By Our Reporter
Stakeholders have expressed concern over the reoccurring development of gas proliferation in the country and called for synergy between regulatory bodies to ensure that the issue of safety was not being compromised.
According to reports various stakeholders spoke at a consultative meeting towards implementation of Project Safety – A global safety action against illegal gas proliferation in Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.
The consultative 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.
While 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 that ensure safety standards are applied to everyone installing or operating gas technologies in the country.
Dr. Duru Hezekiah, IHRC’s Ambassador at Large and Head of Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria, decried the devastating consequences of gas explosions.
He said IHRC was deeply concerned about the existence of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) facilities in residential areas and the potential dangers they pose to the lives and properties of citizens.
While explaining that the primary objective of the project was to reduce the rate of mortality and imorbidity 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.
“Our aim is 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 organization 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, the President, National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN) commended IHRC’s contribution to Project Safety, assuring the stakeholders of NISCN’s commitment to the quest to any cause that would guarantee industrial safety.
Daniel who was represented by Adeyinka Oyediran, NISCN Lagos State Chairman, stressed that the alarming consequences that have emerged due to the establishment and operation of gas plants near where people live cannot be ignored.
He noted that apart from industry players being worried that quacks are manning gas outlets, residents are getting perturbed that their safety is being compromised gradually by untrained gas outlet owners, while appropriate government agencies look the other way.
“For safety and emergency response, we will bolster our emergency response systems to effectively address any 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 Bukur, Director, Standards Development, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) stressed on the need for synergy and collaboration between all the regulatory bodies.
He noted that SON had alot of standards for LPG cylinders, adding that their major role is 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.
“The issuance of certificate for somebody to operate does not mean that one still has the ability to give certificate for the quality and maintenance of that product.
“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 alot 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 Ilegal Bunkering, Force Headquarters, Abuja on his part said, 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, be it by way of fines and to draw up modalities on how to go about it.
“Defaulters must be sanctioned through civil remedy, minimal sentence 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 a 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 workplace is also of great importance in making the country safe,” he said.
It was also reported 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.
Others include; representatives from Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), Nigeria Red Cross Society and Federal Ministry of Health.