Clusters of service stations stir safety concerns
Except the Lagos State government moves quickly to curtail the rising number of service stations springing up in residential areas in some parts of the state, these facilities would continue to be a source of worry to residents of such areas.
The trend now is for businessmen and investors to build petrol stations in residential areas, apparently to capture a large chunk of consumers living in those areas. A good number of these facilities are operating illegally.
According to data from the Department of Petrol Resource (DPR), there are presently 86 illegal filling stations around the country.
However, findings by The Guardian revealed that the number of illegal and indiscriminately located service stations around the country could triple the figure bandied by the DPR, especially because of the scenario that obtains in rural areas, where the agency has little or no presence.
Gone are the days, when fuel stations were located in designated areas including outskirts of towns, as well as, in locations far from residential areas. Nowadays, filling stations have become regular features of almost every neighbourhood in the country, even as they have also expanded their scope of operations to include shopping malls, sales of gas cylinders, refilling of cooking gas, and lube bays for servicing vehicles.
Abaranje road in Ikotun area of Lagos State is one location where this unfortunate development is being furthered without any restriction. There are eight service stations along the road.
A first-time visitor to the area would be amazed by the proximity of these stations to each other, as well as their proximity to hotels, shops, schools, churches and sundry places where people are found in large numbers.
Coming from Ikotun, the first filling station is Dave Demlong and Company, located beside the popular Aso Rock Hotel. Aside the hotel, there are residential houses and shops located very close to the station.
The next station there is God’s Decision Filling Station, which stands beside a school- King’s Anchor College. The station also serves as a pick-up centre for the e-commerce website, Konga.
Opposite De Royale Hotel and Suites is Alhameda Filling Station. The station, which has a lot of setbacks is next to an open event centre. There are no occupied houses close by as most structures behind it are either uncompleted or uninhabited.
Still along the same stretch of road is Waleola Golden Venture Nigeria Limited. It boasts of an eatery called Hunkie, and there are a number of shops beside it.
The next one is Akintech Filling Station, which is almost opposite the Mobil Filling Station next to it. This facility located beside a branch of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), sells cooking gas and groceries, while the Mobil station located at K and S Bus Stop stands next to a school called Silver Spring College. The station is also adjacent to a host of shops.
Forte Oil, a medium size service station is next along the road. The filling station is located at Hassan Olakunle Bus Stop, and it offers other services to residents apart from selling fuel. A church, Epistle of Christ Assembly is located beside the petrol station.
The Last filling station along this stretch of road is Fidelity Energy. It also boasts of an eatery, and plays host to a big variety Shop. This station is also located in residential area. Besides it are houses, shops and a shopping Mall, Apata Plaza is opposite it.
Also off Abaranje Road is Obabiyi Street. At the tail end of this street linking Abaranje and Ikotun to Igando is a new filling station called Hansreal Petroleum Limited, which was unveiled and commenced operation about two months ago, thus bringing to nine the numbers of filling stations that service Abaranje community.
One common feature with all these stations is the fact that they are all located a short distance from one another. Not one of them is one kilometre far from the next.
Speaking to The Guardian on the proliferation of filling stations in the area, a trader, Tijani Akinsola, wondered why he should be concerned about the sprouting up of these stations close to his residence.
According to him, he has not really sat down to visualize the dangers involved in living close to a petrol station.
Another resident of the community, Mrs. Modupe Adewole, also confessed that she has never bothered to imagine the implication of locating filling stations in residential areas.
She, however, called on government to regulate the industry and protect the citizens from any danger that might arise frim locating filling stations in residential areas since safety of residents of the state principally resides with it.
However, another resident who spoke on condition of anonymity, is deeply worried about the proliferation in view of the grave danger it poses.
According to him, the fire outbreak at MRS Filling Station last year in Surulere that destroyed several properties has remained evergreen in his mind.
He therefore urged the state government to act fast by closing down illegal stations that fall short of minimum required standards, rather than wait for tragedy to happen before wielding the big stick. “If the government continues to keep mute, many more such facilities would be coming on stream in residential areas and endanger the lives of many.
When contacted recently on the issue, Modecai Ladan, DPR Director, explained that the agency has already clamped down on illegal filling stations, saying the agency is collaborating with other agencies and relevant stakeholders to tackle the problem.
Speaking of the presence of filling stations in residential area, past President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Dr. Moses Ajayi, said filling stations have changed in character to become ‘service stations.’
He said: “Now people go to buy kerosene and gas in petrol stations, and petrol stations now even have supermarkets attached to them, as well as eateries. So, petrol stations have gone beyond just selling petrol. They are now more of service centres than strictly petrol station. Petrol just happens to be one of the things they sell.”
He, however, stated that the trend has locational implications, as it fuels fear among Nigerians that incidents of fire and accidents may occur any time.
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