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Incessant gas explosions put Abeokuta on edge

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Palpable fear and tension have enveloped residents of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, following the rising spate of gas explosion incidents rocking the ancient city.

Within 10 days, seven persons have been killed, while six others were critically injured from five different incidents in different parts of the town.

On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, three persons, including an infant were burnt to death in a gas explosion that occurred in Oke-Egunya, along Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Road in Abeokuta South Local Council Area when a technician was topping up the gas of a faulty refrigerator.

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Barely 24 hours thereafter, another explosion triggered on Mercy Road, Panseke, where the only victim, Sanya Shonde-a technician, was injured, which later led to the amputation of his leg.

Last Tuesday, the Conference Hotel, Oke-Mosan, owned by the former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, was hit by another gas explosion, which killed two people with three others critically injured.

It was learnt that a technician and an unidentified person were killed in the explosion, which reportedly occurred as a result of an alleged fake gas cylinder used, while servicing a revolving door at the hotel.

Just a day after, when the Conference hotel was still under lock and keys following the explosions, another explosion hit the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), located directly opposite the Conference hotel. Another two persons were killed in the incident.

The explosion, which reportedly occurred at the Marque Event Centre in the premises of the library around 11.00am, was triggered when technicians were topping up gas into an air condition at the event centre.

Also, on Friday morning, another incident was recorded at the Onikoko area of the town. It was gathered that an industrial gas belonging to a construction company exploded throwing projectiles, which injured the victims.

Eyewitness account revealed that an iron splinter from the exploded gas cylinder flew to about 200 metres inside St. Leo’s College, Onikoko and hit one of the victims who’s a woman on her chest, injuring one of her breasts.

Though several reasons have been attributed to the incidents, including alleged sabotage, but it was suspected that the explosions might have been triggered by fake or substandard gas cylinders purchased at the open market and unable to withstand gas pressure.

The explosion affected residential buildings around the area, shattering walls and glasses. Many vehicles were also reportedly destroyed at Mercy Road, Onikolobo.

The Guardian learnt that the incidents have sent shivers down the spine of residents of the state capital and beyond, as there are rumours of substandard cylinders in circulation in markets.

Madam Omolara Oguntoye, a resident of Sabo area of the city, who revealed that the fear of gas explosion is the beginning of wisdom, disclosed that residents in her neighbourhood have since abandoned usage of gas, especially as most houses in the area are ‘face me, I face you apartments.’

She noted that the best way to avert gas explosion now is to avoid its usage, based on the news of the havoc it is causing, coupled with the fact that it is very difficult to differentiate original cylinder from the fake.

Miss Sunkanmi Okesola, a student of Ogun State Polytechnic, Igbesa, who resides in Iyana-Oloke area of Onikolobo, Abeokuta, revealed that residents of the area have been wary of gas shops in the neighbourhood since last week.

She said food vendors and other users of gas, especially students within the area have resolved to alternatives to avoid explosion incidents.

To stem the tide, the State Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) has appealed to residents of the state to be cautious of adulterated domestic gas to avoid gas explosion in their homes.

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In a statement, the body enjoins residents to refill or purchase gas cylinders from certified and authorised merchants only. ”Ask your gas merchants to check your cylinder for leakage through either the valve, regulator, connecting hose or the cooking burner; replace your gas cylinder if it is already expired; where applicable, keep your cylinder outside the kitchen to minimize risk or danger and do not spray insecticide where gas cylinder is kept.

“Use gas cylinder in a ventilated area and do not use electric devices such as laptops and phones near cylinders. These devices can cause a spark and trigger already leaked gas to ignite and avoid shaking cylinder to check the level of gas left. We urge us all to be watchful of our environment too at this perilous time.”

It was learnt that as part of steps to curtail the incident, the state government on Friday sealed-off an industrial gas retailing depot at Omida and a gas plant in Idi-Ori area.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Environment/Chief Executive Officer of OGWAMA, Mr. Ola Oresanya, revealed that the two depots were shut based on information that they specialise in selling welding gas, which has been identified as the cause of the explosions.

“The state government has placed a ban on welding gas. Nobody should buy or sell welding gas. Those refilling the welding gas are the problem. Stakeholder meeting is already ongoing to look into ways to curtail these incessant gas explosions.”

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