By Augustine Awunor

In this article, I will not dwell on giving details about the possible causes of these road accidents involving tankers such as what happened recently in Rivers State on the 26th of April,2024.

Due to my location, as at the time of writing, I cannot give the  exact numbers about how many lives that were burnt to ashes in a horrible manner. But it’s clear that over 20 trucks and 40 other vehicles were destroyed. 

I will rather seek to provoke conversations on first hand or preliminary preventive control measures that can be taken while emphasizing on one of the main causes of these incidents and accidents. Which mainly has to do with Training and retraining of the operators? It’s a complex field. 

The events  have become too regular. Hence this is my first article . We cannot continue to siddon look.  

In transportation, incidents and accidents are inevitable but they can be controlled and reduced to a considerable level of safety.  That’s where this essay finds it’s logic. Its high time we started  to look for lasting solutions. Nigeria is signatory to the UN multilateral agreement alongside Morocco as the only visible African countries. 

Uganda and Armenia , just in 2021 were recently added to the list of countries that adhered to the United Nations multilateral agreement concerning the transportation of dangerous goods. Venezuela (South American) and Angola (both oil producing countries) were absent in this UN list of 54 sophisticated countries. Sophisticated because of the laudable objectives they identified with; which is to avoid such cases. And because of the advantages that can come from being able to contain the flow of different classes of dangerous goods through the UN recommendations. They are also considered sophisticated countries because they are in the same league with top industrialised countries we know today. 

But  what makes an industrialized country?.  Are these frequent events  not a reflection of our capacity to curtail the problems in this sector? For example   , The Hydrocarbons (the category of products from our refineries) is just a fractional part of all the required earthly matters in UN database…(An android application is tagged ADR, and can be download to your phones for quick referencing)  So we need to live up to expectations by reorganizing this important sector of our economy . 

Are we not supposed to be leading  Africa as regards  to the establishment of risk management frameworks in the region?   We must not only talk about UN when it has to do with Human rights abuse etc. There exist other important resources from the same UN of which we need to pursue and follow the guidelines to enable us  align ourselves as equal partners in global best practices as well as meeting the inevitable goal of industrialization. 

How can we achieve our development goals or get  industrialized but cannot  manage the flux of hydrocarbons (both in its liquefied or gaz forms) These products are dangerous to toy with. The temperature at which these products liquefied varies from one product to another, therefore the behaviour of the operator must adapt in terms of prudence. Moving kerosene is not the same as moving benzine. It therefore requires the admission of skilled personnel and this is where the regulatory authorities must intervene. The army experts can also intervene in training the operators in some cases it’s worth it. Anything that can kill en masse should not be left to just anybody to handle. 

Related News

Hydrocarbures liquefié (in french) are usually with the codes UN1202,(for diesel),UN1203 (for fuel),1223 (for kerosene). Together with their danger  codes (30,33,30 respectively) which on seeing these codes , will help the  operators , trained drivers to know their different flash points (point in which they get enflamed), they ll also know when ,how and what quantity to charge into the vehicles ,  safely to their destinations following the professional guidelines . Hydrocarbures in compressed gazeous forms are more serious to be left in the hands of inexperienced drivers. The legal responsibilities lie with the Dispatcher. 

A litre of Gaz in liquid state equals to 250 litres thereabout. Temperature in which these products are transported must be checked and controlled. Some liquefied Hydrocarbures increase in volume even on transit as they dilate due to their properties , hence some are required by prescriptions to fill its container at a maximum of 80% . They are are neither toxic nor with characteristic odour but they are very inflammables especially their Gaz form. An empty tank can equally be dangerous.   It’s all about respect to rules and prescriptions which depends heavily on the employers , due to  complexities in the field. The Employers are usually trained and obtained licence to operate these “dangerous goods”. 

The fear to loose their licence will compel them to engage with skilled personnel. What most companies do is to obtain the service of security consultants  who are equally knowledgeable. Because, these products have prescriptions from the onset( loading), up to the offloading.                       

We need to make sure that these operators give attention  to safety details including the vehicles. If other aspects of our economy had not been specialized, this sector must work at least. It supposed to be conserved. All the vehicles must be controlled periodically . These are matters that are related or concern our country at this stage of our development being an oil producing country and designated source of revenue. It’s like using second hand tools to embark on a long term project.   

 However there are five of these liquid hydrocarbons category, if we include the aviation fuels. They are considered as the less risky matters except the UN 1203 . Especially when  compared to classes 1 or 7 which are the explosives   and radioactive s respectively . We need to specialize on how to manage the products  that concern us for now. 

We are not building nuclear weapons so let us  endeavour to be safe and prevent these horrible occurrences. Our authorities should go back to drawing board and fix this case that reappears like a reoccurring decimal. Others chemical also have their prescriptions and they are moved by individuals without respect. 

We must, as doctrine of necessity, focus on the training of the operators or drivers and all those who are involved in the sector. Persons should be employed by merit and not because of common membership or  other reasons. They are dangerous goods and must be treated as such.  We must be strict in the operations.

These products are classified as dangerous goods including kerosene in  advanced countries they are taking as serious matter. so before anybody can transport such goods it is required to have required training and those involved are usually checked up medically. 

This  problem has become very frequent. It’s a great news that government considers construction of an alternative route from Lagos to calabar. But that is a temporary measure. Even individuals do transport these goods indiscriminately. Formulating policies or enforcing existing policies will be fundamental to preparing for a sustainable development; we have to prepare or create frameworks that  they (future generation) can build upon and regulation that can be there for long time .

• Awunor is certified by The Belgian Institute of Transport and Logistics ITLB