By Victor Okoye
Stakeholders have expressed concern over the recurring incidents of gas proliferation in the country and called for synergy between regulatory bodies to ensure that the issue of safety was not being compromised.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the stakeholders spoke on Thursday in Abuja at a consultative meeting towards implementation of Project Safety – a global safety action against illegal gas proliferation in Nigeria.
The meeting was organised by the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN) and International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in Nigeria, in collaboration with other stakeholders in industrial safety.
The various stakeholders expressed concern over the development, noting that the proliferation of cooking gas retail outlets in the country had made it difficult for effective supervision and enforcement to take place.
They highlighted the dangers of cooking gas plants within residential areas, while seeking best practices to ensure safety standards were applied at all times.
Dr Duru Hezekiah, IHRC’s Ambassador at Large and Head of Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria, decried the devastating consequences of gas explosions.
Hezekiah said IHRC was deeply concerned about the existence of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) facilities in residential areas and the potential dangers they posed to the lives and properties of citizens.
He explained that the primary objective of the project was to reduce the rate of mortality and morbidity associated with gas plants in residential areas, while upholding fundamental human rights.
“By advocating for sustainable practices, formulating effective policies, and strengthening the capacities of the state, we strive to mitigate the devastating effects of gas-related incidents in Nigeria.
“We aim to carry awareness on international safety measures making it possible for gas operators and users to adhere to regulations.
“We firmly believe that safety standards must apply to every individual or organisation involved in the installation, alteration, maintenance, or operation of gas technologies in Nigeria.
“As stakeholders, we will leverage on our partnerships by creating awareness, implementing enforceable regulations that can help in reducing risks posed by these facilities and protect the rights to life of citizens in our communities,” he said.
Dr Festus Daniel, President, National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN), commended IHRC’s contribution to Project Safety, and assured the stakeholders of council’s commitment to the quest for any cause that would guarantee industrial safety.
Daniel, who was represented by Adeyinka Oyediran, Lagos State NISCN Chairman, stressed that the alarming consequences that have emerged due to the establishment and operation of gas plants in residential areas cannot be ignored.
He noted that apart from industry players being worried that quacks were manning gas outlets, residents were getting perturbed that their safety was being compromised.
The NISCN boss noted that this was due to the fact that untrained gas outlet owners were proliferating, while appropriate government agencies looked the other way.
“For safety and emergency response, we will bolster our emergency response systems to effectively address incidents or accidents that may occur in the vicinity of gas plants.
“Training programmes, regular drills, and the deployment of advanced technology will be implemented to enhance our response capabilities.
“The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable, and we will leave no stone unturned in protecting their lives,” he said.
Mr Yahaya Bukar, Director, Standards Development, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), stressed the need for synergy and collaboration between all the regulatory bodies.
He noted that SON had a lot of standards requirements for LPG cylinders, adding that their major role was to establish standards for various products in Nigeria and also monitor the products coming into the country.
“So, we need to identify where we can synergise; for instance, if we are issuing certificates for plants, who are those regulatory agencies that should ensure safety.
“NEMA has a role to ensure that all the necessary facilities are put in place in case there is an emergency. So, we all have a role to play.
“But in Nigeria, we are faced with the problem I refer to as the ‘silo syndrome’. Everybody wants to operate in isolation.
“We are endowed with a lot of resources in this country but all these cannot be useful to us if we don’t interact and collaborate with each other,” he said.
Sini Omar of the IGP Special Task Force on Petroleum and Illegal Bunkering, Force Headquarters, Abuja, on his part said that setting up of a taskforce to prosecute defaulters of gas proliferation was the way to go.
“We must push for relevant laws with regards to gas proliferation to be enacted by the National Assembly to cater for sanctions.
“Defaulters must be sanctioned through civil remedy, minimal sentences or criminal sanctions by empowering the relevant law enforcement agencies to prosecute them,” he said.
Mr Atabo Daniel, the Chief Search and Rescue Officer at NEMA said there was need for all stakeholders to double their efforts, not only in the area of regulation, but also enlightenment.
Atabo pleaded with parents and business owners to keep members of their families and those at workplaces abreast of safety tips.
“In as much as we ensure that more people comply, as we enforce safety precautions on a sustainable basis, the issue of education and enlightenment of the public cannot be overemphasised.
“When you are not using gas cookers, teach family members how to lock the gas cylinders and steps to take to ensure that there are no leakages on the gas cylinders.
“Apart from working towards ensuring safety at home, safety at the workplace is also of great importance in making the country safe,” he said.
NAN also reports that stakeholders at the consultative meeting were representatives of SON, the Inspector General of Police, NEMA, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Federal Ministry of Environment.
The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), Nigeria Red Cross Society and Federal Ministry of Health were also in attendance. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Mark Longyen and Emmanuel Afonne