In saner climes, petroleum tank farms are never located close to thickly inhabited areas.
They are sited in the outskirts. But here in Nigeria where anything goes, most tank farms are found right inside densely populated urban areas.
Tank farms are industrial terminals for the storage of refined petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and other petrochemicals for evacuation to the final consumers. Much as they are indispensable in our industrial world, they are also very dangerous and must be handled with utmost care for the safety of lives and property.
Tank farms are found in many parts of the country. Most of them are surrounded by thriving communities mainly because of the massive and uncontrolled outward expansion of towns in defiance of urban masterplans. In places like Lagos, particularly the Apapa and Ojo areas, tank farms are found right inside already developed port properties and built-up areas in the Ojo axis, especially Satellite Town.
At the height of the madness of the Apapa gridlocks which have lasted for nearly 20 years, trucks and petroleum tankers from all over the country have blocked the highways and bridges and spilled into neighbourhoods, thus making movement almost impossible.
Calls by the victimised and frightened residents of the affected communities and concerned Nigerians for these facilities to be relocated have met deaf ears.
The worst part of it all is that most of the tank farms lack fire stations, and those which do hardly have water. As a result, fire incidents have been recently reported in tank farms located in Ubeji Ifiekporo in Warri South West LGA of Delta State, Apapa and Ojo in Lagos, Onitsha in Anambra State, Calabar in Cross River State and Umuahia in Abia State.
Thomas Ereyitomi who represents Warri in the House of Representatives is pursuing a Bill that would make the establishment of functional fire services in all tank farms mandatory.
We do not think this will go far enough in safeguarding the lives and property of the citizens from these highly incendiary tank farms. Merely putting fire services in these facilities, even if they have adequate water supply, will not reduce the suffering and anxieties that inhabitants of these neighbourhoods face daily.
Apart from that, most of these tank farms have no parking bays, leading to road blockages by tankers and trucks and the dilapidation of road networks.
Ereyitomi should upgrade his Bill to involve the outright relocation of all tank farms from human habitations to the outskirts and the strict restriction of encroachment by property developers. Tank farms have no business in neighbourhoods.
We must begin to do things the way they are done in developed countries by ensuring we put the safety and well-being of the people above material gain. The lives and property of our people matter.