• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Incessant tanker fire accidents highlight Nigeria’s poor safety measures

Public properties and the fire safety standards

… We need to keep tankers off the roads – Chude

…Government must strengthen regulatory agencies – stakeholder

Nigeria has been plagued by a recurring nightmare occasioned by incessant tanker accidents that have claimed countless lives, destroyed properties, and left communities in ruins.

The frequency and severity of these accidents have raised concerns about the poor safety measures in place, highlighting a systemic failure to prioritise human life and safety across the country.

Nigeria may not have learnt anything in terms of mitigating fire accidents, particularly involving petrol-bearing tankers on the road. This is as a result of the frequency of accidents involving tankers where hundreds of citizens have lost their lives in such accidents with an unquantifiable amount of money lost.

For many Nigerians, tanker accidents in Nigeria are often caused by a combination of factors that range from reckless driving to poor vehicle maintenance, overloading, inadequate training of drivers, and lack of enforcement of safety regulations by the regulatory agencies.

Over the years, these factors have resulted in a staggering number of accidents, with many occurring on major highways and in densely populated areas with far-reaching consequences. Among other devastating and far-reaching consequences of tanker accidents in Nigeria, is the economic losses on the back of the environmental pollution, destruction of properties and loss of lives.

Despite the frequency and severity of tanker accidents, safety measures in Nigeria remain inadequate, and have been characterised by lack of regular vehicle inspections, absence of emergency response plans, inadequate enforcement of safety regulations, inadequate training and certification of drivers, and lack of investment in safety infrastructure.

“It is imperative that the government, regulatory agencies, and stakeholders take immediate action to address these issues,” Badru Saleh, public analyst, told BusinessDay SUNDAY.

According to him, Nigeria can reduce the frequency and severity of tanker accidents by implementing effective safety measures and enforcing regulations to protect human life and promote economic growth.

Saleh further said that incessant tanker accidents and poor safety measures in Nigeria have resulted in unimaginable suffering and loss to the country.

According to him, there is an urgent need for the government to strengthen regulatory agencies to ensure compliance with safety standards and enforce penalties for non-compliance.

He also said that the government through the various regulatory agencies across the federation must work collaboratively to ensure that tankers are regularly maintained and inspected to prevent mechanical faults on the roads.

According to him, incessant tanker accidents are a pointer to the need for urgent driver training and certification. He said that providing comprehensive training and certification programs for drivers will ensure they are equipped to handle safety measures while on the roads.

Saleh said that there was also the need for the government to invest in safety infrastructure to curb incessant accidents. According to him, investing in safety infrastructure such as emergency response systems, fire stations, and hospitals to respond to accidents effectively will help to reduce incidences.

Speaking further, he said that there is a need for community engagement and awareness creation to educate communities on the risks associated with tanker accidents and the importance of safety measures.

Recently, a truck laden with cement collided with a bus on Okene-Lokoja bypass in Kogi State, leading to the death of some passengers. In the same week, about 70 cars were burnt and scores of lives lost along the East-West Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in a fire outbreak allegedly caused by a petroleum tanker that fell and spilled its content on the road.

According to reports, the contents of the truck ignited a heavy fire that engulfed cars caught up in the perennial chaotic traffic along the East-West Road, reducing vehicles to ashes in a fire outbreak that occurred around 9:00 pm. It was learnt that at least four individuals have been confirmed dead in the fire incident.

Similarly, another fire outbreak, gas explosion occurred in the Ajegunle area of Lagos State resulting in the destruction of four commercial tricycles, six lock-up stores, and a portion of a bungalow building. Many lives were lost instantly while many others who were rushed to the hospital are reportedly dying.

According to Amodu Shakiru, the head of public education for Lagos State fire and rescue service, the fire incident was said to have occurred as a result of a leaked gas cylinder and a broken high-tension cable around the Alaba Lane, Alayabiagba Community, in the Ajegunle-Apapa area of Lagos State.

Shakiru disclosed then that preliminary investigation revealed that a number of gas cylinders traded within the neighborhood triggered the fire from a leakage of one of the cylinders.

“Nine people reportedly suffered different degrees of burn injury, including a pregnant woman, children, and adults, male and female. While some have died, some are recuperating at the Ajeromi General Hospital and Granada Burnt & Trauma Centre after some first aid by the Lagos State Ambulance Service.”

Also, another fire incident that resulted in 14 buildings being gutted by fire, and the collapse of four structures in the Dosunmu market on Lagos Island; resulted in the closure of the market following the visit of the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to the site of the incident.

Following a personal visit to the location, the governor posted on his official Facebook account on April 11 by 3:53 pm thus; “Dear Lagosians, following the tragic fire at Dosunmu Market, I visited the site to assess the damage and meet with affected individuals. The fire, a result of mishandling flammable materials, led to significant loss. We have initiated a full investigation to determine the cause and implement stricter safety protocols.

“I am disappointed with the conversion of residential buildings into storage for hazardous materials. This practice contributed to the rapid spread of the fire and must end. We will hold accountable those who flout our building and safety standards.

“In our meeting with victims and stakeholders, we discussed both immediate and long-term support measures. An integrity test on standing structures is now mandatory, and Dosunmu Market will remain closed until we can ensure the safety of all structures and compliance with regulations. Unapproved buildings will be demolished. Our commitment to safety and order in our markets is unwavering.

In response to curbing the incessant fire outbreak across the state, the governor said that the, “Ministry of Physical Planning will intensify its efforts to enforce building codes and prevent misuse of residential properties. We cannot overlook the safety of our citizens.”

He further assured Lagosians that the state government was exploring all avenues to assist the affected victims and prevent future incidents. According to him, the tragedy at Dosunmu market would prompt the state to adhere more strictly to safety standards.

However, another concerned citizen speaking from the public safety perspective told BusinessDay Sunday that Nigeria has no business loading or conveying petroleum products via trucks, which in a way adds to the overall cost of the end products.

According to him, Nigeria must de-emphasise the loading of petroleum products on trucks as much as possible to reduce the pressure on the roads.

He said that the tankers contribute so much to damaging the roads.

“The roads are badly maintained in the first place by the government, and when the roads are damaged the tankers are forced to drive on the roads,” Achike Chude, said.

According to him, Nigeria needs to keep tankers off the roads by developing the rail line to effectively convey petroleum and other flammable products across the country. “When you look at the cost of carrying these fuels by road it is extremely high that they add to the cost of these products by the time they are discharged.

“But, for trains, it is much easier for them to move from one part of the country to another, and they are safer and cost less, except now that we have banditry all over the place. The tankers should not be going on these roads because those roads were not built for tanks; unless we are talking about roads done with concrete,” he said.

According to Chude, the incessant fire outbreak across the country is extremely unfortunate and the fact that it is still happening would appear that the authorities do not have a solution to curb the situation. “Even if they feel that there is a solution; they do not feel like they have the ability to put that solution into place.

“The solution is what some of us knew when we were very little about 8,9,10 years when we were living in Enugu as little kids and we saw tankers being loaded on trains in their dozens going across one part of the country to the other,” Chude said.