Lashibi residents protest siting of fuel stations

BY: Della Russel Ocloo
Some of the protesters with placards
Some of the protesters with placards

The siting of two petrol refilling stations opposite a school in a densely populated area at Lashibi Community 17, near Tema, has created apprehension among community members.

As a result, the residents last Friday poured onto the streets to demonstrate against the location of the stations in the area.

The demonstrators who wore red armbands, and carried placards with inscriptions such as, “NPA, No filling station in residential area”, “NPA, enforce the law”, “Mr President, Save our community”, “Mr President, our children are at risk.”

Speaking to the media on behalf of the residents, Mr Lucas Chigabatia claimed that they petitioned the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly, expressing their misgivings over the environmental impact and safety risks of the project.

“Even before the issue could be discussed and a compromise reached, construction works on the second station which is being built in the name of Shell Ghana Limited, also commenced,” he alleged.

Fuel stations

The two stations, about 50 and 100 meters apart, are cited close to Excel Community School, which has a population of about 450 pupils, and several homes.

Work started on the station early 2017 but was halted following an initial protest by the residents.

One of the stations, Nick Petroleum, however, resumed work in October 2017 and is due to open soon in spite of the NPA’s signpost that indicates “Stop work, produce permit” at the frontage of the facility.

The community is densely populated with several homes, hotels and a new hospital which is under construction. Several people also ply their trade near the facilities.

Permission

According to Mr Chigabatia, following the failure by the NPA and EPA to respond to their initial petition, they followed up with a second petition in March 2017. They later received a response from the NPA in September last year that stated that, permission had duly been granted to the owners of the two facilities to go ahead with their respective projects.

He, however, expressed misgivings about the decision by the NPA, saying, “We are aware of the devastating consequences of accidents associated with these kind of facilities when they do occur and we are frightened beyond measure.”

“The siting of these two facilities has resulted in widespread anxiety among residents and parents of children who are pupils in the nearby school,” Mr Chigabatia added.

 Appeal

Mr Chigabatia subsequently petitioned the President through the Chief of Staff  to enforce regulations to ensure that the rights of citizens are protected.

“We should not wait for another disaster to happen for ministers and public officials to go round hospitals and homes in the name of sympathising with victims,” he said.

Reaction

For his part, the Communications Manager at NPA, Mr Anny Osabutey, explained that, “following the Atomic Junction gas explosion and a subsequent directive by cabinet to halt all constructions, the NPA ensured that persons with legitimate permits were asked to hold on until all necessary safety issues were addressed.”

He, therefore, expressed surprise at the conduct of the owners of the facilities and gave an assurance that his outfit would apply the necessary sanctions.

The Communication Manager also said they would meet the concerned residents to resolve all outstanding issues regarding the citing of the stations..