The indiscriminate siting of cooking gas dispense shops in every nook and cranny of Uyo metropolis and other adjoining Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State has left much to be worried than desired.
There is no major street in Uyo and it’s suburbs that do not host at least two gas vendor shops.
This incidence had garnered different reactions from members of the public as some had condemned the proliferation while others said it was a sign of development and reduction of stress in going to gas plants which most times are far from their locality.
What ever their reasons may be, it is a known fact that the world is gradually moving away from fossil fuel but the proliferation of gas outlets which is combustible in nature in residential homes pose a threat to people around the area.
In an interview with some residents in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, it was discovered that so many people are living in apprehension over the incident but remained helpless in abating the situation.
Effiong Umoh, a resident of Oron road, Uyo expressed worry over the proliferation and called on the state government and relevant agencies to closely monitor the activities of gas vendors, adding that the call became necessary following the inflammatory nature of gas.
Another resident, Unyime Akpan said he had heard of incidents of gas explosion in the state and prayed against any reoccurrence especially in his area giving the indiscriminate siting of the shops.
His words, “We all know the combustible nature of gas. We’ve heard of sad occurrences in other places, and that is why the government must exercise strict control over their activities to safeguard lives and property.”
Another resident, Bassey Etuk said almost all the streets where people reside have at least two gas vendors operating in the area, urging the state government to ensure that the vendors are given frequent safety trainings considering the risk their operations pose.
Ebong Emmanuel of Asutan Street, Uyo, who has a barber shop disclosed that a gas shop is right beside the kitchen of a restaurant in his area expressing fear of eventuality.
However the Deputy Director of Fire Service, Akwa Ibom State, Anthony Tom in an interview said such proliferation is as a result of ignorance and lack of proper visibility studies when venturing into business.
He advised operators to ensure strict compliance with safety precautions as laid down by the department to forestall the danger associated with illegal or indiscriminate citing of such shops.
He maintained that the department uses more of dialogue approach rather than violence in getting defaulters to see reasons to do right thing.
Tom explained that since cooking gas is a common commodity that is used by people within the society, what is needed is strict compliance to safety precautions in siting such shops and not isolating them.
He urged those venturing into such businesses, to first of all visit the Fire Service office for inspection, to determine the volume of hazard within a given environment.
He explained that the proliferation of gas shops was not a threat rather non compliance to safety rules.
He maintained that even if a gas plant is sited in an isolated area and the safety rules not adhered to, the whole city can be in flames with no one spared.
“Some people might think such shops are supposed to be in isolated areas but that is not ideal, note that the volume of danger in that particular situation is also very high on case of any eventuality. You can have a whole city in flames and no one would be spared.
“The best option is; stick to the rules: when you want to open a gas dispense shop, follow the rules: number one: call in the fire service to inspect the space before you even pay for it, they will know the volume of danger in a given environment.
“We have discovered in the cause of our regular inspections that there could be food outlet where open flame is used and beside is a gas dispense shop.
“The danger here is applicable to everyone, the owner of the shop is not spared, the customers, even the ones patronizing the food outlet are not excluded”, Tom said.
Explaining further, he said sealing any gas shop is always considered a last resort when all explanations, persuasions, dialogue as well as education has been exhausted, which according to him hardly gets to that as most people default out of ignorance and when the danger is laid bare; they readily redress.
He noted that gas as business has an inherent challenge in storage, handling and usage which is covered by law put in place by government to checkmate incessant security risk that emanate from none compliance.
“Such shops must be properly accessed to ensure that it is suitable. There are safety facilities to be put in place. People coming around such business premises too should also be guided. There are certain things that must be put in place in such environment, for instance, there must be fire fighting equipment such as fire extinguisher, there should be no smoking sign, no naked flame is expected around the vicinity.
“We are doing our best as civilians. We give those who violate the rules a time frame to relocate, if they ignore the time of grace, we take legal action against them by taking the case to court and eventually closing the shop.
He however called on members of the public to partner in the safety business by writing petitions where necessary to the fire service department for necessary lawful actions while recommending fire extinguisher for every business owner and private homes.
Also commenting on the issue, the Operations Controller of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Akwa Ibom, Victor Ohwodiasa condemned the proliferation of gas shops in residential areas.
He however assured that the organisation would clampdown on such activity.
According to him, “It is unacceptable practice, we will definitely clampdown on them. As I speak now, our men are on the way to check on the illegal gas stations and any one caught would face the wrath of the law.”
Owhodiasa insisted that the proactive move would never be compromised as safety was involved and would not want any future eventuality, adding that such would be a continuous process.