Barely 8 months ago, residents of a Lagos satellite town, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, led a protest to the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, demanding immediate relocation of tank farms (oil terminals or depots) in the residential area.
During the protest, the residents asked for the relocation of the tank farms and even the container terminals so as to prevent further loss of lives and property within the area, which was designed as a residential area.
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They said the tank farms have disrupted the drainage system, damaged the roads within the community and even converted roads to parking lots by tankers.
This was not the first of such agitation by several communities that live side by side with hundreds of tank farms that litter the state.
Daily Trust gathered that at the rate the facilities are springing up, disaster was unavoidable in this regard.
When our reporters visited Apapa, where most of the tank farms are located, they observed that they are far too close to residential areas violating the 50-to-100 metre distance recommended by experts.
These were the observation at Dockyard Road in Apapa, Tincan Island, Ijegun Egba, Satellite Town, Lagos as well as Makoba Road, popularly known as Industry Road, Abonima Wharf (waterside) as well as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depot in Ejigbo, Lagos.
At Dockyard Road in Apapa, which hosts tank farms belonging to A-Z Petroleum Products Limited, Aiteo and Nipco, the facilities are only a stone throw from the Nigerian Navy base and the well-known Golden Penny Flour Mill Nigeria Plc.
The Tincan Island area hosts tank farms belonging to Integrated Oil & Gas, Total, Ashrami Synergy owned by Sahara Group, Golf Treasure operated by the Ibru Group, Ascon Oil, Spog, Aquitane and Ibeto.
On the opposite side of the road are residential areas and companies such as Ecobank, Zenith Bank, Umunze House, Capital Oil Bank House, among others.
Daily Trust counted over 30 tank farms at the Ijegun-Egba area, popularly known as Waterside/Newsite, at Satellite Town in Lagos.
Some management of the tank farms who spoke to our reporters on the condition of anonymity noted that the entire tank farms area and its immediate environs were originally marked for the building of fuel depots. However, the Lagos State Government later started giving out the land to individuals, who now built their houses very close to the tank farms.
During our visit to the sites, many of the residents who spoke with Daily Trust called for the relocation of the tank farms.
According to Mr. kingsley Imenga: “We have made several presentations to government on the need to relocate the tank farms from Ijegun-Egba and Apapa as well as other locations across the country to a safe and isolated environment.
“Although the move may appear expensive, the establishment of a tank farm colony outside the cities to accommodate the existing tank farms and others that will spring up in the future will solve the twin problem of tanker menace especially in Lagos and the danger the tank farms posed to the safety of people.”
Expert says the immediate community is in danger. Reacting to the other kind of hazard posed to the residents, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Community Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr. Ahmad A. Umar said that locating ‘tank farm’ near residential areas has a lot of implications to the health of members of the community or society living in such areas.
Some of the implications according to him include exposure to petrol and other fuel fumes from these tanks; air pollution, because these tank farms are being serviced by heavy-duty vehicles that release a lot of exhaust as they operate; possible contamination of underground water, thereby leading to oil-polluted water from the boreholes in such areas.
Other implications are exacerbation of respiratory disease conditions in individuals staying close to the areas due to the air pollution and petrol fumes from the tanks while irritation of the eyes and nostrils could also occur.
Dr. Ahmad, therefore, suggested that rules and laws on appropriate choice of site for ‘tank farms’ and similar facilities should be enforced; adding that there should be continuous monitoring and the supervision of the implementation of such laws in order to detect deviation.
National Assembly wades in
Recently, The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Relocation of Tank Farms in Residential Areas across the country has raised alarm over the poor state of the facilities.
The committee’s Chairman, Mr Sergius Ogun, described the facilities as time bombs during stakeholders meeting with tank farm operators and some relevant government agencies.
The House of Representatives had on March 19, 2020, constituted the ad hoc committee, following a motion by a member on the need to relocate tank farms in the residential areas of Ijegun, Kirikiri and other areas in Lagos.
According to the chairman, the companies had issues with compliance with the rules of the business.
He said: “From our investigation, we observed compliance issue with almost all the tank farms and we have asked the operators to work on those compliance issues.
“All the tank farms are ticking time bomb; the fire hydrants for some of them are not working and there are many other defaults.”
DPR says residents met tank farms at location
Speaking on the indiscriminate approval of tank farms within residential areas, the Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Petroleum Resources, Sarki Auwalu said: “ The evidence available to us suggests that it is actually the other way round because most of those residents met the tank farms on ground and a further investigation will suggest to you that most of those houses hardly have a certificate of occupancy.
“In issuing licenses for the operation of filling stations and tank farms, the agency considered the title document and letter of allocation, and make sure the land was in conformity with the land use provision of the state.
“We cannot give an approval, rather it has to be a designated part of the master plan that is meant for petroleum filling station and tank farms, so that is the first thing that we consider.”
Lagos state government mute on plight of residents
When contacted, the spokesman for the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Mukaila Sanusi told our reporter to book an appointment with the commissioner of the ministry for an interview on the matter.
NNPC says immediate relocation will disrupt economy
Whilst the agitation may last, the NNPC has given conditions for the relocation of some tank farms and petroleum products depots from their present location.
The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, said the NNPC was not averse to the relocation of the petroleum products tank farms and depots sited in residential areas but would advise that some time be allowed to achieve the full rehabilitation of the refineries and the completion of the Dangote Refinery to enable the nation move away from fuel importation before their relocation.
Kyari said: “We are not opposed to the yearnings of the communities or the relocation of the tank farms and depots, but we want it to be done in phases because of the huge financial commitments by the stakeholders. If they are relocated abruptly, even the banking sector would be affected because of the loans they granted for the establishment of the depots.’’