The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, has commiserated with victims of the Onitsha fire incidents, noting, however, that such deaths were avoidable with the appropriate infrastructures in place.
Okechukwu regretted that the nation still relied on massive movement of tankers on Nigerian roads to transport petroleum products in the 21st Century.
In a personally signed statement made available to newsmen in Abuja on Friday, the lawmaker attributed the frequent incidents of fire and destruction of lives and properties involving petroleum tankers to broken down road and petroleum infrastructures in the country.
Hon. Toby said: “The Onitsha incident and others like that are symptoms and manifestations of a nation that ignores, neglects, and abhors facing its responsibility.
“These are completely related to our dilapidated infrastructure, including road and pipeline infrastructure. And the most shameful of it is that we are hardly doing anything about them. It is usually fashionable for us to award new contracts for roads, award new contracts for pipelines, and new contracts for everything, forgetting that sustainable employment can only come through maintenance of what we have. It’s really sad.
“This country has a national pipeline grid of over 5,000 kilometres for transporting both crude and refined petroleum products to and fro any part of this country. There are also tank farms built at strategic points across the country, yet we rely on the road transportation of these products in the 21st century.
“The deterioration rates of our roads are, therefore, worsened by dearth of funds and their regular and massive use by these heavy tankers. And the consequences are the regular, but avoidable loss of precious lives and properties, we see from time to time”.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate steps to revive the nation’s pipelines and road infrastructure to save lives and boost the economy.
“There is need for a comprehensive, intelligent, and knowledge-based response to these disasters.
“This is calling for Mr. President’s proactive response to the Road Fund Bill in order to adequately fund and fix our roads. I am also calling for the immediate reactivation of the pipeline grid and tank farms so that they can be fully put to use to save our roads, lives, and properties of citizens”, he added.