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OLANIKE AKINRIMISI, ALEX OGWEMHO (BENIN), NOSA AKENZUA (DELTA) and ADEGOKE ADETOYE (ONDO)
Despite the outcry of concerned citizens and warnings from government and regulatory bodies, owners of fuel retail stations have bluntly refused to adhere to the guidelines for the siting of petrol stations, thus endangering the lives of millions of Nigerians.
According to the Department of Petroleum Resources, “fuel stations should be located at a minimum of 500 feet from any public institution such as schools, churches, public libraries, auditoriums, hospitals, public playgrounds, residential houses, etc.”
This provision, backed by a duly passed law, is mostly observed in the breach, The Point’s survey has revealed. At 52, Ikosi Road, Ketu-Ikosi Kosofe Local Government in Lagos State, the sales representative of Breadfield Bakery, who gave her name as Rofiat, told The Point that the bakery, built adjacent to a Total petrol station, was also owned by the owner of the filling station.
“I am aware that anything such as fire outbreak can occur but the station’s owner also owns the bakery. The bakery was existing before the petrol station. Nothing like a fire outbreak has ever happened. And we do not envisage it will ever occur,” she said.
At the Tipper Park (Garage), Ketu, in the same local government, the Assistant Manager of Sweet Sensation confectionery, Mr. Oladimeji Kashimawo, said the HS Petroleum filling station beside the fast food facility, had been there before the eatery. “I’m not aware of the risks involved. I know anything can happen but it hasn’t,” he said.
The Point, however, noted that the buildings housing the fast food business and HS Petroleum were situated on the same parcel of land, with only a railing demarcating the two. The Assistant Manager, MRS petrol station adjacent 38, Yakoyo Road, Ojodu-Berger, also in Lagos, Mr. Tope Fadahunsi, told our correspondent that he was ignorant of the position of the law in respect of siting petrol stations.
He, however, intimated The Point of the safety measures at the station, saying, “All the workers are abreast of what to do in the case of an outbreak. We are very vigilant to ensure there is no fire outbreak. We have fire extinguishers positioned near each pump head and three water soap tanks in the station, which contain chemicals used in fire fighting.”
One of the workers at the Lagos Travel Inn on Toyin Street, Ikeja, the Lagos State capital, said the hospitality facility was built 21 years ago atop the Total filling station, adding that there had been no incidence of fire outbreak.
“The security here is standard; even car hire operators pass the night at the station. Nothing bad has happened and it will not happen,” she said. Another interviewee, who gave her name simply as Deborah, corroborated the Travel Inn Hotel worker’s position, saying, “I have been living beside Techno Oil filling station at 74, Demurin Street, Obanle- Aro Bus Stop, Alapere – Ketu for more than two decades.
She said, “I know the petrol station is located within a residential area and even near business outfits that deal with highly inflammable items and this is risky. But for now, I don’t think anything can be done, because despite the risk, we derive some advantages from the station’s proximity.
“It is a source of revenue for us. It is very close to our house and we procure fuel easily.”
Without considering the potential hazards, Deborah said, “So far, we have not experienced any fire outbreak from the station since its construction about 15 years ago. Although, it was Texaco filling station that was initially there, it was later sold to another business concern.”
In Benin City, the capital of Edo State, it is common to find petrol stations sandwiched among residential blocks and in some instances, in very close proximity to business premises. Observers said the filling station owners probably obeyed the location criteria at the initial stages only for residential buildings to crowd around them.
Some of the residents living around the filling stations told The Point that it would be unfair to blame petrol station owners over the situation, adding that the absence of any fire outbreak even in recent times, had rendered the oversight less thorough. Miss Promise Osama Erhunmunse and her father, Chief Elder Erhunmunse of 178, Benin/Agbor Expressway, said their residential building existed before the OANDO petrol station in the area, stressing that their relationship as neighbours had been very cordial.
Father and daughter enthused that there had never been any record of fire outbreak at the filling station. “Although we have built this house before the filling station was sited here well over 20 years ago, nothing like fire outbreak has occurred and I have no reason to speak negatively about the filling station. We are enjoying good relationship, patronage and good neighbourliness,” Promise said.
Older Erhunmunse corroborated his daughter, saying, “I believe the station has functional fire extinguishers ready in case of an outbreak. That is why I don’t exercise any fear.”
Madam Margaret Ighodalo of 58, Akpakpava Road, Benin, living next to the NNPC mega station, said, “For the hazardous nature of fire, more especially a product like petroleum or gas, it is very risky to live very close to a station but since the filling station has been here several years ago, nothing like fire outbreak has occurred. We however pray that such a thing will not happen.”
At 37, Benin – Lagos Road, where the MRS petrol station is sited, Chief Clement Osikhena, the owner of the building next to it, also said the filling station had been there before he bought the plot of land near it. He said he developed the land into his residential block.
“I have no reason to speak negatively of the owner and the business. There had never been any single record of outbreak of fire at the filling station and I believe there will not be anything like that as we
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