Proliferation of gas outlets raises safety concerns

Recently, two fire incidents resulting from explosions at two gas plants in different parts of Lagos State, within 24 hours jolted residents of the state.Not only were property worth millions of naira also destroyed, lives were lost, aside from those who sustained injuries.The two incidents happening within a short time from each other, definitely calls to question, safety guidelines put in place by concerned authorities, especially in the light of the proliferation of gas plants, gas skids and gas retail outlets across the state.

In the last two years or thereabouts, more Nigerians have imbibed the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for domestic cooking, even as the Federal Government has equally stepped up the campaign for the use of clean energy for cooking.The affordability of LPG by many homes and the consequent increasing patronage is what is attracting all manner of persons into the gas business, and leading to the setting up of gas retail outlets or gas plants even in residential areas.

Industry sources are uncomfortable with this development, especially since many of the dealers know next to nothing about standard safety measures, which ought to be in place. The National Chairman, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers (LPGR) arm of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Mr. Michael Umudu, equally expressed concern over the development when he said that the proliferation of cooking gas retail outlets in the country has made it difficult for effective supervision and enforcement to take place, besides leading to the involvement of people who are ill qualified to do the business.

“People who know little to nothing about the LPG retailing business are daily flocking into the business. This leads to the proliferation of substandard and fake products,” he said. Apart from industry players being worried that quacks are manning gas outlets, residents are getting perturbed that their safety is being compromised gradually by untrained gas outlet owners, while appropriate government agencies look the other way.

“Sometimes, I am lost for words just thinking about incidences of fire outbreaks, especially with the way attendants in these places just upturn gas cylinders without a care in the world,” said Oiza Kween, a Lagos resident.She continued: The other day that I tried to refill my cylinder, the careless attendant was just opened a filled cylinder and left it like that while looking for a screwdriver. When I spoke against what he was doing and the dangers we were exposed to, all he had to say was ‘madam, you cannot teach me my job.’ All these were happening not far from where people were smoking cigarette. I was just praying for my cylinder to get filled fast so that I could take my leave,” Kween said.

The Director General of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Hakeem Dickson, says his commission’s determination to ensure sanity reigns in the oil and gas sector has been hamstrung because stakeholders often claim that it is the Federal Government that has supervisory and regulatory powers over their activities.

“But we always tell them, if an accident occurs, it is always the Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and other safety stakeholders in the state that are always the ones to respond to the situations.” He stressed that the state government would deal with all these issues in a very short while even though he declined giving details of actions that would be taken.

As part of efforts to prevent fire outbreaks arising from domestic cooking gas in homes, Dickson said his agency has engaged in a lot of advocacy, and making the residents to see why they should be safety conscious. “Since we are changing from the old ways of doing things, like using coal, stove and firewood to cook to using gas and electric stove, the commission is doubling its efforts, not only in the area of enlightenment, but also in the area of regulation. We are going to ensure that more people comply, as we enforce safety precautions on a sustainable basis.

“We would be doing more of auditing, inspecting and monitoring of these gas retail outlets. So, we will do more of advocacy, and how to prevent accidents because the more advocacy we do, the better for Lagos State residents.”Dickson pleaded with parents and business owners to keep members of their families and those at workplaces abreast of safety tips saying, “When you are not using gas cookers, teach family members how to lock the gas cylinders and steps to take to ensure that there are no leakages on the gas cylinders.”Apart from working towards ensuring safety at home, he said safety at workplace was also of great importance in making the state safe.

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Liquefied Petroleum Gas
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