Ijegun Egba tank farms: Lagos communities lament threat to life, properties

With several tank farms (storage of combustible petroleum products) licensed by the Department of Petroleum Resources to operate in the densely populated Satellite Town/Ijegun Egba, Lagos, the movement of these tankers has continued to threaten the safety of residents considering the carriage of flammable petroleum product. In this piece, MUHAMMED SUBAIR reports residents’ frustration.

It is a terrible period for residents and business owners along Old Ojo road in Alakija as they report that tanker drivers, who use their corridor due to the existence of petroleum tank farms within that axis, have subjected them to a tortuous daily routine of a bad road network and moribund businesses.

Tanker drivers are not left out in the blame game, as they also accused naval personnel who are stationed at the Alakija junction of extortion.

A during product agent, 74-year old Elder Teddy Ikedum, decried the negative impact of activities of tanker drivers on his business.

The effect of dual parking of heavy duty tankers along the Old-Ojo road in the last two years, he said, has worsened the road condition and sent many business owners out of work.

Ikedum lamented, “The only visible and thriving business operating in this area is driven by tanker drivers. There are no other business activities going on along Old Ojo road axis. Our businesses are dead. Tanker drivers have successfully crippled our businesses. They have run many of us into debt.

“All shops and warehouses are either shut down or engaging in skeletal operations due to lack of patronage. They have blocked the only access road to businesses located on Old-Ojo road. Apart from indulging in double parking, some of the tankers have been abandoned on the road for almost two months. It is not that they are faulty. They deliberately left them there to take turns at the depot without considering the effects of such act on our businesses.

“It is unfortunate that their illegal activities are aided by the personnel of the Navy and motor park touts who collect parking tolls from them. This is why they are reckless and fearless. We have confronted them severally but since they are adamant, we resorted to pleading with them whenever we need to bring in our truck for supply. The government is aware of this but has failed to address it.”

Adducing reasons for the proliferation of tankers along Alakija-Abule Ado corridor, Ikedum said the need to claim bigger subsidies from the government is the reason many tanker drivers throng Lagos depots.

A relaxation spot operator, Eric Amadi, has been plying his trade along Old-Ojo road for over 10 years.

Until over a year when his joint became a shadow of itself, the Old-Ojo road, according to Amadi, was a great bustle of entertainment.

“I operated a thriving relaxation spot which customers patronised for spicy pepper soup and chilled beer until over a year ago when everything faded as a result of the invasion of tanker drivers,” he told Nigerian Tribune.

“We resume here every morning just to avoid idleness. I have lost almost all my customers due to the reckless activities of the tanker drivers. The last one year has been agonising not only for my business but for other business owners. As you can see many of the shops are closed with dust all over them. This is because nobody is asking for their services. But the most unfortunate part of this is that nobody is doing anything to address these challenges.

“I am begging the Lagos State government to get them off the road and fix the damaged portion of the road to open our businesses to potential customers. We have wives and children to feed. And at the end of the month, no landlord will listen to our plea when it is time to pay rent.”

A dealer in leather and furniture materials, Frank Elenwo, told Nigerian Tribune “I cannot display my wares. Even if I do, nobody will see them. You can see how I stockpiled the leathers. They have been there since almost a year without anybody asking to buy them. When the tanker drivers threatened to go on strike, the Lagos State government quickly attended to their needs but the government has ignored our cries. We are suffering in this axis. Our businesses are dying with the illegal parking on both sides of the road.

“Apart from taking over the road, they also constitute nuisance on the road. As they are, the drivers bathe and defecate on the road. In fact, many of them sleep in the trucks. They are free and too loose and believe nobody can check their excesses.

“Let us imagine a crisis situation. In case of a fire outbreak or health emergency, before the victim is taken out of this road, he would have died. That is how terrible the road is. I don’t know how we would cope because no car can come in or drive out of here.”

 

We want tank farms relocated to avoid disaster —Residents

Apart from the perennial problem of flooding and blocked drainage systems, Satellite town residents also told Nigerian Tribune of the deteriorating state of roads in their domain.

According to Kunle Hassan, a Buba Marwa road resident, all the roads in Satellite Town need urgent repair.

