Petroleum is very essential in our daily lives. As things stand today, crude oil is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, nation’s over 75 per cent of the revenues accruing to the treasury. It even goes further to play face-saving and palliative roles in a country like Nigeria, where citizens experienced epileptic power supply.
However, as important as this product seems to be, the indiscriminate siting of filling stations in residential areas is gradually posing a threat to the lives and property of Ekiti citizens. It has caused many residents, particularly shop owners in Ado Ekiti, a lot of sorrow.
In January when people were still basking in the euphoria of the New Year, a fire outbreak that surged from a diesel tanker that was offloading the product in a filling station located at Ijigbo area of the capital city suddenly halted the mood in town. Over 20 traders suffered losses in the inferno that attracted national attention due to the wide publicity given to the sad scenario by both the print and electronic media. Many of these victims have not recovered from the shock.
One cannot shy away from the general belief that Ekiti has a very lean economy, anchored mainly on subsistent agriculture and education, with no meaningful impact in the area of industrial development. The springing up of filling stations has and hotels in recent times fortified the economy in a way and this, I think, made it difficult for government to put a stop to the construction of petrol stations in residential areas.
The government of Ekiti State was not oblivious of the potential danger inherent in this practice and this compelled it to enact an act of parliament regulating the siting of petrol stations in densely populated towns like Ado, Ikere, Ikole, Ijero, for the sake of the safety of lives and property of the citizens.
Though some feel that the government’s clampdown on owners of filling stations flouting the law could sabotage its industrial development strides, efforts must be made to make operators to comply with the safety rules. Industrial development cannot be promoted at the expense of the people’s lives because the fundamental functions of government is security of lives and property.
The Governor Ayodele Fayose administration has taken a bold step in this regard by threatening to seal off any station that breached safety rules, but the people should also help the government in checkmating the unbridled tendencies of petrol dealers who always place higher premium on profits-making than safeguarding the lives and property of the people.
In advanced climes like United States of America, Britain, Holland, among others, petrol stations are sited in residential areas, but the governments of those countries have stringent safety laws to prevent unwarranted loss of lives and property. It is very disheartening that many of the petrol stations in the state have no fire-fighting equipment. Many were not even insured going by the revelations given by Governor Fayose after the fire incident that happened in January.
This action must not be tolerated because it remains the only safety-net for the citizens since government is being magnanimous enough by not closing down filling stations already located in residential areas. I also want to appeal to property owners in the business-oriented areas of Ado Ekiti to sell their property with caution.
Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State.