Gboyega Akinsanmi and Ejiofor Alike
MRS Oil and Gas has stated that it was yet to ascertain the cause of the fire incident and explosion that occurred on one of its barges on Wednesday.
This came as Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State Thursday appealed to the Federal Government to commence the process of relocating all oil tank farms from the residential areas of the state as a long-term measure to end threat to lives and property in Apapa and its environs.
MRS in its first official reaction over the incident, acknowledged in a statement yesterday that one of its barges – S 215 caught fire while docked at its jetty.
The company however noted that the cause of the fire was yet to be determined, as investigation was still ongoing.
“We would like to assure the public that no life was lost, although minor injuries were reported by members of staff, who were on duty at the time of the incident, while trying to contain the fire,” the company said.
The company congratulated its workers for their professionalism in evacuating the premises in accordance with the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) policy, adding that this show of professionalism paved the way for the various Fire Service teams to perform their duty and ensured that no life was lost.
“We are most grateful to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), particularly their fire departments (Land and Marine) for their prompt and professional conduct in containing the fire within the shortest possible time. We would also like to thank Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Federal Fire Service, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Lagos State Fire Service and all other agencies who were there to support us,” the company said.
“In addition, we thank our colleagues in the industry namely NNPC/PPMC, MOMAN, DAPPMA and JETPFON for their support in ensuring the fire was curtailed, as well as the general public for their rare show of support and prayers,” MRS added.
The company also expressed its appreciation to Fashola for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit the facility and sympathise with the company at this difficult time.
The company said steps were being taken to ensure that the terminal resumes normal operations within the shortest possible time, to ameliorate the current fuel scarcity being faced by the public.
A top official of the company, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that there was a spark, which resulted in fire and explosion during hose disengagement from the barge.
Meanwhile, Fashola also warned that the state “is sitting on a keg of gun powder” due to activities of oil firms in Apapa, saying the fire incident, which gutted the tank farm of MRS Oil and Gas Limited on Wednesday is a wake up call for all stakeholders to guide against the future occurrence of such fire disasters.”
The governor expressed the view Thursday after inspecting the scene of the fire incidents at the Oko Baba Sawmill in Ebute Metta and the MRS tank farm at the Tin Can Island, Apapa where he expressed the readiness of his administration to work with the Federal Government in relocating the oil tank farms from Apapa.
Fashola, who visited the scene along with top officials of the state, lamented what he described as all sorts of permits granted to oil firms by such regulatory agencies DPR, Pipelines Product and Marketing Company (PPMC) and others.
He, therefore, advocated the need for all the agencies of the Federal Government “to step up their safety compliance levels. Everybody must do his job and that is short term. The long term is to relocate all of these facilities away from the residential area. Lagos State is ready to provide these facilities.”
He said Tin Can Island and its areas “were not designed for fuel discharge. We have converted it. All sorts of permits are given by DPR, PPMC and other people. All of these were part of the private jetties when the Tin Can Island was built up to Ibafo. We just converted it because the old installations in Apapa became inadequate. There was no plan for the future.”
He made a reference to the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ), where he said, has oil and gas section to which oil firms operating in the residential areas of the state “can relocate. We can work together. If Federal Government tells its agencies that in the short to medium term, let us begin a relocation plan.
“Let this place come back to what it was. Let the private jetties come back for people to discharge very safe and simple cargo and all of that. The ball is in the court of the Federal Government. I led a team to the Federal Executive Council during the late President Yar’Adua administration to talk to them about the imminent danger that is here. Nothing was done till date.
“We were lucky again. But if we have an unfortunate oil installation fire, I do not think that any emergency capacity can respond. I do not think we should wait before we get there. This is a sufficient lesson. It is a wake up call for everybody. We are sitting on a keg of gun powder,” he said.
He explained that about 22 fire incidents occurred in the state the weekend before the end of last year, and the number “is increasing. But I am sure all these are avoidable. People can just be a little more careful. In dry season, the biggest risk we face is fire. In rainy season, the biggest risk is flood.
“There must be fire extinguishers in every home and in every office. There must also be insurance so that you can get compensated if these things happen. “What we must do here is to first of all, get the agencies of the Federal Government to step up their safety compliance levels,” he said.