Concerns as gas tanker explosions claim 13 lives, many properties in one week

No fewer than 13 lives, 130 vehicles and an unspecified number of houses have been destroyed in separate gas tanker explosions that occurred in Rivers, Osun and Delta States in the last seven days.

DAILY POST reports that tanker explosions have been consistent in the country, leading to loss of several lives and properties.

The recent occurrences have raised concerns amongst stakeholders who are calling for a better method of transporting all petroleum products across the country.

Recall that on Friday last week, April 27, a tanker conveying Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol, burnt motorists and commuters beyond recognition and destroyed at least 120 vehicles in Rivers State.

Five unlucky persons, including a pregnant woman, were killed in the unfortunate incident.

The incident occurred between the Indorama Petro-Chemical Company Gate and the Aleto Bridge on the popular and ever busy Eleme section of the East-West Road now undergoing major reconstruction by the Federal Government.

Barely 12 hours after the Rivers incident, a gas tanker exploded in Ita-Osin, Abeokuta, Ogun State on Saturday, April 29, killing one person, while about five others were seriously injured.

The incident which also left five vehicles burnt, occurred following a suspected brake failure, after which the tanker rammed into the road culvert and went up in flames.

According to the spokesperson of the Ogun State Sector Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Florence Okpe, the deceased was suspected to be the motorboy of the gas-laden tanker.

On Friday, May 4, about eight persons were killed in a petroleum tanker explosion at Ometan-Okpe community along the Effurun-Sapele Road in Okpe local government area of Delta State.

DAILY POST gathered that a breastfeeding mother and her three-month-old baby were among the casualties.

It was learnt that the breastfeeding mother was burnt to death while trying to rescue her baby who was trapped in the inferno.

Sources at the incident also disclosed that a 16-year-old secondary school girl and her mother who were trapped in their apartment also died in the fire incident.

DAILY POST gathered that the incident occurred on Friday when the ill-fated tanker coming from Effurun reportedly lost control while overtaking another truck a few metres away from the boundary bridge between Uvwie and Okpe Local Government Area.

According to eyewitnesses, the front part of the oil tanker suddenly detached from the rear compartment while on motion, leading to an explosion.

All buildings within the accident scene were razed. Some residents who were trapped in the building were also burnt to death.

Speaking with DAILY POST on Saturday, the Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, Edafe Bright confirmed that about eight bodies were recovered from the incident scene.

He said, “The head of the tanker pulled off from the body of the truck, the vehicle fell and went up in flames, leading to the major accident that claimed those lives.

“About seven houses, five shops, including POS shops, were burnt down.

“Four vehicles, including car, truck were all destroyed by the inferno.”

Governors, FG move to end incessant gas explosions

The 36 governors under the aegis of Nigerian Governors Forum on April 28 said discussions were advancing among them and strategic federal agencies in the oil and gas industry in a bid to adopt safer methods of transportation of petroleum products across the country.

The forum's Chairman, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq gave the hint at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, when he visited to commiserate with Governor Siminalayi Fubara, over the incident.

AbdulRazaq said, “We also spoke with the Head of the Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency, and there will be a review of some laws.

“There will also be engagement between the Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency and state agencies in terms of ensuring health and safety on these issues.

“As you know, Nigeria relies a lot, virtually, on pipelines for the movement of petroleum products, and we need to strengthen regulations in that sector, and also emphasise on improving and expanding pipelines for the transportation of products as well.”

Similarly, the Federal Government vowed to stop granting licences to gas companies with no capacity to build pipelines for gas distribution.

This was communicated by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Gas, Ekperikpe Ekpo, when he visited Abeokuta for an on-the-spot assessment of the explosion at Ita Oshin.

According to the Minister, the development became imperative to discourage the transportation of compressed natural gas through the roads.

“I have directed the authority chief executive that for any further issuance of licence, the company should be competent enough to pipe it to their end users so that we are not exposed to this kind of danger any longer.

“As a ministry, we are looking at how we can reduce a lot of virtual conveyance of gas.

“That is why we are putting much in developing the gas pipeline infrastructure so that the transportation would not be virtual, but rather through the pipelines. This will reduce this kind of incident and take off the pressure on our roads”, he said.

Meanwhile a retired officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Danjuma Alkali told DAILY POST on Saturday that the best way to stop the ugly occurrence was to ban night travels.

According to him, most of the incidents occurred due to “inability of drivers to have enough rest at night”, stressing “the incidents either happened in the night or when the drivers were totally exhausted”.

According to him, if there was a piece of legislation declaring an outright ban on night travels, the FRSC would be in a position to curb vehicles, whether big or small, travelling at night.

“Even before the recent incidents, statistics had shown that most of the crashes happen at night.

“For instance, a driver will want to go to Lagos and he takes off from Ilorin or Lokoja by 5pm; does a person get to Lagos before it becomes very late?

“If the federal lawmakers can come up with a piece of legislation to ban night travel, that will assist both the law enforcement agencies and other citizens.

“Banning night travels will put an end to some of these issues we face as a country, including insecurity.

“The federal government, in its wisdom, created tanker parks all over the country so that when it is night, the drivers can pack and rest until the following day, yet, most of them still prefer travelling at night.

“Nigeria should discourage night journeys because when articulated vehicles, especially fuel tankers, break down at night, drivers of such vehicles tend to abandon them on the road without any sign of caution and this has caused several incidents,” he stated.

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