As petroleum tank farms operations continue to make life miserable for Satellite Town residents
By Kenneth AFOR, LAGOS
Satellite Town, established as one of the earliest housing estates in Nigeria’s post independent era in the mid ’70s may have served at least to a very large extent its purpose of providing affordable houses for civil servants who dedicated their time in service to the nation.
Satellite Town is one of the many communities including Ijegun-Egba, FESTAC and Abule-Ado along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway in Amuwo-odofin Local Government Area (LGA) with an estimate of about 500,000 people. The residential area is gradually turning into a slump infrastructure wise due to the illegal operations of petroleum tank farms in the area early 2011.
The area was once known as a serene environment where retired civil servants stay but in the last 35 years there has been rapid housing development as other estates built by banks, oil companies and private property developers are located.
Satellite Town since the return of democracy in 1999 has been neglected despite having representatives in the National Assembly and State House of Assembly. The area is yet to feel the ‘dividends of democracy’ in terms of infrastructural development compared to other neighbouring communities including FESTAC Town, Ajegunle etc having good road networks and drainage systems.
The state of infrastructure in the area became rather abysmal since the operations of the tank farms – one of the major points where tankers come in to lift petroleum products mostly Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), gas and diesel.
The major road – Buba Marwa Road (constructed by the former military administrator, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa) which connects to the Lagos-Badagry Expressway enroute Mile 2, to other parts of the state, Abule-Ado, Fin-Niger and Alakija/Navy Town roads have all been taken over by these tankers and container trucks who ply the roads in their 20s and 30s day and night.
Their daily activities is making life unbearable for residents in the area, not only have they rendered the roads useless to a deplorable state, the continuous presence of traffic gridlock at peak periods during the day is one of the many hardships these tankers and trucks are causing in the area.
Most of the times, school children, workers, commuters and motorists partake in this untold hardship except for days when there are fuel scarcity.
Not only have they made life unbearable for the residents, their operations in the area due to the inflammable nature of petroleum products have exposed the residents to a life-threatening situation which can be caused mostly by human error if the necessary safety measures are not adhered to.
Neptune Prime’s reporter in Lagos in an interview with Governor Imitini, Chairman of Satellite Town Forum (STF), a front-line pressure group that has been advocating for the relocation of the four tank farms and demanding for the state government to come to the aid of the community to address the infrastructural challenges shares his thoughts on the current state of Satellite Town.
“The roads in Satellite Town is horrible. The deplorable state is nothing to write home about. In short, Satellite Town has no roads at all and this didn’t just started now, Satellite Town has been neglected for a very long time. With the tank farms that were sighted in the residential area it has contributed to the deplorable state of the roads,” the Chairman noted.
“You know, in Satellite Town, the Buba Marwa Road which is the major road is the only road that links to the community to the Lagos-Badagry Expressway – it is the main road that most people take and now with the presence of tank farms and due to the volumes of trucks that come in every single day, 24/7, nonstop, day and night, it has destroyed the Marwa Road.
“Now, there are other adjoining roads which could serve as an exit point out of the community these roads were also abandoned and they are not motorable, the coming of the tank farms into residential areas the first place that was approved by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Environment all gave approval is a very wrong concept in the first place.
“So, when we talk about Satellite Town, there is no single road – it is as good as saying there is no good road at all. We don’t have roads compared to other areas in Lagos like Ajegunle which have been a neglected area before now you go to every area in Ajegunle all the roads are tarred, their drainage system, the roads are well constructed but here, in Oriade Local Council Development Area (LCDA), I am telling you we are at the mercies of God, nothing is working.”
According to the Chairman, the STF came on board as a pressure group following the gradual activities of the oil companies including First Deep Water who were the first company to establish a depot in area, followed by Rainoil, Stallionaire Nigeria Limited and Ranogaz.
He revealed that the companies deceived the community saying they wanted to build a housing estate but to their surprise they started erecting gigantic oil storage tanks in the area and oil vessels started berthing in the area.
Having noticed that the companies were in the community for another purpose they swung into action and wrote several letters to the federal and state government informing them of the impending danger but the companies went ahead.
“Yes, STF has been on this vanguard for three years now, before we came on board, in 2010 – 2011, when we got information of the tank farms coming into existence we were not in existence then it used to be Liverpool Community Development Association (CDA), so our late chairman, Engineer Kenneth Ohumere and I as the vice we made all efforts to see that these tank farms does not exist but to no avail.
“We wrote letters to the state government and the federal government to stop the companies but because of power might in Nigeria they went ahead and started building the farms and the first company to build here was First Deep Water, in the actual sense, the original owner of the land from the (Omo ni Le) land grabbers was one Mr Ekpo that bought it, he sold it to Alhaji Amao, Amao later sold it to the companies.
“When they came their intention was that they wanted to build a housing estate but unfortunately for us we discovered that it was tank farms and we decided to swing into action to stop their activities but to no avail because they have money and the government is on their side, they defiled the environmental impact assessment and went ahead.
“When we saw the aftermath of their activities it became a serious issue that people cannot move in and out of the community – the road will be blocked entry and exit forcing people to trek, the worse part of it is the negative environmental impact which resulted to the blocking of all the water channels so almost all the housing estates in this area – Juvenile, Divine, Shalom, Heathrow even down to Fin-Niger Estate for you to know the extent of damage because they blocked the water channel.
“With these activities going we had to form a pressure group – the STF which I am the chairman. We have been in this struggle reaching out to all relevant ministries and department of agencies, the National Assembly but to no avail,” he added.
According to the chairman, the DPR agreed that the sighting of the tank farms at the initial stage was a mistake adding that due to the huge investment by these companies asking them to relocate might not be feasible at the moment but assured they would be relocated without giving a definite time frame.
“Our prayer is that the tank farms which is not supposed to be there should be relocated elsewhere.
“We’ve reached out to the DPR with series of meetings discussing the way forward. DPR admitted that it was a mistake on their part to have cited a tank farm in a residential area. Secondly, they said because of the huge investment made they cannot leave immediately and that with time they would leave but they did not give a time-frame, however, the issue is that we are not giving up,” the chairman said.
Having gotten the state government attention on the issue of infrastructural challenge in the area, the chairman suggested what can be done to reduce the hardship on residents.
“The state government should look into the issue of gridlock. You will pity children going to school, workers going to work in the morning, commuters and motorists. There is no time in Satellite Town that the road is free, it is always a gridlock in the sense that their trucks will be coming in and out at the same time.
“To reduce the traffic gridlock during the day anytime these trucks want to take petroleum products there should be a form of regulation by allowing at least 10 tankers at a time to come in. The container trucks should be allowed and controlled by the officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) presently, the traffic is left in the hands of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) taskforce officers who are collecting levies from the tankers – they don’t have experience in traffic management they should device another means of collecting their levies from the tankers.
“We appreciate the governor of Lagos State, his Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for giving the STF a listening ear and the people in the area however, while the state has approved the dualization of the Buba Marwa and Alakija/Navy Town Roads, the state should as well consider the inner roads connecting the streets.
“The state should collaborate with the operators of the tank farms, DPR, with us and agree when the trucks and tankers should be coming in to load their products so as to enable the contractors continue their work,” he said.
Also, Mr Okafor Ndubuisi, STF Media and Communications Officer, said the companies are only interested in protecting their business and not the safety of the residents.
He however, suggested that they should be relocated to non residential area.
A retired civil servant, Alhaji Abdulateef Adio, blamed residents for their nonchalant attitude for rising up at the initial stage to challenge the companies before they finally erected their structure.