Safety concerns amid rise in number of micro-LPG retailers
The recent trend in the sale of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), popularly known as cooking gas in almost every street of Lagos has begun to raise safety concerns among some operators in the industry.
While advocacy for the use of cooking gas as a cleaner fuel has been ongoing for some years and resulting in rise in local consumption, there are concerns about safe practices among many unlicensed gas retailers.
Indeed, the General Secretary of the Nigerian Association of LPG Marketers (NALGAM), Essien Bassey, said the association remains worried about the safety concerns associated with the recent rise in unauthorised gas retailers, stating that it poses great dangers that can scare people away from using the product if any incident occurs.
According to him, the LPG market is a safety conscious industry because of the hazards associated with the product in question; hence, safety is pertinent to the operations.
He noted however that most people in the value chain are not doing things the right way.
Bassey, told The Guardian in an interview that gas is not like other commodities that can be sold anywhere, especially in the sun and by the streets, which the opposite is the narrative in recent times, adding that the phenomenon is characterised by unprofessional decanting, often referred to as transferring gas from one cylinder to another.
“They arrange cylinders under the hot sun which is not proper and safe and that is why at a normal gas plant, the gas vessels are painted white and protected from the exposure of the sun, because it has an average temperature of exposure” he explained.
He stated that most of all the retailers are ignorant and not particular about their environment and the location as an ignited flame from nearby shops can start a fire.
Some of these operators he noted are shop boys or attendants who know little to nothing about gas operations, saying, “and once some people get one retail license to operate, they open other branches under that license and put people there, and it is not right.”
When The Guardian visited some of the retail shops around the Ilasa, Isolo, and Surulere axis of Lagos, it was gathered that none of the retailers had a license to operation, and most of them were ignorant of neither the regulations nor the regulators in charge.
When one of the retailers was asked what was needed to start the business she said: “you just need a location, and a big cylinder. You can learn how to transfer gas from the bigger cylinder to the customers’ smaller one”.
She said there was no need for any technicalities as anyone can operate once thought.
It would be recalled that in December 2016, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), regulator of the industry, urged retailers to acquire licenses before January 2017, or sellers in Lagos and Ogun would risk being clamped down by the department as part of measures to enforce the law regulating LPG business.
However, NALGAM opined that less has been done by the regulator in truly clamping down unlicensed retailers in an effort to check operations in the sector, adding that they need to intensify their monitoring routine as well as enforce penalties to deter others from the act.
Bassey also remarked that, hitherto, there was a concept of distribution where retailers or distributors were attached to various gas plants because they also give their own category of license, and it makes gas plant owners responsible for their actions as well as monitor their activities, which is no longer so.
“The regulator needs to up their game and enforce the regulation in other to discourage more unauthorized influx into the sector which is dangerous, just like we are advocating that gas should not be sold in petrol stations,” he added.
While efforts to reach DPR proved futile, the agency’s website showed that under category D fees of gas operator, where the retailers fall, application fee is N5,000 with grant fee of not exceeding 500 kilograms (kg) at 2,500.00 p. a., and exceeding 2,000 kg is 10,000.00 p. a, while penalty for operating without valid DPR license for the category is N30,000.
The NALPGAM secretary hoped that the new scheme by the ministry of petroleum resources tagged the Micro Distribution Scheme, will address the safety concerns.
This way, he noted that there won’t be any issue of cylinder ownership as all the cylinders in circulation would be for the system, but urged for the right thing to be done before the commencement of the scheme.