There is growing concern over the building of filling stations in residential areas which has led to fire disasters, claiming many lives and property.
In January 2017, Ekiti State government gave owners of filling stations in the state seven days to re-certify their stations or risk having the premises being shut down.
The state governor, Ayodele Fayose, gave the directive during a meeting with petroleum marketers. He said the recertification order was a fallout of fire incident in Ijigbo area of Ado-Ekiti which burnt many houses and shops.
Governor Fayose said any errant filling station would be shut down while the owner of the filling station gutted by fire would be sued for criminal negligence when it was discovered that he only insured his pumps not the whole premises leading to a situation whereby innocent victims of the incident could not benefit from any insurance cover.
The governor also said owners of fuel stations in the state were also to train their workers on safety measures and the training would be conducted by the state’s fire service.
“Operators of filling stations who refuse to be part of the re-certification will be sealed and the place acquired for public purposes,” he said.
Similarly in January 2017, two persons were confirmed dead and seven others injured as a petrol station located in Adigbe area of Abeokuta, Ogun State, went up in flames.
The station, Rabeng Petroleum, was reported to have caught fire as a welder worked on a fuel tank beside a gas base in the premises.
The fire later spread to about six shops opposite the fuel station.
In February 2017, fire razed 13 buildings, 10 vehicles and goods worth several millions of naira at Upper New Market Road in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The incident was reported to have started at about 8:00 p.m. when an articulated vehicle, laden with petrol, crashed in a Mobil filling station by Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) roundabout. Witness said fuel from the tanker flowed down the road and through drainage, leading to the spread of the fire.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud while commiserating with the victims urged town planners to be alive to their responsibility of regulating building construction in the country.
“Our town planners and bye-laws should not allow filling stations to be sited near residential areas,” he said.
Also speaking, NBA, Onitsha branch chairman, Mr Arthur Obi-Okafor, SAN, expressed dismay over the disobedience of builders to bye-laws while putting up structures. “It is inconceivable that filling stations are built in heavily populated neighbourhoods, where once there is an accident, it will be difficult to manage the situation,” he said.
A resident, Okeke Uchena, said government should stop all those operating filling stations near residential buildings.
With the recurring incidents of fire outbreaks in filling stations in populated areas, many questions have arisen concerning the criteria for location of petrol filling stations.
Experts said petrol station lands should be zoned for commercial/industrial use or be designated specifically for the purpose and should be located at a minimum of 500 feet away from any public institution such as schools, churches, public libraries, auditoriums, hospitals, public playgrounds, etc.
Buildings are to be located a minimum of 40ft from road property boundaries to provide adequate area for manoeuvring of vehicles in the service area.
Petrol pumps shall be located a minimum of 100ft from any residential building.
Stations to be equipped with fire-fighting and fire protection equipment installed in accordance with the requirements of the Fire Department.
When Daily Trust asked the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director General, Abbass Idriss, on his view on the siting of petrol stations in residential areas, he said all the regulatory authorities mandated to issue license for the establishment of filling stations should be diligent in their work as a way out.
He said, “I don’t think we should be having such kind of disasters. Before we allow anything to go, we should consider human lives and we should be able to think about the precaution in case there is fire. We can’t say they should not establish filling stations near residential areas but we should be taking off the restrictions so that if there is fire, the buildings nearby will not be residential building. And so if you look around the city you would see where they are selling cooking gas, it is a very explosive item and when there is fire they should be assured that the neighbouring buildings will also be affected.
“Disaster management of today is turning to disaster risk reduction and we should not allow the risk to happen, it should always be avoided.”
Asked on what the agency is doing to avoid petrol stations being built in residential areas especially in the satellite towns, he said a disaster risk reduction committee was going round the territory to identify those possible risks and hazards within the areas.
“We are going to carry out a hazard map of all the FCT and advice the residents of the FCT as well so that they would be able to know if you cross from one road to another what kind of risk are associated in that district. So also in the city and area councils, we will identify those risks and then tell the public and the regulatory authorities because even if they give that kind of licence in error, they can be able to reverse it because of the disaster that we are talking about. We will try as much as possible to make sure that the right thing is done in the territory.
On the belief that in some cases, people tend to build where filling stations are situated thus exposing themselves to the attendant hazards, he said everything still boiled down to the regulatory authority. “Why should a regulatory authority give approval for building and allow such buildings to be erected near a filling station? It is the weakness of the regulatory authority. If all the regulatory authorities sit up and do their work, nobody can do that.”
On the procedures of starting a filling station, Abbass said as a disaster manager and talking from that perspective, it should be far away from where there are large populations such as markets, train stations, bus stations etc.
He enjoined filling stations to obey safety procedures, saying most times explosions occurred when filling stations neglected safety measures.
“We say don’t discharge your fuel when it is sunny but they will still go ahead because the drivers are anxious to go back, they will insist to off load. So if we don’t really follow the regulation, we would continue to suffer explosions. All filling stations should be fortified by having fire defence equipment as well as train their staff to be able to handle those equipment,” he said.
Also commenting on the issue, Garba Jibril of the Department of Development Control said the department firstly considered the titled document and letter of allocation and the that plot must be in conformity with the land use provision for petrol filling station.
“We cannot give an approval, rather it has to be a designated part of the master plan that is meant for petroleum filling station, so that is the first thing that we consider.
“Secondly, if that one is satisfied then we will request for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, and that EIA must favour the requirement for the development of a filling station, and then we have the fire service report from the Federal Fire Service, they have to look it and then give us their own report, if it is favourable and if it is not then they have to make a submission to notify them that that filling station will not cause any hazard in the neighbourhood.
We also have police report, it is also requested as part of the requirement because most times, the underground tanks, we have to get the status of the tank, if it is okay or not and then the last one is an analysis. We need to get an analysis report of the area. So basically these are the requirements from Development Control. And all must be satisfactory before it can grant approval for a filling station to be built,”he said.
On why some filling stations exist in residential areas or are too close to residential areas or office complexes, he said, “That is the essence of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
“The issue of filling station is of different matter all together even from the planning perspective, they give record of safety before any other thing, that is why it is not just allowed anyhow.
“Basically in Abuja, we ensure that no filling station comes up without a proper master plan. I don’t know for other parts of the country. You know most times people go to DPR to guide them, but in Abuja it is the master plan that guides us.”
If you are happy to be contacted by a Daily Trust journalist please leave a telephone
number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will
be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state
otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures,
video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others,
take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the
terms and conditions.