The authorities could do more to stem the trend
Perhaps exasperated by the spate of gas explosions, particularly in Lagos, the Senate last week directed its Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream and gas) to conduct an investigation into the remote and immediate causes of the explosion at the Ladipo Spare Parts Market, Mushin, Lagos. The explosion killed five persons, including a 10-year-old boy.
What makes the Lagos recent tragedy disturbing is that in the past few years, gas explosions of different variants have claimed many lives in the state. Between 2016 and 2020 similar incidents happened in Abule-Egba, Ijegun, Ile-Epo, Oke-Odo, Baruwa, and Abule Ado, all in Lagos. In Baruwa, a densely populated suburb of Lagos, an LPG tanker was in the process of discharging its content at a time the station’s generating set was running. The spark and the explosion which followed threw the discharging tanker across the road. Aside the loss of no fewer than five lives, 25 buildings, 16 shops, a private school building, a hotel and several vehicles/tricycles were razed.
While the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has harped on the need for plant operators to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of end-users of cooking gas, it does not appear as if these operators observe any safety standards. That a power generating set would be on at the time gas was being discharged is the height of negligence. The recent Mushin incident itself reportedly happened in an open space used for all kinds of activities – beer parlour, mechanic workshop, spare parts sale, and more.
While we commiserate with the families of the deceased, the explosions are by no means restricted to Lagos. Not long ago, a chlorine cylinder exploded at the Plateau State Water Board treatment plant at Lamingo, Dogon Karfe, Jos South local government, leaving eight people dead, among them a pregnant woman and children. Dozens of others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
Also of increasing concerns are gas explosions of the domestic kind, mostly as a result of leaking cylinders. Ironically, this is coming amid intense campaigns on the need for Nigerians to drop kerosene for gas as a cheaper and cleaner means of cooking. In recent years, fatal explosions have been reported in Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, and Jigawa States. In one of the incidents, the gas escaped into the air and got to a fire point where a lady was operating a restaurant, killing people along the way. The gas explosion at Arakale market in Akure, Ondo State was traced to an illegal gas re-filling plant which wounded many and razed many shops.
Perhaps the most sensational was the Abule Ado explosion in the Amuwo Odofin local government area of Lagos in March 2020. It killed 23 amid large-scale destruction of property. According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the explosion was caused when a truck rammed into a gas cylinder stacked in a gas processing plant near a vandalised petroleum gas pipeline. More than a year after the tragic event, reports on investigation of the incident are still being awaited. Will anything come out of the Mushin explosion?
To avert these tragedies, it is important to educate households on the need to gradually replace their metal gas cylinders with fibre cylinders, which is said to be fire- resistant. Also, the promise to phase out and replace the gas cylinders in circulation with more advanced ones should be hastened. Some households have been using the same cylinders for upwards of two decades. That is a disaster waiting to happen. Besides, the relevant authorities need to constantly sensitise operators of all gas retail outlets on how to operate their business with minimal risks.