residents have been asking whether operators of the plant had the approval of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to site the business there.
Remember the House of Representatives member, Kolawole Taiwo HKT sometimes at the floor of the house saying efforts are ongoing to initiate a bill to protect people from domestic hazards in view of the gas explosion that killed people in Lagos recently.
HKT said some people were desperate to make profit by refilling liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or cooking gas cylinders in residential areas.
In spite of several appeal to the government to address this trend, nothing seems be happening.
According to a resident at a building close to one of the plants in Amuwo Odofin, precisely Festac, he shudders whenever he remembers that he stays close to a gas plant.
While he consoles himself that God is the ultimate protector, he is still apprehensive that any incident at the plant will put his life and that of his entire family in grave danger.
“I am yet to understand why a gas station that is highly inflammable can be sited in areas where people reside,” he muttered.
Many times some of these stations are sited without the approval of either the town planning office FHA or FTRA or the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which regulates domestic gas transactions.
Safety rules like everything other business in Nigeria, the business has become an all comers affair that can be started even in homes and open streets without due regard for public safety and by people who know next to nothing about gas or the havoc it is capable of causing if not properly handled.
That the explosions are becoming rampant should be enough to spur the Local and state Government and other relevant authorities into action.
They should start with the location of the plants themselves.
This is a pointer to the fact that proper environmental impact assessment was not carried out to establish the suitability of the business in that location.
Do you remember the Ikosi incident, the odour of leaking gas was perceived the previous day, but had been allowed to saturate the environment completely that even the presence of the Fire Service could not prevent the disaster?
While one cannot rule out accidents or incidents in any business concern, it is obvious that in many of the cases gas explosion, prevention and safety measures were apparently very slack and created situations that were the prelude to many of these disasters.
Prevention In an ideal situation, regulations guiding various activities relating to the safety of installations and appliances using natural and liquefied petroleum gas cover various aspects of supply and use of gas, and qualifications and duties of people involved with doing so.
This is what international best practices demand and make it imperative that safety standards must apply to everyone who installs, alters, maintains or operates gas technologies.
All licensed contractors are required to be up to date with changes in the laws and regulations guiding operations in the business.
Enforcing regulations given the regularity of these disasters in the country, the authorities need to increase how it regulates the business and reduce chances of accidents occurring.
At the moment, it appears that gas business in the country is not sufficiently regulated as it were by the DPR.
Some residents who lives at 711 road in Alakija area of Festac, in a chat earlier today, insisted that establishment and management of a gas station should be very strict especially when it is located in a residential area due to the danger it poses to residents in the area.
I believe the focus of the government should be on safety.
Gas stations should not be located in residential areas.
There is one in my area that residents continue to question why it was established in that area.
If there is a fire outbreak, the loss of lives and properties will be massive.
We are talking of billions of naira because of where they are located.
Government should be proactive when it comes to this.
The way out if Amuwo Odofin, Lagos and the entire country is to move beyond the cycle of needless loss of lives and properties caused by gas explosions, safety regulations must be enforced much more strictly than they are at the moment.
A comprehensive survey of all gas dispensing installations, stations and shops in the community must be carried out without delay, and those that are found to have breached established safety requirements should be closed down until they meet the standards.
The siting of gas businesses in densely populated areas must be discouraged; in this regard, the town-planning, FTRA, CDCs etc who are supposed to manage such issues must be strictly enforced.
Where disaster occurs as a result of proven negligence, the culprits concerned must be sanctioned to the fullest extent of the law.
It certain that Gas has become indispensable in Nigeria.
However, with more citizens transiting away from wood and charcoal, it is vital that its dangers are reduced to the barest minimum.