By Godfrey Bivbere, Ebuka Oko & Gideon Nnaemezie
Residents of Satellite Town, who before 2014 lived in the serene environment, are today living in fear following the siting of 50 tank farms housing over 2.5 trillion litres of petroleum along the water-front of the community.
Satellite Town stretches from Alakija to Abule-Ado along Badagry Expressway down to the waterside and beyond.
Following the location of the tank farms in the town, life for the residents has taken a turn for the worse each passing year. Not only because of the dangers associated with the tank farms but the complete takeover of all the connecting streets by tankers.
The 50 tank farms are operated by 30 oil marketing companies including A.A. Reno, First Royal, Chipet Nigeria Limited, MAO Petroleum Company, Build Global Energy, Manoj Oil, Star Oil and Gas, First Deep Water, and Ocean Pride Oil, Rain Oil, among others.
The tank farms, Sunday Vanguard, gathered, have the capacity to store between 30 million to 60 million litres of petroleum products. At an estimated 50 million litres of petroleum products per tank farm, the volume of petroleum products of the 50 tank farms will bring the total volume to 2.5 trillion litres.
The Chairman of Satellite Forum, Michael Imitini, in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, said the community is a residential area where no industrial activity should take place.
He said: “Satellite town is a residential area. It is not an industrial area. From 1960 when we got our independence, Satellite Town has been a residential area. And by 1966 and 1967, when some houses were built, they were mainly built for legislators and individual occupants. Approvals were also given by the former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, That was what brought up estates like Chevron, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, National Pension Fund, NPF, and individual houses.
“In the first place, we don’t know how they came about the approval for the tank farms. They have turned the area into a chaotic one such that it can take two to three hours to complete a journey from Waterside to Fin-Niger that should normally take five minutes. This is due to the gridlock.
“This gridlock also affects us in the case of emergencies as there are no alternative routes. Students, entrepreneurs and workers alike arrive late at their various destinations due to this problem.
“Our plea is that we don’t need any additional tank farms in Satellite Town. We are asking the federal government to look into the activities of the existing 12 marketing companies that have over 50 tank farms. We are saying that they should get a time limit for them to quit and relocate them out of Satellite Town”, he added.
He further condemned the on-going plans of Promenade Oil and Gas Company to site more tank farms.
“They are in the final stage of the review now.
“They didn’t communicate with the community, the questionnaire they claimed to have administered was not given to the community and nobody ever laid hands on that questionnaire for Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, that was conducted.
“And most of all their designs and whatever thing they said that they were going to put in place when the tank farm is at 95 percent completion are not up to standard.
Imitini further explained that the lives of over one million residents in the area are at risk.
This is because there had been two near-fatal fire outbreaks that claimed six lives.
These tank farms do not have adequate firefighting equipment thereby worsening the situation.
For instance, Sunday Vanguard learned that during one of such occasions, Julius Berger Construction Company provided its firefighting equipment to salvage the situation.
Apart from the above, the Chairman pointed out that five bonded terminals are soon to become operational thereby, complicating the already disastrous situation.
The Secretary of Satellite Town Forum, STF, Akorede Kamal said some faulted the government for not doing a proper check and evaluation of the environment before issuing licenses to tank farm owners.
He declared that the community is “sitting on a keg of gun powder “that could explode in an instant.’’
Kamal called for adequate measures to nip this impending danger in the bud and also bring some form of relief to the already despicable situation.
Also speaking, a member of the forum and Chairman Media Committee, Ndubisi Okafor, called on the government to wake up to their responsibilities and save the community.
“We want the government to take up its responsibilities and plan things very well because people cannot just come and site industries everywhere. These things have to be regulated. You don’t come to a fully built residential area and start building all these volatile investments which are very dangerous.
“We have had incessant fire outbreaks and loss of lives in the past due to these tank farms. Notwithstanding, there is the impending danger of a massive explosion because of the carelessness of several tank farms. These tank farm owners have no regard for human lives.
“Sometimes, some of their tankers filled with petroleum products leak on the roads. They are talking of consultation with the members of the community and residents yet you still see a lot of problems in the community. What manner of consultation is that?
We want people to hear the voice of the community.
Let me categorically say that we are putting the cart before the horse here, like starting a building with the roof, that is what they are doing and that is the Nigerian factor which is very bad.’’
An on the spot assessment by Sunday Vanguard showed that some of the tank farms are mostly built on natural flood channels and drainages.
Whenever it rains most areas in the community are flooded as a result of the blockage of the flood channels.
Sunday Vanguard was told that the tank farm owners are not bothered.
The only access road, Marwa Road, leading to where the petrol depots are located, is the only major link road in the community and it is in a state of disrepair.
Also, Sunday Vanguard learned that the presence of the tank farms has led to health challenges in the now densely populated area.
There is an increase in the rate of waterborne diseases especially among children.
The fumes emitting from the tank farms constitute health hazards to members of the community.
Abandoned their houses
Further investigations in the area showed that most landlords have either abandoned their houses or sold them for fear of the dangers brought about by the tank farms. Many residents are also moving out of the area as a result of the situation.
Businesses in the once serene community are being shut down due to the deplorable state of the environment.
Speaking on some of the findings made by Sunday Vanguard, Okafor observed that: ‘’The activities of tankers and the deplorable nature of major roads constitute a major part of the problems caused by these tank farms. The fact that there are no alternative routes to escape the gridlock caused by the tankers worsened the situation.’’
Other residents who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the condition of anonymity, lamented that the Oriade Local Council Development Authority, LCDA, which is located on the failed link road, does nothing to ameliorate the suffering of the residents.
In fact, from the deplorable state of Satellite Town, it is obvious that the LCDA looks the other way while the tanker drivers and truck drivers constitute danger to residents.
Oriade LCDA, unconcerned
The LCDA was accused of not performing even the least of its functions, which was identified as clearing of drainage systems and grading of failed feeder roads.
“Even when the LCDA clears the blocked drainage systems, the specks of dirt are left on the roads beside the cleared drainage systems. They are making money from the tanker drivers, that is why they don’t care about the dangers posed by the tank farms. If the situation continues, in two years Satellite will be a ghost city. I believe when that happens, those, who sold lands to the tank farm owners would realise how foolish they were.’’