“The Lagos State government has abandoned Satellite Town. We have been abandoned in Ori-Ade Local Council Development Area. There is good drainage system. The drainages are so bad that once it rains, everywhere becomes flooded. No good roads. The existing road network has been damaged by heavy duty tankers. It has potholes all over it. I want to appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to come to our aid. We want him to fix our road. The drainage needs to be cleared too.

“Importantly, we want him to relocate the tank farm because tanker drivers are responsible for the damage and gullies on the road. Houses and businesses are too close to the road to allow for easy movement of heavy duty tankers that are laden with inflammable content. The road is too narrow that tanker drivers wriggle their way out of it.

“This is what residents are confronted with daily. The bad road is one challenge that we are looking up to the Lagos State government to fix for us, but greater is the challenge and danger posed by tanker drivers to mental and physical health of residents along the axis.

“But the Lagos State government is more concerned with toll collection from tanker drivers while residents have their roads damaged and are left at the mercy of the poisonous substance from these tankers. On behalf of other residents, I am appealing to the Lagos State government to address the threat posed to us by tanker drivers or possibly relocate them to prevent a repeat of Abule-Ado explosion which killed and rendered many others homeless.”

 

Each of us pays Navy personnel N1,000 to park on the road —Tanker driver

When approached to react to the allegations, a tanker driver, Umar Farouk told Nigerian Tribune that the Navy and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) are to be blamed for the misfortune of business owners and residents.

He said tanker drivers are aware that the road is narrow and the premises of the depot are not large enough to accommodate more than one tanker at a time.

Farouk alleged that “We cannot just drive in and park in front of shops and businesses, but naval officers, NUPENG and representatives of the NURTW instructed us to do so because the amount they generate depends on the number of tankers that drive into the depot to load.

“We don’t just park there; we pay to park. To get on the queue, each driver pays N1000 to a naval officer at the Navy junction which is Alakija entry point. Another N1,500 is paid as parking fee to the NURTW while N1,000 is paid to the tankers’ union. Over 500 tankers visit various depots at Alakija and Ijegun Egba daily. And since the road is narrow, we have to line up to get to the depot.

“If all the tankers could have access to the depot at the same time, there would not be anyone outside here. The depot is not big that is why we are told to queue here.”

Reacting to the allegation of tanker drivers bathing and defecating on the road, he said “Since there is no toilet around, many of the drivers urinate and defecate on the road. You know we spend most of our time on the road and at the depot, so, we cannot help it.”

 

Navy personnel are to maintain internal security, not to extort money from drivers —Navy Information Office

Reacting to the allegation of extortion levelled against its personnel by the tanker drivers and business owners in Alakija, the Information Officer, Western Naval Command, Commander Thomas Otuji told Nigerian Tribune that servicemen are stationed at the junction to maintain internal security, and to collect fees from tanker drivers or other motorists.

While appealing to the general public to report any erring officer to the command, Otuji said, “It is just an allegation, isn’t it? Last week, I got a call from a media organisation on the same issue. Our personnel are at the Navy junction to ensure free flow of traffic and not for other things. And if any of them is found culpable, of course, the service will not fold its arms.

“The last time a similar issue was reported in Apapa axis, officers that were involved were severely punished. We don’t compromise on such issues at all. As for the junction in Alakija, investigation is ongoing to unravel those behind the extortion.

“Alakija is closer to NNS way. It is a unit. So I want to appeal to residents in Alakija to lodge a formal complaint to the command in Alakija. If the allegation is true, they should know the officers that are involved.  What they need to do is to report them to the command.

“It is not for any Navy personnel to be collecting money from motorists because that is not why they are stationed there. They are there to secure the area and ensure that the access road is free.

We are in a social media era, the public should try and get a short clip recorded for us to know what transpires and I can assure you that we will get them arrested. The service will take it up. We don’t condone indiscipline for whatever reason,” he said.

Meanwhile spokesperson for the Lagos State Ministry of Works, Shina Odunuga, has assured residents that the Lagos State government has concluded talks on the commencement date for full rehabilitation of roads in the axis. He stated that the state government had earlier carried out palliative works on the road but the main project which is scheduled to commence soon will be on Public Private Partnership.

 

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