By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
No fewer than 153 Nigerians have died as a result of fuel tanker fire accidents from January this year till date, findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed.
Some of the incidents across the country, claimed dozens in one fell swoop, while a few were lone crashes.
Within the period under review, only the month of May did not witness any fatal petrol tanker mishap in the country.
A breakdown of the checks showed that about 15 people died monthly in fuel tanker accidents.
The following states witnessed the disasters: Cross River, Anambra, Edo, Ekiti, Oyo, Niger, Gombe, Ebonyi, Benue, Kano, Ogun, and Lagos.
Sunday Vanguard could not get the official statistics from the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, and Federal Fire Service to compare notes, but officials of the agencies in separate interviews outlined efforts they are making to reduce the crashes.
Even the number of fatalities could not be obtained from the fire service, a situation that echoes the data challenge in the country.
Note, the FRSC is known for having statistics on road mishaps.
Before now, the problem had existed but it has taken an alarming dimension following the growing number of tankers transporting petroleum products to every part of Nigeria.
The total number of fuel tankers operating in the country could not be ascertained by Sunday Vanguard from Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and other relevant bodies, but the number keeps increasing daily.
Further findings indicated that most of the mishaps were not unconnected with human error, especially non-compliance with safety measures. Others were attributed to the deplorable state of roads across the country.
Sunday Vanguard learned that Nigerian roads were designed to accommodate 33,000 litres of fuel but 90,000, 60,000 and 45, 000 litres are often loaded at the tank farms leading to the accidents.
The attendant losses are unquantifiable since they result in loss of lives and property.
For instance, the FRSC estimated that Nigeria lost N7 billion to road traffic accidents involving 116 petrol tankers in the first half of 2018.
The number of incidents this year suggests that the material and human losses may rival the previous year.
At least 60 people died in Odukpani, Cross River State after an overturned oil tanker exploded while people were scooping fuel.
Properties worth more than a hundred million naira were destroyed in an explosion that involved petroleum tankers in Warri.
The incident, which occurred around Nigercat Bus Stop, along the NPA Expressway, Warri, consumed not less than 10 tankers.
The driver of a fuel tanker lost his life in a fatal auto crash that occurred in Benin, the Edo State capital.
The crash occurred along the Benin-Lagos Expressway, in front of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
The truck, fully laden with diesel, veered off its lane, fell and exploded, while trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle said to be driving against traffic.
Police in Anambra said seven persons died following a petrol tanker explosion at Amawbia Roundabout. The tanker bearing petrol fell and went up in flames.
No fewer than four persons sustained various degrees of injuries when a petroleum tanker exploded at Ido Ekiti, in Ido/Osi Local government area of the state.
The accident happened along Ido-Ifaki Highway at about 9.30 am as a result of brake failure.
Two people were burnt beyond recognition in an inferno caused by an explosion from a tanker carrying petroleum product.
This happened in Onipepeye area, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ibadan, Oyo State, when a tanker spilled its content on the road which led to the explosion.
It was gathered that no fewer than six vehicles and 10 motorbikes were also burnt in the fire incident.
12 people were killed and 16 others badly injured when a fuel tanker exploded in Gombe.
The driver lost control of the fuel tanker as he tried to avoid colliding with another truck at a bridge on the outskirts of the city.
Two persons were confirmed dead in a blaze after a tanker laden with petrol skidded off the Ibadan end of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway.
The police authorities in Oyo State confirmed the incident.
According to them, the tanker spilled its content into a nearby intersection while an unconfirmed number of people sustained burns of various degrees.
A fuel tanker explosion that occurred along Abakaliki/Enugu Express Way consumed a welder popularly known as Best Brian, whose shop was located at Afikpo Abakaliki.
A fuel tanker carrying petrol exploded and killed not less than four persons in Edo State.
The incident happened on Saturday along Uzogholo Junction, opposite St. Joseph Catholic Church Uzogholo Ewu, Esan Central LGA.
At least 50 people died after a fuel tanker fell and exploded in Benue State on July 1, 2019.
The tanker exploded in Ahumbe village along Aliade Road in Gwer East Local Government Area of the state while heading towards Makurdi, the state capital.
One person was confirmed dead while another sustained injury when a tanker filled with gasoline, diesel, exploded at Rano Road in Bunkure, Bunkure Local Government Area of Kano State.
The Ogun Command of the FRSC said one person died and another injured in an accident that involved two vehicles and a motorcycle at Jujo Area, along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway in Ogun.
A petrol tanker explosion in Niger State killed six people, leaving eight others severely injured.
The Niger State Emergency Management Agency, NSEMA, had earlier announced the death of one person while 10 others were injured. The explosion happened at Dikko-junction on Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
One person was confirmed dead in Gombe State after a fuel tanker caught fire in an accident involving another truck and a motorcycle.
Eyewitnesses said the accident occurred along Gombe-Bauchi Expressway while one of the trucks was trying to overtake another.
One person was confirmed dead while four others were seriously injured after a petrol-laden tanker went up in flames on the Kara-Ibafo end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The tanker, travelling out of Lagos, fell into a ditch around 5.15 am and exploded around 4.40 pm while its product was being trans-loaded into another tanker.
A fuel tanker carrying 33,000 liters of Premium Motor Spirit fell along the Eke Obinagu-Emene-Abakaliki Road in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but residents and road users said the incident was not unconnected with the potholes that dot the ever-busy road connecting Enugu and Ebonyi.
A truck fully loaded with petrol exploded and caught fire in Ogun State.
The fuel-laden tanker went up in flames where it was parked overnight.
The incident, it was gathered, occurred at the median, by Kwyakyama axis, after Ogere toll gate, along the Ogun State portion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Two persons died and five were severely injured in a major fire incident that occurred along the busy Lagos-Ibadan expressway as eight trucks and three articulated vehicles exploded on impact.
The midnight incident caused serious traffic gridlock, with motorists on both sides of the expressway held down for hours.
On October 16, 2019, a fuel tanker in Ochanja Market, Onitsha, spilled its contents in the neighborhood and sparked fire that ravaged buildings, consumed goods worth millions of Naira and ended lives.
A woman and her child lost their lives but the casualty figures are still not clear.
A day after the Onitsha incident, another fuel tanker also fell and caught fire in the commercial city of Anambra State. The incident occurred on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway at 3 a.m.
Instructively, these cases identified by Sunday Vanguard, may not totally represent all the incidents as they are only fatal crashes. Those that do not result in fatalities are in the majority.
Lagos State alone records 56 tanker breakdowns weekly.
Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Transport, Mr. Wale Musa, who revealed this to Sunday Vanguard blamed tanker drivers and owners.
”Most of the accidents involving fuel tankers, both as a result of breakdown and fire breakouts are due to human factors on the part of owners and drivers. For example, the Otedola Bridge incident and others were due to carelessness on the part of drivers. Most of them are under the influence of hard drugs because they believe they need it to be agile behind the steering-wheels, ‘’he said.
Lagos State Sector Commander of FRSC, Mr Hyginus Omeje, painted a more scary picture, saying that Lagos had already surpassed the 302 number of tanker crashes recorded in 2018.
Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, put the figure at 100 so far. Whichever, the situation is disturbing.
To understand the real threat posed by fuel tankers nationwide, peruse the submissions of LASEMA, Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS, and state fire service.
However, if the assertions of FRSC are anything to go by, possible solutions are not out of sight.
But the remedies depend on NUPENG’s level of compliance.
You only need to read the inputs of all the stakeholders, who spoke to our reporters, to fully understand the sitch.