PUTTING AN END TO GAS EXPLOSIONS

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There is a need for enlightenment campaigns to reduce incidence of gas explosions

Despite the recent warning by the Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (NLPGA) on the need for stringent enforcement of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) standards in the country, the harvest of death continues as more and more Nigerians fall victims to gas explosions. In October of the year just ended, no fewer than 11 persons in Abuja suffered various degrees of burns from a gas explosion. A month earlier in Lafia, Nasarawa State, dozens were left dead with hundreds injured when a gas tanker exploded and started a blaze.

Three years ago there was a gas explosion when a chlorine cylinder exploded at the Plateau State Water Board treatment plant at Lamingo, Dogon Karfe, Jos South Local Government Area, leaving eight people dead, among them a pregnant woman and children. Dozens of others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Dr. Philemon Golwa, the Chief Medical Director of Plateau State Specialist Hospital, said that a leakage at the plant was responsible for the deaths as residents around the area inhaled the poisonous gas which enveloped the entire neighbourhood.

Also of increasing concerns are gas explosions of the domestic kind. Incessant domestic gas explosions as a result of leaking cylinders are on the rise across the country. Ironically, this is coming amid intense campaigns on the need for Nigerians to drop kerosene for gas as a cheaper and cleaner means of cooking. In last few weeks alone fatal explosions had been reported in Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Jigawa states, killing no fewer than 15 people. In one of the incidents, the gas escaped into the air and got to a fire point where a lady was operating a restaurant, killing and injuring many people.

Another gas explosion at Arakale market in Akure, Ondo State last year was traced to an illegal gas re-filling plant which wounded many and razed many shops. But perhaps the most sensational was the explosion in an Abuja suburb which claimed the lives of two sisters, aged 31 and 25. The two young ladies were trying to put out the fire when the gas cylinder exploded, killing them instantly. There are several of such tragic stories.

In an incident that is typical of the carelessness often associated with many homes, a female domestic help in Epe, Lagos, turned on the gas and left to chat outside. By the time she returned to light up the gas, the kitchen was suffused with chemical. The resultant fire and explosion sent her and neighbours scampering for safety. At least 24 people suffered various degrees of burns. In yet another, a retail outlet was discharging gas from a big cylinder without safety measures.

In all this, it is clear that much more has to be done to ensure that the metal components are in good form just as the need to abide by safety procedures at all times. The relevant authorities need to organise sensitisation programmes to all gas retail outlets on how to operate their business with minimal risk.

Similarly, it is also important to educate households on the need to gradually replace their metal gas cylinders with fibre cylinders, said to be highly fire- resistant. The promise to phase out and replace the gas cylinders in circulation with more advanced ones should be hastened. It will also help if distributing and marketing firms own the cylinders as against individuals as Mr. Joseph Odumodu, Director–General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) once hinted. Some households have been using the same cylinder for upwards of three decades. That practice could be very dangerous.