Sunday, 30 December 2018

Killer Gas Cylinders Flood Nigeria

Doctors are not known to betray emotions but the Chief Medical Director of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, Dr Mustapha Alimi, was moved to tears penultimate Tuesday. That day, he was saddened by the increase in burns being recorded in the tertiary institution due to gas cylinders’ accidents. Like Dr. Alimi, Head of Department, Burns and Plastic Surgery, Dr Folake Abikoye, declared that management of burns from gas cylinders is very expensive even for patients who escape being burnt to death. “They cannot afford the burn management and that is the reason why the hospital management is considering setting up an endowment fund to assist the less privileged.”

Harvest of deaths

Three children of the same mother were, on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, burnt to death in a domestic gas explosion that rocked their home in Sara village, Jigawa State. Two others who were also affected sustained serious burns. A spokesperson for the Jigawa State police, ASP Abdu Jinjiri, who confirmed the disheartening incident, said that five siblings were affected by the gas explosion that occurred “in the house of one Alhaji Wada Sara.’ The following people, Zainab Wada, Abdul Wada, Aliyu Wada, Fati Wada and Abdulrahman Wada, sustained various degrees of injuries,” he began to speak in a voice laden with emotion. “They were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre Birninkudu in Birninkudu LGA for medical attention.

The incident was as a result of explosion from a cooking gas cylinder. The victims Zainab, Fati and Abdulrahman died at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital. They were of ages 3, 2 and 4,” he broke the sad news to newsmen. In Delta, a woman and her four underage children were burnt to death. The distance is, though, about a thousand kilometers from the Jigawa incident, the cause of the destruction was the same; a cooking gas cylinder!

The gas explosion, which rocked the Okwe Market, in Asaba, Delta State also left scores of persons with various degrees of burns. Earlier in August 2015, the Obidigwe family of Azia in Ihiala Local Council of Anambra State, took delivery of the bodies of nine of their children, who were roasted to death in their Lagos abode.

Fifty-one-year-old Charles Obidigwe, a patent medicine dealer and head of the family died instantly, after an unsuccessful attempt to put out a fire, which engulfed his three-bedroom apartment. While Charles, the head of the family died instantly, the other eight members of his family, including his sisterin- law and her son, who were staying with them, died later in a Lagos hospital. The fire was ignited when a gas cylinder exploded and caught fire that engulfed the entire flat when Mrs. Obidigwe was preparing lunch for the family. By the time the incident took place, no single neighbour of the Obidigwes had a fire extinguisher.

So, by the time men of the Lagos State Fire Service arrived, the harm had been done.On Sunday, July 16, 2017, the National Vice President of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), South- South Zone, Eddie Bekom, died as a result of injuries he sustained from a gas explosion. The fire, which killed Bekom, a staff of the Cross River Broadcasting Service (CRBS) in Ikom, also claimed his wife and one of his sons, while three other children sustained injuries.

Up North, a gas explosion on August 28, 2017, reportedly wrecked the female hostel in the Jos campus of the Plateau State Polytechnic. The fire, which started around 8.30 a.m., raged on till 11.44a.m., causing confusion among students and staff. Though no life was lost, the fire, which was as a result of gas explosion, the school’s rector, Dauda Gyemang, said, burnt school property and personal effects of students, who were all away to attend lectures.

The use of gas in the hostel is prohibited. Until Uche Okonkwo got married to Ifeoma, the latter never lit a gas cooker all her life. Her arrival in her husband’s modest apartment was, to say the least, a lifechanging moment for her. Since they observed their low-keyed honeymoon at home, Okonkwo was still in bed when he heard a loud bang in the kitchen. Pronto he sprang and ran towards that direction only to meet his wife on the floor of the burning kitchen.

With one hand he flung her through the door and proceeded knock off supply from the giant gas cylinder stationed outside beside the kitchen window. Once out of shock, Ifeoma explained that the first match she struck failed to light the cooker hence she went in search of another matchbox, as the failed stick was the last in the pack. By the time she could grab another match pack from the kitchen cabinet, the entire place had been filled with gas, and without any suspicion, she proceeded to light the cooker.

Cause of destruction

The Nigerian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (LPGA), it was, who first hit the nail on the head about sub-standard gas cylinders in Nigeria. The multi-million dollars local gas cylinder manufacturing sub-sector in Nigeria is facing the rock, President of the highest body of stakeholders in the cooking gas sub-sector, Nuhu Yakubu, declared in a chat with Sunday Telegraph. This, he said with passion, is not only a big treat to the geometric growth recorded in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) also known as cooking gas sector in the past 10 years, it had also fuelled the availability of sub-standard cylinders in circulation across the country along with gas that no longer smells to warn of leakages.

Grounds for crisis

The difficulty buoyed by Federal Government’s inaction to end over N1 trillion average annual investments on fuel subsidy has, the Yakubu’s NLPGA, created a shortfall of 49 million cylinders in the system. And confirming the “dangerous trend” to Sunday Telegraph on the sideline of a press conference, he registered the displeasure of stakeholders in cooking gas sector with fuel subsidy.

“Many local cylinder manufacturers have closed shops regrettably due to the way government is handling the energy mix. The inability of the government to deregulate the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol has made it to keep wasting scarce resources on fuel subsidy while it keeps expending scarce resources yearly to import LPG cylinders from Turkey, China, India and other Asian countries,” he said at the press conference to herald the group’s 8th annual conference themed;“LPG diversification: Expanding the LPG frontiers in Africa.” “The last time we heard that over N1 trillion was expended to subsidise fuel. Subsidy is a killer of economy, we – as a nation – are just technically subsidising petrol for the consumption of millions in West Africa.

