As more households shift away from kerosene to cooking gas, residents of many communities in Lagos and Ogun are now living in fear as several gas shops have sprung up, retailing the product with little or no regard for fire preventing measures.
Many retailers in Lagos and other parts of the country sell cooking gas to customers by refilling cylinders in their shops, a development that has gained traction over the past few years following the efforts by the government and other stakeholders to promote its consumption.
In Lagos, the cooking gas retailers are almost on every street, dispensing the product from their 50kg cylinders to willing buyers’ cylinders of 12.5kg, 5kg and below.
Similar situation is playing out in fast-growing Ogun communities such as Mowe, Ibafo, Magboro and Arepo.
The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers has raised concern over the rising number of retailers refilling the cooking gas in shops.
The Executive Secretary, NALPGAM, Mr Bassey Essien, said, “It is a cause for concern. We have vehemently spoken about the development, and called the attention of the Department of Petroleum Resources to it. Every accident that has to do with the LPG draws the industry backwards and this is what we are trying to curtail.”
According to him, resellers are supposed to go to gas filling plants to fill cylinders and sell to consumers without engaging in refilling.
He said, “Before you can have a licence to resell cooking gas, a standard filling plant will sign your application form – that is like recommending you. And based on that, the DPR will give you the licence.
“But now, many have gone beyond what the licence allows them to do. They are now transferring from cylinders to cylinders in the shop. Suddenly, it is now catching up; everybody is doing the same thing. Even some of the enforcement agencies are overwhelmed because the rate at which more shops are springing up is alarming.
He added, “There is no way you will fill a gas cylinder and gas will not leak by the time you are disconnecting the hose. A lot of those shops are sited in the midst of other businesses, including restaurants. Some of those shops don’t even have fire extinguishers in case anything happens. The earlier we stop this growing trend, the better.”
The DPR has said it is illegal for retailers to refill cooking gas cylinders in their shops.
“We have licence for the LPG resellers who are approved to sell. Basically, it is an exchange shop where customers come and exchange empty cylinders with already filled cylinders. No refilling or decanting is approved for that category of licence,” the DPR told our correspondent in an emailed response to questions on the issue.
According to the DPR, there are various categories of licences for the LPG operations, namely depots, refilling plants, industrial consumers and resellers.
It said, “We usually close any reseller that we see during surveillance that violates the regulations, and we continue to call on members of the public to report to the nearest DPR office nationwide any observed refilling or decanting for appropriate action.
“We consistently carry out surveillance activities to shut down illegal facilities, sometimes in collaboration with relevant security services to arrest and prosecute such offenders.”