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Host Communities, Operators Spar over Location of Lagos Tank Farms

-By Gideon Osaka

There seems to be no end in sight to the menace of environmental degradation in Apapa, Kirikiri, Satellite town and Ijegun areas of Lagos, as host communities and operators continue to dispute over location of tank farms.

At the just concluded fact-finding visit of House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on oil and gas, the host communities did not mince words in asking for the relocation of tank farms from their domains as they continue to bear the brunt of excruciating traffic, dilapidated roads and environmental degradation. Speaking at the event, the Chairman of Satellite Town Forum, STF, Micheal Imitini, expressed dissatisfaction of the community over the activities of tankers who come daily to take products from the tank farms. ‘’We are saying that they must relocate their tank farms from this area. We don’t care whether they spent billions. Human lives should be prioritised as the area remains a residential area,” he stated, while insisting that the community may be compelled to take legal action once it fails to get positive response from the relevant agencies.

One of the Stakeholders Paul Akhagbemhe, a Senior Journalist, in his narration stated that the construction of tank farms in Kirikiri Town has made life unbearable for the residents and called for the urgent relocation of the tank farms. “The existence of the tank farms has brought serious health challenges to Kirikiri residents through dangerous and life-threatening, offensive smell and inhalation of the petroleum products thereby causing heart related problems and difficulty in breathing among other sicknesses. “The activities of the tanker drivers/NUPENG are very appalling and life threatening. They are making life tough and unbearable for the people through reckless driving that constantly leads to road accidents, killing and maiming of innocent residents. They cause very terrible traffic congestion daily that leads to loss of man hours as well as destruction of other business activities in the entire Apapa axis. The drivers also indulge in senseless black market sale of fuel and other petroleum products that lead to fire outbreak and threat to life. “All the roads in the kirikiri community are in a very terrible shape and not motorable due to their heavy haulage activities. Despite repeated appeal they are simply adamant and incorrigible.with no regard to human lives.

“The tank farm owners act as if they are above the law. They treat the residents with disregard and abuse their rights. They frustrate them and ask them to sell their houses. It is obvious that the tanks are owned by politicians and their affiliates, that is why they refused to relocate and prefer to continue to dehumanise the people without recourse to the wellbeing of the innocent masses. “They altered the approved town planning laws and layout designed by Lagos State government by building petroleum tanks on the approved drainages and blocking the flow of water out of the community to the Lagoon. This causes severe flooding in the neighbourhood and suffering to the residents whenever it rains,” he added.

However, giving the perspective of one of the host communities, the Alahun of Imoore and Apapa Kingdom, Oba Taofik Akeju-Awojo, expressed the readiness of his community to collaborate with both the government and tank farm owners to ensure harmony in his kingdom. According to him, the people clamouring for the relocation of the tank farms are those that do not want the community to make progress. “Since, the tank farms started operations in the communities, crime rate has dropped and employment opportunities have been created. If you move the tank farm away, there will be untold hardship and poverty in the land,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the tank farm owners, Hassan Gbemisola, Managing Director, Fatgbems Petroleum Limited, stated that bad road network is one of their challenges. He explained that operators have been contributing to the welfare of their host communities. “Tank farm operation in Kirikiri started in 2005. There is an amount of money collected per truck by the host communities daily. This is done to help them financially. We are engaging the Lagos State Fire Service to establish office in the area. Meanwhile, each depot in the area has fire-fighting trucks,” he said. Also speaking, the Commissioner for Town Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State, Idris Salako, expressed the concern of the state government over the unregulated citing of tank farms in Lagos. He explained that eight years ago, the government stopped giving approval for citing of tank farms in the state, except they are to be located at Ibeju-Lekki free trade zone. According to him, “Eight years forward, the ministry has been inundated by host communities of the activities of tank farm operators, which prompted the state government to ask the ministry to engage the host communities on how to manage the situation. “The tank farm owners should be responsive to the needs and plight of the host communities. Most of the tank farms at Kirikiri don’t have permits. The infrastructure of Satellite town has been run down by the activities of tank farms. Even if, the tank farm operators relocate to Ibeju-Lekki, without proper planning, the whole thing will be a failure.

“We have lifted the ban on construction of tank farms and we urge them to improve on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The Lagos state building agency is compiling lists of those who have approval.” For the Assistant Controller General of Fire Service of Nigeria, Abdulganiyu Jaji, who represented the Controller General, there is need for establishment of a central fire service station in Satellite Town, Kirikiri and Ijegun- Egba communities in order to promote safety of lives and properties. He said, “Tank farm operators should focus on training of personnel and infrastructure.

There is need for synergy between tank farm operators and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). In Apapa axis, there are some tank farms that are very close to the residential areas which the House of Representatives should consider critically. The health hazards are enormous” Ibrahim stated. Also speaking, the Deputy Director, Oil and Gas, Ministry of Environment, Nafiu Akinpelu, stated that the tank farms can do operating audit as well as upgrade their oil-water separating system. “All the tank farm owners should come together and have a global memorandum of understanding, MoU with their host communities as regards CSR, so as to agree on what could done for the communities annually.”

The House Ad-hoc Chairman, Sergius Ogun stated that though there are obvious infractions, collaboration is key for businesses to thrive without rancour. He said, “They were obvious infractions that we needed to put to the approving agencies. It is work in progress. The community wants more corporate social responsibility, CSR. The operators have told us that they have done so much. We have told the operators to bring what they have done so far. We are also going to engage the Lagos State government. “The tank farm operators pay tax, so it is going to be a collaboration between the State, Federal, operators and the communities. If we all collaborate, the business can live side by side with human beings and that is why we are insisting on safety. We are insisting that operators must carry out everything in the recommendation. We believe the community can live side by side with tank farm operators. We have come here to establish that the agencies can work well with the operators and the communities. “If anything happens to the Ijegun and Kirikiri tank farms today, it is going to cut off 35 per cent supply of petroleum products in this country. This situation concerns all of us. The people who live in Ijegun Egba and Satelite Town have expressed their displeasure very many times about the activities of tank farm owners and petroleum tankers. The tank farms in these areas are extremely important to the federal government because about 25 per cent of the products that come into the country come from the Ijegun Egba tank farm alone. They have invested about N450 billion. So we cannot wish them away. We need to find a way to peacefully coexist with the residents of the area. They have a right to be there, so we have to find a way for them to coexist.