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Kerosene adulteration and attendant tragedy

Kerosene adulteration in the country has left in its trail many casualties both in human and material. It creates cause for worry because it dates back to time. More worrisome is in the fact that the culprits seem intractable while the trend is difficult to arrest.

Adulteration of the product comes at a huge cost for the country. While some theorists see it as something that will disappear with time, it is taking gargantuan proportion daily. The government in itself look clueless while the criminals smile to the banks riding on the throes of the blood of the innocent.

Adulteration as a word has legal implications when it comes to patent rights, that of petroleum product is more lethal because it carries with it tragic bye products that can wipe out a whole nation. This is when we remember that adulteration of kerosene causes explosions when the product is used in lanterns, stoves and other cooking instruments and this happens at short notice. Most explosions take place in the oil producing areas where this illegal act is prevalent.

Although there are no coherent statistics on the number of casualties from kerosene explosions, available indices show that it is countless and many families may never recover from the havoc caused by the tragedy.
Some examples will however suffice. Between September 22, 2016, to January 7, 2017, a total of 18 kerosene explosion cases were recorded in Akwa Ibom State.

In this explosions, four persons died with many left incapacitated. Statistics at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital revealed that all the four dead persons were females and five of the injured, males.
The recorded explosions occurred through adulteration of the genuine products and wrongful use of the product in stoves and lanterns. The explosion usually led to skin burns which leads to loss of water, dehydration and death.
From February 2017 until present, there are several recorded kerosene explosions in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, claiming many lives. In one of the incidents, a 50-year-old housewife in Cross River State died. Another claimed a little boy, a mother of two and injured 17 others.

In 2007, 10 persons were found dead and 30 others seriously injured in Warri, Delta state following explosions in their homes from adulterated kerosene. Several homes were affected by the explosions, which occurred as the victims tried to light their cooking stoves or lanterns, which had been unknowingly filled with adulterated kerosene.
Of the 30 injured persons, many were left incapacitated till date.
Kerosene, is the main fuel used for cooking and lighting especially by the majority of poor citizens as an alternative to electricity and gas.

In spite of its everyday need, the scarcity of the product in Nigeria is legendary, creating cause for concern on the role of hawks and rogue government agents who divert the product for personal gains. Studies show that the scarcity is caused by deliberately inadequate importation of the product and its diversion from domestic uses to other areas. While those involved in this unholy act are known in the corridors of power, they are more less known names but remain untouchable.

From research, Kerosene may be adulterated by adding other liquids which may be miscible or immiscible. In Nigeria kerosene adulteration comes from the addition of water or petrol, or diesel or gas condensate depending on the price deferential between the product and the adulterant.

In a recent survey by the Department of Applied Science and Technology in the Oyo State Ministry of Industry, four out of the five samples of diesel taken from filling stations within the Ibadan metropolis in the South West of Nigeria indicated up to 70 percent kerosene adulteration.

The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reported that some unscrupulous kerosene dealers in the country have cultivated the habit of adulterating domestic kerosene (HHK) in their bid to cream off excess profit from the sale of the product.

It advised the public to be wary of adulterated petroleum products and seek assistance from its offices when consumers suspect foul play.

NNPC’s warning that consumers should seek assistance from the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, NNPC depots or offices when in doubt however does not resonate with the public. It sounds insensitive to the plight of the villagers.

How many of those poor souls in the hinterlands will have the resources or leverage to keep locating DPR or NNPC offices each time they buy a bottle or two.

The nature of these explosions and the number of souls lost daily require a more radical approach to solving the issue than current lukewarm approach that neither scare the culprits nor arrest the trend.
The government also needs to take a second look at its subsidy policy that empowers the criminals both at the corridors of power and in the villages.

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