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Satellite Town: Where residents live side-by-side with danger

Tankers on a long queue on Marwa Road, which leads to the tank farm
Tankers on a long queue on Marwa Road, which leads to the tank farm

In early 1960 when the federal government established Satellite Town in Lagos to help low-income earners own houses, it seemingly didn’t envision that the area would rather become a commercial center. Today, the once peaceful, serene and diverse estate with well-laid roads has lost its original form.

Besides the deplorable state of roads, the location of petroleum products tank farms at the heart of the estate has made it a source of anxiety for residents.

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The town which stretches from Alakija to Abule-Ado along the Lagos Badagry expressway to the waterside area and beyond was designed and originally built as a residential area.

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But since 2011 when the first tank farm owned by First DeepWater (now AiPEC) was built, residents, according to the chairman, Satellite Town Community Development Association, Mr. Governor Imitini, have been living in fear.

This was confirmed by our correspondent who visited the estate during the week. From Alakija Road to Marwa, the main roads leading to the tank farms where 12 depots are located with more still under construction, the roads are in a deplorable state. On Alakija Road, there are long queues of trucks towards Marwa Road, due to the bad road.

As you approach the tank farms, you don’t need to be told that you are close to an oil depot.

“That’s what we have been living with for the past 10 years,” said Mrs. Gloria Titus, a shop owner close to the depot.

“We are frustrated, this is what we inhale every minute, we appeal to the government to help us”, she added.

A septuagenarian, Pa. Fredrick Akinsote, who is currently nursing an undisclosed illness, told Daily Trust Saturday that his doctor diagnosed him of an ailment that resulted from pollution and inhalation of hazardous vapor.

According to him, besides the health risks, small business activities within the community have been paralyzed because of the poor state of roads.

“We now leave in fear of an explosion. I have been leaving in the estate for the past 35 years, we have not had it so bad. As I speak with you, I know about 11 landlords that are looking for buyers for their houses so that they can relocate to other environments. Also, in my own house with four apartments, all the tenants vacated the building when they could no longer cope”, he said.

Last year, the chairman of the residents’ forum, Imitini, raised an alarm over the poor condition of the community.

Speaking at a press conference organized by the Satellite Town Community Development Association, he said since 2011 when some of the tank farms emerged, it had been bad for the community.

He said efforts made over the years had been abortive, while the neglect had resulted in increase in loss of lives, closure of businesses, unemployment, flooding, environmental pollution, and submerging of houses, among others.

As you approach the farms, there are stern-looking soldiers who try to control traffic as reconstruction of the road leading to the farms is progress.

At the farms, our correspondent noticed one Jesus Estate, opposite one of the depots, Rainoil. There was no visible presence of people when our reporter entered one of the houses. The estate looked deserted, with many houses locked up.

Mrs. Gloria told Daily Trust Saturday that every three months, people pack out of the area for fear of the unknown.

It would be recalled that on January 24, 2018, a fire razed a 47,700,000 litre-capacity tank farm belonging to Stallionaire. Thankfully, no human life was lost.

Residents Protest

Protests by the residents have been on for some time now. Last year, the leadership of the community staged protests twice, according to Rasaki Adebola, the deputy chairman, Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) under the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) workers. According to him, protests at the tank farms are not new to  stakeholders, and efforts are being made to pacify the aggrieved community.

On Wednesday, the residents stormed the office of the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, demanding among others, the immediate relocation of the facilities, revocation of approvals issued to new container terminals and relocation of existing ones to prevent further loss of lives and property.

During the protest that lasted hours, residents displayed placards with various inscriptions, lamenting that beside the loss of lives, activities at the tank farms and container terminals had continuously subjected them to untold hardships.

The chairman, Satellite Town Forum, Governor Imitini, said: “Just three days ago, a woman was crushed to death by a tanker that came to lift fuel from the tank farms. Residents can no longer sleep at night due to honks of tankers lifting fuel from the tank farms.” He also lamented the deplorable state of roads due to activities of tankers.

“Presently, we have one motorable road within the community which has been converted to a parking lot by tankers, leaving us to suffer on the other deplorable roads”, he said.

In a petition submitted to the governor, the residents said the bonded terminal at Alakija Bus Stop should be removed because such is not meant for a residential area.

“The planned terminal by Jetty Terminal Operation should be relocated because Satellite town is already densely populated,” they said.

Tankers on a long queue on Marwa Road, which leads to the tank farm
Tankers on a long queue on Marwa Road, which leads to the tank farm

Addressing the protesters, the Political Director, Office of Civic Engagement, Mr. Hundeyin Kolawole, who represented the governor, promised that government would invite representatives of the community next week for discussions on the issue, and after that, he would give the governor a feedback.

 DPR suspends issuing of depot licenses

Sequel to persistent protests by the community, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said the last approval for a construction depot in the area was issued in 2017.

The agency’s official who spoke to Daily Trust said before any depot approval was licensed,  the application must be supported by approvals from agencies such as state government planning authority, the police, Fire Service, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) or NIWA for coastal depots and Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for federal lands

“And for Satellite area, the last approval was 2017. Please note that these approvals by other government agencies are in addition to independent third party studies and investigation on environmental viability and safety of operations. It’s after all these are ready and submitted to DPR that we will go there to do our technical audit”, the source said.

Constant fuel inhalation poisonous-Doctor

A consultant pathologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Fatimah Abdulkareem, says constant fuel inhalation is injurious to health.

“Fuel inhalation to some can be a normal thing due to their work or residence, but to the medical expert, inhaling fuel can be hazardous to health. Those who are at risk are people working in and around petrol stations, pipeline workers, those who service and remove storage tanks, people living close to tanks, truck drivers, people who work at refineries and individuals who work with machines that use fuels. Also at risk are those who drink water contaminated by leakage from pipelines and most especially people who live around pipelines and inhale the vapor,” she said.

She added that limited exposure does not cause significant health challenge but long term exposure could be very deadly. She said fuel contains several poisonous chemicals which can damage the brain, lungs, kidneys and nerves. Inhaling fuel, she said, can cause muscle degeneration and contact of fuel with the skin can affect its protective function.

Though adults are also affected, according to her, children are more vulnerable to the toxic effect because they absorb it more and are unlikely to recognize early signs of poisoning.

“Chronic inhalation can cause symptoms such as memory loss, tremors, seizures, muscle spasms, confusion, poor sleep, and poor appetite,” she said.

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