The Federal Government’s target to deepen the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), popularly called cooking gas suffered a huge setback recently with the recent clampdown on cooking gas plants and other unapproved outlets by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) over safety concerns.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that no less than 70 raids have been carried out by the DPR and security agencies across the country in the last one month with the latest being the suspension clamped on 89 Petrocam Trading Nigeria Limited filling stations for operating illegal gas facilities in the country.
DPR, acting Director, Mr Ahmad Shakur, said the agency’s officials went on surveillance recently and found the company to be operating an illegal gas plant at Ayobo, in the Alimosho Local Government,Area of Lagos State.
In another development, the Zonal Operations Controller, DPR Abuja Zonal Office, Buba Abubakar, said the team visited about 16 retail plants, and that 14 illegal outlets were sealed.
“The reason we went out today was to make sure everybody has permit to operate. If you don’t have permit, you should come to the office and with the necessary requirements you will get your permit. We are looking at the safety of the people, their lives and property. By the time you come to the office, we will be able to tell you the things you need to put in place to operate a retail outlet.
But the decision of DPR and security agencies to clamp down on some of these operators has set tongues wagging as critics have accused it of engaging in a blanket exercise that leaves out the leadership of its association.
They had argued that while the intention of the DPR and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) remained a welcome development, actions targeted at genuine members of the association would be counterproductive.
They advised government agencies seeking to achieve results aimed at safeguarding the lives and properties of Nigerians should equally take into the consideration the effect of job creation as well as plan to deepen LPG usuage in the country.
Tough talk from DPR
Worried by the near collapse of sanity in the LPG sector, the DPR recently launched a manhunt for -violators of its regulations guiding the operations of LPG plants and outlets in the country.
Last June alone, the agency carried out a raid leading to the shutdown of 14 illegal oulets while four arrests were made to serve as a deterrent to others.
Also in April, the DPR in Ogun gave a six month ultimatum to illegal gas plant owners to evacuate all LPG plants domiciled in filling stations or face sanctions.
The Operations Controller in the state, Muinat Bello-Zagi, made this disclosure at a meeting with members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers of Nigeria (IPMAN), Ijebu Zone, in Abeokuta.
Zagi said the directive, which came via a memo from the national headquarters, stated that all filling stations with existing LPG facility popularly known as “Add-On” without necessary approval should as a matter of urgency evacuate their plants.
She warned that within the next six months, which served as a period of evacuation plans, no sales should be made just as applications should be made known to the DPR for necessary approval. The controller said the memo also directed that “all applications for LPG Add-On facilities for the refilling of gas cylinders in retail outlets should not be received henceforth”.
She, however, added that retail outlets with existing Add-On facilities for the refilling of gas cylinders with a valid permit to operate issued by the DPR should continue operations till December 31, 2020.
“Also, the retail outlets with existing approval to operate Add-On facilities must be converted to auto-gas, only for vehicular use, which must be in compliance with the new LPG guidelines.
Gas operators kick
President, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers Association of Nigeria (LPGARAN), a branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Association (NUPENG), Mr. Chika Micheal Umudu, said the regulation and safety standards in the LPG cannot be compromised in anyway.
He said he supports the action of DPR to sanitise the sector in a bid to flush out quacks that are all out to bring a bad name to those doing the right thing.
Umudu, however called on DPR to exercise restraint by educating operators and giving them some time to address the observed lapses in the course of their raid.
He said a situation whereby the DPR goes all out for total shutdown would be counterproductive to the target of the Federal Government to deepen LPG usage in the country.
He said the clampdown was long overdue but DPR should take cognizance of the number of jobs being created in the LPG, subsector, warning that a disruption in the activities of operators was capable of wiping out members’ huge investment and job growth target.
The LPGARAN President said the association on its part constantly organises safety workshop and training for its members to keep them abreast of latest trends on health and safety in the LPG sector.
Umudu, said he can vouch for most members of LPGARAN to have been doing the right thing as stipulated in DPR regulations, saying the existence of a few bad eggs within its fold was not in doubt.
‘‘ Again, one should realise that the association can only apply minimal force, the powers to carry out maximum force rests in DPR because some business owners could even cite constitutional provisions that, there is freedom of association.
So for such people, there is little or nothing we could do since they prefer self regulation. But the enforcement team of DPR could help whip such defiant operators into line.”
For his part, the spokesman of Cooking Gas Skid Proprietors Association of Nigeria (CGSPAN), Otunba Shittu Moshood, said the clampdown by DPR could signal a death kneel on the planned legislation aimed at compelling petroleum product marketers to set up gas filling plants in all petrol stations across the country.
Former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr.Ibe Kachikwu, had while inaugurating the Nigerian Army Welfare Limited by Guarantee,NAWLG/Gasland Nigeria Limited Gas plant in Mambilla Barracks, Abuja, explained that the legislation was to be put together by DPR as part of efforts to deepen LPG usuage across the country
What the law says
DPR requirements for setting up an LPG plant which are not often adhered to by operators include; three copies of the approved drawings showing the existing or proposed buildings on the site and the relevant distances to the roadways and adjoining properties, if any.
Three copies of Piping and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) of the gas filling plant and manufacturers’ data sheet of the storage tanks with codes and standards adopted in the design.
It also includes; A provisional approval letter and fire report by Chief Federal/State Fire officer or an officer authorized by him on his behalf, that he is satisfied with the proposed arrangement for the prevention of fire.
Other requirements are , A letter from the appropriate Town Planning Authority authorising the siting of the LPG filling plant at the proposed site. The Town Planning approval stamps on all design drawings are accepted.
Three copies of Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company and evidence that the company is duly incorporated by the Federal Ministry of Trade to deal in petroleum products. Tax clearance certificate for the preceding three years of application or Tax exemption certificate for a new company.