There is need to abide by safety procedures

One death was recorded last week with scores of others injured following another gas explosion at Iba, a Lagos suburb. The explosion reportedly occurred in the process of trans-loading gas from the truck into the plant’s surface tank. “The fire involved three LPG gas trucks of different storage capacity and a security post in the plant premises,” an official of the Lagos State Emergency Services Agency (LASEMA) told reporters. “The fire emanated from one of the trucks while discharging its contents into the plant surface storage tank.”

It is unfortunate that despite repeated warnings by the Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (NLPGA) on the need for stringent enforcement of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) standards, the harvest of death continues as more and more Nigerians fall victims to gas explosions. The list of fatalities is long and growing and most of them caused by human error. Three years ago, a chlorine cylinder exploded at the Plateau State Water Board treatment plant at Lamingo, Dogon Karfe, Jos South Local Government Area, leaving eight people dead, among them a pregnant woman and children. Dozens of others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Leakage at the plant was responsible for the deaths as residents around the area inhaled the poisonous gas which enveloped the entire neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, also of increasing concerns are gas explosions of the domestic kind. Incessant domestic gas explosions because of leaking cylinders are on the rise across the country. Ironically, this is coming amid intense campaigns on the need for Nigerians to drop kerosene for gas as a cleaner means of cooking. In the last few weeks alone, fatal explosions had been reported in Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Jigawa States, killing no fewer than 15 people. 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 and injuring many people. Another gas explosion at Arakale market in Akure, Ondo State last year was traced to an illegal gas re-filling plant which wounded many and razed many shops.

There are several of such tragic stories. In an incident that is typical of the carelessness often associated with many homes, a female domestic help in Epe, Lagos, once turned on the gas and left to chat outside. By the time she returned to light up the gas, the kitchen was suffused with chemical. The resultant fire and explosion sent her and neighbours scampering for safety. At least 24 people suffered various degrees of burns. In yet another, a retail outlet was discharging gas from a big cylinder without safety measures.

In all this, much more must be done to ensure that the metal components are in good form just as the need to always abide by safety procedures. It is reassuring that both the state and the federal governments have ordered investigations into the cause of the Plateau incident to guide against future re-occurrence. But the relevant authorities need to organise sensitisation programmes to all gas retail outlets on how to operate their business with minimal risk. 

Similarly, it is also important to educate households on the need to gradually replace their metal gas cylinders with fibre cylinders, said to be highly fire-resistant. For several years, that had been the promise to phase out and replace the gas cylinders in circulation with more advanced ones. Authorities in the sector should implement that. It will also help if distributing and marketing firms own the cylinders as against individuals as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) once suggested. Some households have been using the same cylinder for upwards of three decades. That practice could be very dangerous. 

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