•Says 412 fatalities recorded from 244 accidents in 4 years
•Products retail outlets take lion’s share of damage
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Peter Uzoho in Lagos
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) yesterday disclosed plan to recommence the technical safety audit of operations of petrol retail outlets, vehicle tankers, refining facilities and depots nationwide in order to halt rising cases of accidents in the downstream sector.
The industry regulator also stated that at least one death was recorded every four days in the course of products transportation, with 412 fatalities in 244 accidents recorded between 2018 and the first quarter of 2023.
It added that petroleum products retail outlets took the lion’s share of accidents and fatalities during the period with 39 per cent, followed by vehicle tankers, refining facilities and gas facilities which shared 13 per cent each and depot accidents with 11 per cent.
Speaking during a meeting with petroleum products transportation stakeholders in Abuja, the Executive Director of Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC), Dr. Mustapha Lamorde, told the operators that the carnage must stop forthwith.
The engagement was held with top executives of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) and the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO).
Represented by the North Central Regional Coordinator, NMDPRA, Mrs. Maijiddah Abdulkadir, Lamorde explained that the purpose of the discussion was to call for a sound management of safety in the transportation of petroleum products operations in the downstream sector.
While safety is key for adequate profitability in the sector, Lamorde noted that the proper approach to achieve this was to ensure that HSE was managed from a business perspective and not for compliance purposes only.
He noted that safety-related matters should be integrated into the management decision-making process, stressing that the NMDPRA would continue to attune operators to the need to fully comply with relevant safety laws and regulations as stipulated in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
In addition, the executive director said this would forestall the dangers or risks posed by unwholesome practices and noncompliance to statutory provisions with respect to safety in the transportation of petroleum products.
Part of the reasons for the meeting, he said, was to create awareness of a culture of safe operations to protect persons, assets, and the environment, thereby eliminating accidents, and the cost of replacing damaged parts.
“The NMDPRA has planned to recommence the HSE technical audits; of which the outcome will be used in liaison with other directorates, in the issuance of various licenses. The HSE technical audit will evaluate the adequacy of the HSE requirements, competency and training of staff engaged by the operators.
“This will no longer be business as usual, it is now safety first. The NMDPRA would ensure that the aspirations of the federal government in passing the PIA is achieved. The law has provided in clear terms that in the case of negligence by any operator, such operator would be sanctioned accordingly,” he stated.
The ED further said the aim was not necessarily to sanction the operators, but to ensure that operations were run in a safe manner to protect people, assets and the environment is the reason for today’s engagement.
“Health and safety needs to be a front burner to attract the growth of the business, reduction of insurance premiums and protection of the public. For us to achieve the following, we must reawaken the safety consciousness in our operations,” the ED added.
In a presentation, NMDPRA’s Head of HSE, North Central Region, Mr. Ugochukwu Okpara, listed concerns and risks during operational activities like discharging or dispensing to include, not allowing the trucks to settle before beginning of discharge.
He also listed failure to ground the truck, discharging during high temperatures, carrying out maintenance work on the truck while discharging as well as discharging and dispensing simultaneously as some of the causes of fires in filling stations.
Okpara added that leaks on the truck, disorderly queues, lack of safety awareness by pump attendants, use of mobile phones, vehicle maintenance around the area and lack of fire fighting equipment could cause serious damage.
Okpara urged stakeholders to stop kick-starting motorcycles around the dispensing area, smoking and dispensing while vehicle engine is on.
For tanker accidents and incidents, he listed inadequate training for drivers and handing of vehicles to motor boys, poor truck and hose integrity as well as lack of grounding, among others as being some of the causative factors
Many of the stakeholders drawn from states in the region, described the meeting as the first ever, stressing however that the federal government should fix major roads in the country to minimise the frequency of tanker accidents.
They also called for a halt to the proliferation of fake tyres and other vehicle parts in circulation in the country to prevent unnecessary loss of lives and property.