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DPR to go tougher on recurring explosion, accidents

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), yesterday, in Abuja, said it may be forced to take drastic action against erring oil and gas firms in an attempt to address frequent cases of explosion and accidents in the industry. Cases of gas, pipeline as well as tanker accidents have in recent time, razed properties, resulted in death, and affected the environment across the country.

Speaking yesterday at a yearly stakeholders meeting, DPR disclosed that a Minimum Industry Safety Training for Downstream Operators (MISTDO), would be launched to protect lives and properties. Director of DPR, Sarki Auwalu, said: “The Department may not hesitate to use every regulator tool at its disposal, including wielding the big stick to ensure compliance.”

Auwalu noted that although the sector could serve as catalyst for rapid industrial growth when properly harnessed, it is currently plagued by suboptimal refining capacity, neglect of inland NNPC depots, unavailability of System 2 (A-C) pipeline connectivity, and others, which have created reliance on importation of products at high cost.

To mention a few, in July last year, at least 50 people reportedly died, and 101 people injured as a fuel tanker trying to avoid a pothole overturned and fell off the road in Ahumbe village in Benue State.

In October, many buildings were razed and people lost their lives when a tanker carrying 33,000 litres of petrol exploded at Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra State.

A tanker had similarly exploded at a gas and petrol station in Nasarawa State leaving 35 people dead. Police had in April last year, also confirmed two persons dead in a petrol tanker explosion at Sawmill/Onipepeye area of the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway.Auwalu however said unless stakeholders collaborated, taming the incident may remain elusive; stressing that extant regulation and guidelines must be strictly followed in reducing the cases.

Represented by a top official of DPR, Johnson Ajewole, the Director noted that the regulatory body has automated its services, and expanding operational bases to improve service delivery, and get closer to stakeholders.

Considering the size of Nigeria’s population and economy, Auwalu stressed the need to explore existing business options, and strive to create new business values in the nation’s oil and gas sector.

Zonal Operation Controler, DPR, Abuja, Buba Abubakar, explained that when launched, the MISTDO initiative would improve operation of the downstream sub-sector, as the training would be mandatory for all operators, including LPG and haulage tanker drivers.
Abubakar said: “Some operators are making use of untrained attendants, or use unaccredited vendors to train their attendants. This is unacceptable.”

A Principal Organising Secretary, Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Alexander Stephen, said the group is working the DPR to sanitise the market, as there quacks in the downstream sector.He said the group had proposed a period of three months to ensure that the market is sanitised, adding that the reoccurring fire outbreak in the sector is unacceptable.