AKURE—The unfortunate gas explosion which hit Babson Gas Nigeria Limited, a gas outlet located beside Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church, Arakale area of Akure metropolis, last Saturday, may have come and gone, but owners of the over 42 shops razed in the raging inferno are still counting their losses, waiting endlessly for help to come their way.
Vanguard has gathered that the sad incident which led no fewer than eight persons, including a pregnant woman, and a 3 year old girl, a nursery school pupil and the daughter of one of the owners of the shops, to be critically injured could have been avoided if the owner of the gas outlet and officials of government in the state had done the needful.
Findings as at Tuesday showed that officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and that of the state Ministry of Lands are still assessing the situation to know the actual number of shops and residential houses that were razed.
Initial figure given by NEMA was over 42 shops and houses. The owner of Babson Gas Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ololade according to findings applied to undertake such venture in May this year and government’s rejection was reportedly communicated to him in June.
But despite this rejection he snubbed government’s directive and went ahead to dispense gas in the area ignoring the hazardous reasons adduced by government.
This is coming as the Chairman, Liquefied Gas Retailers Association of Nigeria, LGRAN, Ondo state, Gbenga Amondi have disowned Ololade, as neither a member nor patron of the association.
However government officials it was gathered have been collecting revenue from the owner of the gas outlet despite the non approval of such business venture in the location.
It was said that Ololade’s retail outlet pays certain fees to the state Board of Internal Revenue aside paying to another landlord for the space where the reservoirs were mounted.
This illegal insiders dealing between the owner of the outlet and some government officials has been going on before last weekend’s ugly incident.
However, Governor Olusegun Mimiko swiftly put paid to this when he visited the scene of the fire outbreak disclosing that the gas outlet responsible for the inferno was not approved for such business.
While describing the occurrence as unfortunate he assured that all illegal filling stations located in residential areas and other hazardous locations in the state would be pulled down.
He called on the people to be vigilant and report illegal retail outlet of gas to appropriate authorities for necessary action and for the safety of lives and properties.
Vanguard discovered that government officials usually close their eyes to the letter of rejection of approval issued to the owner whenever its time to collect the yearly fees.
The shops and houses that where razed in quick successions were chockly arranged that it became almost impossible to evacuate wares in them when the explosion took place.
Materials razed to ashes as a result of the explosion which started around 6.30 pm that fateful day, at the gas outlet located beside Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church, Arakale area of Akure metropolis
include paint shops, electronic shops, agro-chemical shops, generator shops, shops where foams of different sizes are sold, as well as building materials.
Also some olden days houses built with muds used as residential buildings behind the shops were not spared by the explosion.
Meanwhile, the state governor Dr Olusegun Mimiko who visited the scene promised compensation to those whose shops were razed.
He has therefore given officials of the Ministry of Lands 48 hour ultimatum to assess the situation and report back to government for necessary action to alleviate the sufferings of the people especially this period of festivities.
The officials were seen at the scene of the fire outbreak on Tuesday collecting names and data of owners of the shops and what they have in their shops before the ugly incident the shops were inspected to verify the claims of the shop owners.
Reports gathered at the scene of the incident showed that the owner of the Gas reservoir got his consignment that ill fated day and while argument ensued between his wife the supplier that the gas has not gauged and more was added.
But while they were about tightening the nose of the reservoirs it was discovered that it had again been over-gauged hence it started leaking gradually.
The offensive odour of the gas attracted shop owners who informed the owner.
It was learnt that unknown to a woman who resides in one of the mud houses behind one of the shops that danger lurk in the corner brought out her cooking materials and lighted a match stick which caused the explosion.
Fire from leakages
The leakages attracted the fire from the kitchen of the woman and it went straight to the two gas reservoirs which has just been filled to the brim and it lifted itself and flew from one end to the other causing havoc on its trail.
One of the gas reservoir was seen some meters away from where it was stationed after it was refilled.
The owner of one of the shops razed to ashes, Mr. Adeniyi Collins said he was away in church after the day’s sales when he was called that the shops were up in flames.
Collins said he lost paints worth N3 million as nothing was rescued from the shop.
Others who spoke to Vanguard, include Mbielu Gabriel, a building material seller, Alonge, an Agro chemicals seller and Mr Ayo, the owner of Ayo Ola electronics.
They pleaded with government to come to their aid, lamenting that they have lost all they had laboured for over the years.
Both NEMA officials and the state police command said nobody died in the incident contrary to some media reports.
Led by Mr Saheed Akiode, to the scene, NEMA officials said the incident was as a result of gas explosion in one of the shops in the area.
Akiode who is the Head of Operation for Ekiti state covering Ondo and Osun States said that there was no casualty in the inferno while those injured have been treated and that those that got severe burns have been taken to trauma hospital in Ondo town for medical attention.