By David Agabi
Naturally, Human Inclination is geared towards bettering his lot in terms of health, wellbeing and longevity, welfare and peace which systematically uplift his status in the society. This, therefore, is the ethos around which basic human values revolve, according man the leverage and prestige to operate in his domain and society.
Natural law and courtesy demands that things should be done in accordance with fundamental human precepts such as decorum, fair play, health, justice and sustainable development so as to conserve and preserve lives, foster good neigbourliness and maintain existing creature and creations.
Suffice this then to say that it would only be right for us to, as a matter of urgency and responsibility beam serious searchlight on the emerging trend of mini-kerosene depot and gas stations in many emerging new cities in Nigeria, which, to a certain degree is fundamentally taking an ugly precedence in view of non conformity to standards and outright abuse and blind eye turned to it by authorities concerned.
Kerosene for instance is a very crucial and a can’t-do-without house commodity in most Nigerian Homes, particularly among low income earners and rural communities. It serves in various ways, ranging from the domestic to the industrial, including cooking, as fuel for oil lamps for road construction and for aviation purposes, particularly as fuel for jet engines, while gas is used for fabrication, welder, cooking among others.
Given the innumerable uses kerosene and gas are put to, we cannot afford to allow them endanger lives and property, health and other veritable values held in high esteem. We dare not compromise our values on the altar of carelessness. Should a few opportunists with a trademark of always making money no matter what may in turn happen be always given vast space to do so? Can business not be properly regulated and agencies or bodies saddled with the statutory responsibility of ensuring strict adherence to standards be on their toes to effectively and efficiently carry out their functions, roles and responsibility as prescribed by law? Cant business, no matter which they are, not be constantly monitored, checked and supervised, with recommendations given at all times for proper and judicious rendering of service to the populace in accordance with laid down rules and ethics in the country?
A country poised for standardization, growth and stability, sustainable development and advancement must endeavour to ponder on the aforementioned questions. That way, it can up its game, systematically arousing the consciousness and intently visualizing its immediate environment and fathom how much ills and illegalities, outright disregard or disobedience of extant laws have been perpetrated with bewilderment, gross disappointment and fear, hence the need to amend certain standards so as to co-exist and conform with status recommended internationally.
It would be noted that Calabar in the South-South, Kaduna in the North-West, Ibadan in South-West, Bauch in North-East though has recently faced huge fire incidents and challenges arising from combustibles leading to loss of lives and property worth hundreds of millions, regrettably many towns in Nigeria are silently awaiting potential danger, even as those that are potentially aware keep mute and shy away in view of attacks and reprimands from the present bourgeoisie whom have to a reasonable degree, ambushed the nation with the fast emerging kerosene mini-depots . Located directly and within residential houses, shops, schools, markets and compounds, with one or two dispensers (metres) in the crowded environment peopled particularly with women and children.
Perhaps, this business booms without any challenge and complain from inhabitants of such vicinity. Rather, they patronize such depots and even consider themselves privileged to live beside kerosene and gas stations.
This unwholesome and dangerous activity that has been going on as though unnoticed, unregulated, unchallenged and without check has a real potential cataclysmic combustion effect that could lead to a large scale accident, wanton damage, fire disaster and death within and around the location.
Surprising as this issue may be, one is forced to ask if regulatory bodies such as the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Department of Petroleum resources (DPR), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) aware of this unregulated cum hazard-related emerging market? Did the Federal and State Ministry of Environment do anything regarding environmental impact assessment (EIA) before approval is given for the location and subsequent construction of such firm? Is the Urban Development Agencies aware of this development? Or are we saying it is in conformity with standards? How about the security agencies, particularly, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)? Should we take it that our security and regulatory agencies cannot talk because their mouths have been sealed with wads of naira notes? Is that what has rendered them incapacitated? What has community chiefs, elders and youths done to the effect? What exactly has the governments done to stop the trend or to stem the tide of this trend? Or is it a very good and healthy development, so long as a few persons mortgage their conscience at the expense of others?
One will consider why we in this clime tend to feel or think that things should be done wrongly or badly without us taking any responsibility or acting proactively. From the embryonic stage when we should cry out, we do not. We rather stay until it blossoms and becomes a monster before government doles out resources to ameliorate situations, scarce resources which could have been employed to more valuable things.
Kerosene, according to Wikipedia, is an oil, often called paraffin or heating oil that is used to power and fuel both industrial and commercial engines and machinery, as well as powering domestic heating systems. It comes with a density of around 0.81g/mc3 consequent upon this, there is no gain saying kerosene products should not be readily available to the people of Nigeria.
While liquefied petroleum gas also refers to as propane, is a flammable, mixture of hydrocarbon gasses used as fuel in heating appliances, cooking equipment, and vehicles.
But the essence fundamentally is to guide against inappropriate kerosene stations which have the potential of fire disasters, spillage, as well as water and food contamination amongst others. With this in mind, I implore the authorities concerned to as a matter of urgency, vet this inhuman trade activity so as to guide against present or future health hazard that will accompany what seems today as good business.
In the first instance, who gave the owners and operators of these depots operating permit or licenses? With tanks laden with between 33,000-66,000 litres of products that are exposed on the surface without any form of shade, coupled with connecting hose and others, danger looms. Meanwhile the reverse is the case in conventional fuel stations where all tanks and hoses are buried underground, leaving only dispensers for effective sales of the product. That way, the latter is rarely prone to disaster, in view of less heat and human error.
Retrospectively, Nigerians can recall series of kerosene and gas-related fire disaster in homes, shops and industries at different occasions, locations and parts of the country which claimed human lives, with destruction of property amounting to millions with the recent disaster in Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna State. In the wake of such disasters, the people are rendered to a life of grief and poverty that perhaps would have been avoided if wisdom and adequate planning had been followed in the first place.
Can’t we Nigerians have mercy upon ourselves? Are we not aware of the kind of emergency response systems we have? Should we stand with arms akimbo and allow corruption and other inordinate things to perpetuate in the land unabated? Can’t we, on our personal volition, stop certain things before they turn around to hurt us? Or are these things above us?
While the operators of these kerosene depots and gas stations may be deluding themselves that they are rendering service, my earnest suggestion is for them to be tutored on the philosophy of vendetta. It is my deduction that the ingenuity of these people is to be questioned, for it is not in the interest or benefit of Cross River and Cross Riverians.
Succinctly put, we should not sacrifice our future on the altar of insatiable, self-seeking wealth but do things with human conscience and value so as to preserve and nurture our environment, irrespective of business prospects. We must endeavour, for the future of our unborn children and posterity, not ravage the world in view of our innate quest and desire to rule and conquer the whole world.