Saturday’s gas explosion in Kaduna State was one too many. Not only did it destroy properties worth millions of naira, lives were lost. Other parts of the country such as Lagos, Delta and others had experienced the ugly incident which calls for government’s commitment to mitigate the incident for safety of lives and properties, writes CHINAKA OKORO.
On Saturday, Nigeria lost a prominent citizen. At a time the country is grapling with the problem of brain drain, one of her cerebral academics, Professor Simon Mallam, who was the Chairman of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), his son and three others, were killed in a domestic gas explosion which occurred in Sabon Tasha, Kaduna.
Mallam, who, according to a source close to the family, had just returned from the United States where he went on official tour, was at Sabon Tasha with his son to have their hair cut when the incident happened. The barber’s shop, unfortunately, was close to the gas shop.
The source said: “Professor Mallam just returned few days ago from the United States. On his return, he went to his village in Kagoro in Kaura Local Government Area.
“After he returned from the village for the Yuletide celebration, he, with his son, went to have a haircut in preparation for the Sunday service and subsequent movement to Abuja.
“We learnt they just finished having their haircut when the gas exploded.”
The sound was deafening. Nobody had expected such earsplitting sound. People ran from pillar to post confused. Their lives were so important; hence they ran as their legs could carry them.
When the dust raised by the sound settled, people started asking what happened. It was a gas explosion.
According to experts, gas explosion is an explosion resulting from mixing a gas, typically from a gas leak, with air in the presence of an ignition source. In household accidents, the principal explosive gases are those used for heating or cooking purposes such as natural gas, methane, propane, butane.
In industrial gas explosions many other gases, such as hydrogen, evaporated (gaseous) gasoline or ethanol play an important role. Industrial gas explosions can be prevented with the use of intrinsic safety barriers to prevent ignition.
Each incidence of gas explosion results in deaths of several people, including women and children. Not only are there loss of lives, there is also destruction of billions of naira worth of goods and properties.
For several times, gas explosions had occurred in several parts of the country. Before the latest explosion which occurred at the Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna metropolis on Saturday, other parts of the country had witnessed such unpleasant phenomenon.
In the Kaduna explosion, several people lost their lives and many others were burnt beyond recognition. The explosion, which was said to have occurred about 1:00 p.m. at a gas shop located by the main road opposite Total Filling Station, at the ever-busy Sabon Tasha.
Not only did the explosion destroy properties, it took the life of a prominent Nigerian; an academic that was committed to producing manpower for the development of the country’s economy.
A witness and manager of a filling station opposite the gas shop; Mr. Jerry Bishop said dismembered bodies of the gas vendor and one customer were thrown metres away.
El-Rufai bans sales of gas in residential areas
Enraged by the incident, Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai has ordered the closure of all gas refill stations located within residential areas.
The governor, who gave the order on Monday appealed to residents to report any gas outlets to government for immediate action.
Governor El-Rufai, who visited the scene of Saturday’s gas explosion at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna said the gas refill stations should relocate to industrial layouts.
“It is most unfortunate that this incident has happened. It is further proof and evidence that this is high risk activity that should not be allowed to be located in residential areas.
“We will relocate them; we will give them land in industrial areas where adequate precautions to prevent things such as this will be put in place,” he said.
The governor advised residents to report anyone found refilling gas within residential areas.
“You should report to Kaduna Environmental Protection Agency (KASUPDA) so that measures can be taken to chase them out,” he said.
He noted that gas refilling is a high risk activity that should be undertaken only in industrial layouts where all the safety measure can be put in place.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has said its preliminary investigation revealed that the Kaduna gas explosion was caused by illegal decanting of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) into another cylinder by operators of the facility.
Head, Public Affairs of DPR, Mr. Paul Osu, stated this in a statement made available to reporters.
Osu said the agency commiserates with the families affected by the unfortunate incident. According to him, an incident of gas explosion was reported to have occurred at an unlicensed LPG retail shop in Kaduna, Kaduna State, resulting in fatalities.
“In line with our regulatory oversight on the oil and gas industry, the agency immediately mobilised our members of staff to the scene to investigate the cause of the explosion,” he said.
Osu said the Department would continue to monitor and sensitise members of the public to safe handling of petroleum products to prevent the occurrence of incidences such as this.
“We appeal to members of the public to continue to assist in reporting the activities of illegal operators to the nearest DPR office,” he said.
Apart from the unfortunate incident in Kaduna, gas explosions have occurred in other parts of the country which were also claimed lives and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. For instance, in Oniru in Victoria Island, Lagos, at least three people sustained varying degrees of injuries in December after a gas cylinder exploded at the Four Point by Sheraton Hotel.
The explosion occurred while some artisans were doing welding job inside the hotel premises.
It was gathered that one of the cylinder hoses brought by the welders had leakage which triggered the explosion.
It was gathered that several vehicles in the premises, room windows and other items were shattered.
“A total of 10 vehicles alongside several windows of the hotel were affected by the effects of the explosion,” said a source.
In November last year, two children died in a gas explosion also in Lagos. Twenty-three people, including children and adults were injured. One of the children was identified as Damilare Afolabi.
The incident happened at Aduke Street off Ojo Road in Ajegunle, Apapa Lagos.
Investigations revealed that the explosion was as a result of gas leakage from a gas cylinder store. It was learnt that the gas exploded when a resident made a call near the shop. The fire escalated to nearby shops and a bungalow behind the shops.
According to the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, two children, a male and a female lost their lives and 23 people had injuries in the gas explosion that occurred at Aduke Street off Ojo Road in Ajegunle, Apapa Lagos.
He said: “Upon arrival at the scene of incident, it was discovered that a gas cylinder store had exploded as a result of gas leakage. Further investigations revealed that the fire ignited as a result of a call made by an unidentified resident which escalated to other nearby shops and a bungalow behind the shops.”
Call for regulation
Owing to incessant gas explosion in Lagos, the House of Assembly has called for proper regulations and monitoring of sales of gas.
The House arrived at the resolution after a motion moved by a member of the Assembly, Hon. Lukman Olumo, representing Ajeromi/Ifelodun Constituency 1 during a plenary session.
In the motion, Olumo stated that it was important to regulate sales of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in residential areas to curb incessant gas explosion.
The House therefore resolved to instruct the Commissioners for the Environment and Water Resources as well as the General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) to enforce the necessary laws on the issue.
“The Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources should ensure that licenses are given to the sellers of gas. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) should give approval on the location of gas stations.
“The government should ensure that the cylinders imported into the country conform to the right standard,” he said.
The House also called on the Commissioner for Information and Strategy to embark on aggressive sensitisation programme to the indiscriminate proliferation of gas sales outlets, use of mobile phones and handling of gas cylinders.
Majority Leader Sanai Agunbiade said there should be enforcement of the laws of the state and enlightenment of members of the public on the matter.
In Delta State, over four people sustained a high degree of injuries along the Ivwrekpokpo Road, Ughelli North Local Government Area following a gas explosion.
Experts say incidents of gas explosions could be minimised if precautionary measures are taken, even as they urged government to show commitment to proper location of gas facilities.