The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM) has criticized the prolonged closure of Second Coming Gas plant by the Lagos State Government.
The Executive Secretary of the Association, Mr. Bassey Essien, on behalf of the members, called on the Lagos State Government to intervene and order the agency/ministry involved to reopen the plant.
He expressed worry about the prolonged closure, saying whether it was meant to punish the owner and by extension the association.
He noted that remarkable progress has been made in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) utilisation and consumption in the country over the years in that cooking gas which hitherto was usually associated with the elite is now being embraced by food vendors and low income earners. This huge achievement has been attributed to private investments by committed indigenous entrepreneurs who established gas bottling plants across the country.
Nigeria, he said, is endowed with abundant gas reserves, however, utilisation of LPG also called cooking gas has been abysmally low in Nigeria compared to neighbouring African countries such as Morocco and Egypt despite being the largest producer of LPG in the West African sub-region and the third in Africa.
“It is the concerted efforts of these indigenous entrepreneurs who have invested massively to erect terminals and gas bottling plants that have led to the growth in consumption from about 70,000 metric tonnes (MT) in 2007 to about 840,000MT as at 2018. The Federal Government is encouraging LPG expansions to a target consumption of five million metric tonnes by year 2030 .To achieve this feat means more cooking gas plants springing up both in the urban and rural communities while massive awareness is being created in the usage and safe handling of gas and its accessories.
“Like everything in life, there is always a safety precaution that has to be observed and adhered to, be it in daily lifestyles, travels, among others.
“Early in the year, a gas plant – Second Coming Gas plant located in Magodo area of Lagos, experienced fire incidence with a casualty figure involving two recorded deaths and damage to the plant. Investigation panel and inquest set up by the state government and federal regulatory agencies did not, however, indict the company for negligence as the company had always taken adequate measures to ensure safety at all times. It’s worthy to note that the company has been operating in that same location for over 20 years without any mishap. At the conclusion of investigations, the company was granted approval to commence reconstruction and renovation of the burnt plant albeit with strict compliance on standards and further safety measures while each level of work was being monitored and approved by the relevant government appointed panel/body.
“The management of the plant had complied with all standard safety requirements given to it and as at today, it ranks among the most safety compliant gas plants in the country. However, while awaiting the final inspection so as to be given the final nod to reopen for business, the place was unceremoniously locked by another agency/ministry in the same state and has remained locked for nine months.
“The association is wondering whether the closure is due to power show between ministries in the same state or does the ministry /agency have superior power over a statutorily instituted panel of investigation that had done their assignment and made recommendations to the government based on which a provincial approval to commence renovation work according to the recommended standard and safety precautions was granted?
“If the ministry wielding the big stick to keep the company closed felt sidelined in not being a member of the panel set up by the government, was it the fault of the company? They should have rather made their inputs into entrenching more safety regulations and enhanced supervision of such facilities in the state going forward,” the association said.
Lately a tanker fully laden with PMS spilled its entire content on the Otedola Bridge, the inferno that erupted accounted for the loss of 12 lives and 52 vehicles completely burnt, yet the government has not closed down the company that owns the truck or the spilled PMS. Today many tankers conveying PMS (petrol), gas, diesel, among others, have not been barred from plying the same road because of the incidence that occurred, Essien said.
Essien said: “While we cannot compromise on safety and safety standards in the industry and in our everyday lives, it appears that the company – Second Coming Nigeria Limited, is actually marked out for punitive measures.
“In these days of unemployment, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are helping out where government cannot provide the requisite jobs. For every employed staff, there are dependants looking up to the person for sustenance. Therefore, for all the staff members that have been redundant and perhaps laid off for nine months, the economic implications on the families can be imagined as well as the revenue loss to the state.
“We take cognisance of safety in the industry and making the state and nation a safe place hence the constant dialogue, seminars and workshops within the industry and in collaboration with the state and federal regulatory agencies to ensure periodic operational trainings are undertaken to maintain a safe business environment.
“As an association, which the company belongs to, we are appealing to the state government to look into the plight of the company and approve the reopening of the plant.
“Lagos State is a cosmopolitan state and home to all groups of people regardless of ethnic and religious colouration. The revenue base of the state is not sensitive to either as well. Therefore, the government should be fair to all regardless of ethnic or religious ownership of enterprises.”