“We need to end fuel subsidy by deregulating petrol. Let the growth being experience the LPG market be felt elsewhere,” he said, adding that the “Nigeria’s LPG sector is fastest growing in the World. It grew between 2007 and 2017 by over a 1000th per cent growth.” “What is spectacular is the fact that it has been private sector driven. It is a testimonial that with just the creation of enabling environment with deregulation. If the LPG sector is able to grow with deregulation just imagine the level of growth if this is extended to petrol and others.”

Many steps backward

Stating that this growth rate could have been higher, the NLPGA’s boss said: “The reason LPG has not grown at the expected pace is that the sector is being pulled down by market forces from other fuels that are yet to be deregulated.” Another reason, according to him, is that the LPG we need is being flared, it is being set on fire somewhere in Nigeria and the country is not doing enough to tame this tides. “We are a net exporter of LPG meanwhile we still have a lot of LPG that is being flared. Just imagine the level of health hazards being faced by our women who still use firewood. “We don’t need subsidy in our sector. Subsidy is a killer of our economy. Even the petrol we subsidise benefits the rich and the middle class. Their number is even so small,” Yakubu said.

Going into extinction

Declaring that local “LPG cylinder manufacucturers are going into extinction,” the NLPGA boss noted that for this to be addressed, the government needs to incentivize the sector. This, First Vice President of NLPGA, Engineer Baylon Duru said, could be done through port duty reductions; tax holiday and tax reduction for local cylinder manufacturers; incentivise cylinders distribution in Nigeria; incentivise conversion of vehicles from petrol to gas and to Incentivise the cost of entry for millions of Nigeria who still face the health hazards of using the dirty fuel.”

What the Government has to say

Meanwhile, the Senior Adviser, Downstream and Infrastructure to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Brenda Ataga, was quoted as saying the government was working out a package of incentives to encourage investors in the cooking gas subsector. She said the ministry would set up a unit to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Finance to package tariff incentives for credible investors in the industry. Ataga, who during a tour of Tech-no Oil for building the gas cylinder plant, said the petroleum resources ministry was doing everything possible to encourage Nigerians to embrace LPG, also known as cooking gas. She said government was keen on ensuring that every Nigerian household embraced cooking gas rather than using firewood and other harmful energy sources. Also speaking, the Head, Gas Monitoring and Regulatory Division in the Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr Sanya Bajomo, said he was impressed with what he saw at the plant. “It is a thing of joy that we can now manufacture LPG cylinders in Nigeria, instead of importing. We give kudos to Techno Oil for preparing the ground for every household to adopt cooking gas,” he added.

Cooking gas

Cooking gas cylinders are a great relief from kerosene stoves and electric cookers in environments with limited or unpredictable power supply. Some say you haven’t lived if you haven’t blown into the dark rings of a smoking kerosene stove. These cylinders are one of the most common alternative fuel sources in the world, with millions of Nigerian households relying on this cooking appliance, according to recent study by NLPGA. In modern town planning, the use of these gas cylinders is only replaced by the expansion of town gas into buildings, as seen in Hong Kong and Brazil. When handled correctly, gas cylinders are portable, in abundant supply, convenient and affordable. When not handled correctly, they can cost your life. But the sub-standard cylinders are greater threats because whether they are handled correctly or not, they are susceptible to leaks and explosion.

Surge in cylinder’s havoc

Dr. Alimi raised the alarm over increasing cases of burns in the hospital, blaming them on what he described as ‘nonchalant attitude’ of Nigerians in the use of cooking gas. Alimi who spoke during the Hospital’s Burns Awareness Walk further maintained that the increase in burns being recorded in the tertiary institution was due to poor handling of cooking gas or kerosene, generator and the use of phone touch lights while fueling generators. He warned Nigerians against keeping their gas cylinder inside their kitchen as many may not be lucky with such act. “If you are using cooking gas or kerosene, keep it outside. Your kitchen must have a window. If kerosene finished inside the stove while you are cooking, suspend the cooking till the stove is cool before you refuel. “Don’t keep petrol inside the house, do not refill hot or working generator.

If you are living your house, switch off all appliances, if you are going to bed, switch off appliances you are not using. If you want to do electric wiring in your house get a proper electrician and make sure cable is connected properly, don’t leave cable where they can spark and kindle fire “You may get away with it today and not be lucky tomorrow, so the best option is not to try it at all. Most of the phones have a little spark when they ring, and that spark is enough to spark up a fire,” he disclosed. Corroborating his views, Head of Department, Burns and Plastic Surgery, Dr. Folake Abikoye, regretted that many Nigerians still apply things like egg, engine oil, pap among other things on burns injury which can contaminate the wound. “The best thing is to put the injury spot under a running tap to cool the temperature of the affected area and prevent the heat of initial burn injuries to continue to cause more tissue destruction. She urged people to embrace safety precaution help to save lives and prevent loss of property, “burn management is very expensive, some patient cannot afford it that is the reason why the hospital management is considering setting up an endowment fund to assist less privileged.

Last line

The Federal Government must up the monitoring of standard of imported canisters for cooking gas. All Nigerians, including stakeholders should support the efforts at mitigating the risk posed by these sub-standard cylinders already in circulation.

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