Nigeria: One Gas Explosion Too Many

Photo: Pixabay
Refinery (file photo).
16 January 2020

A professor of physics with the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, who was also the current chairman of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) was among the five people killed in a gas explosion at the Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna Metropolis on Saturday January 4, 2020. The explosion occurred at the gas shop opposite Total filling station in Sabon Tasha when attendants were refilling a cylinder for one of their customers. Professor Simon P. Mallam was identified by his green Toyota Highlander car with which he went to a barber's shop to have a haircut near the scene of the explosion. He was among those trapped in the barber's shop when the building housing the gas shop was razed down by the ensuing inferno.

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said preliminary investigations revealed that the gas explosion at Sabon Tasha was caused by illegal decanting of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) into another cylinder by operators of the facility. The DPR North West Zonal Operations Controller, Mr Isa Tafida, who condoled with victims of the explosion said the gas retailer operated illegally and without even a category D license. He urged investors, gas plant operators and retailers to obtain the required license that would ensure safe handling ofgas in order to avert similar accidents in the future. Tafida said although the agency approved and licensed 38 LPG plants in Kaduna state in 2019, hundreds of unlicensed retailers and gas vendors are still operating within Kaduna city.

In his visit to the scene of the explosion, Governor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai of Kaduna State ordered the closure of all gas refill stations located within residential areas in the state; directing them to relocate to industrial layouts. "It is most unfortunate that this incident has happened. It is further proof and evidence that this is a high-risk activity that should not be allowed to be located in residential areas." The governor advised residents to report anyone found refilling gas within residential areas to KASUPDA or KEPA or write directly to him for immediate action. "We are mapping all of them. For now, they are shut down," he stressed. Governor El-Rufai later paid a condolence visit to the family of Professor Simon Mallam, and also visited victims of the gas explosion receiving treatment at the Gerald hospital, Kaduna. He prayed for the souls of those who died and the quick recovery of those in hospitals.

It would be recalled that a similar gas explosion occurred in Lafia, Nasarawa State in September, 2018 when a truck loaded with gas exploded at the Monaco Gas Nigeria Limited plant. The plant is concealed behind the Natson Petroleum filling station and a mini bar where soft drinks are sold. Nine people were killed in the explosion while 25 others sustained various degrees of burns.

The recurrence of gas explosions in residential and commercial layouts of towns and cities points to the failure of the DPR in its monitoring functions as it has the statutory duty of ensuring that gas retail outlets must be licensed and should only operate in industrial layouts. Non-compliance to regulations has unfortunately led to the death of a great academic in an explosion from an illegal LPG refill point, which clearly failed to adhere to laid down safety conditions for establishing such an outlet. We therefore call for the prosecution of the owner of the illegal gas outlet at Sabon Tasha. Mr Isa Tafida should further collaborate with relevant agencies to ensure that all illegal LPG outlets in his zone are closed down.

Realising that cooking is faster, cleaner, and more convenient with LPG, the number of households that use it for cooking tremendously increased in recent years; resulting in a sudden surge of many illegal gas retailing outlets. However, safety concerns should not be compromised in the retail and use of LPG .

DPR offices across the country should ensure that only licensed outlets are allowed to operate in addition to compliance with safety rules and standards. We also encourage DPR to embark on public enlightenment on the utilization of LPG including how to use it and where to access it.

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