*NSTIF to wades in
10 January 2016, Abuja — The federal government has revealed that it may prosecute Intel Corp Oil Limited owners of LPG Gas Plant in Nnewi, Anambra State.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige who made this known when he inspected the scene of the gas plant explosion at the head office of Chicason group of companies in Nnewi, Anambra state, which claimed about 120 lives on Christmas eve and destroyed properties worth millions of naira, expressed shock at the magnitude of damage caused by the explosion.
Also Ngige said petrol stations and factories built close to residential homes would be sanctioned by the federal government. Such establishments, he said, have proved to be dangerous to public health.
He said his ministry had mapped out safety measures to forestall future recurrence, and frowned on siting of petrol stations and factories near residential areas because of the vulnerability to accidents.
He extended his sympathy and that of the federal government to the Chicason Group and the families of those who lost their relations.
He said his ministry would send health inspectors to the company to certify the health safety environment of the establishment and directed officers in his ministry to liaise with the management of Chicason group and compile comprehensive information on the damage caused by the gas plant explosion in order to enable the federal government to make an informed pronouncement on the incident.
According to Ngige, the days when the ministry was seen merely for job creation are far gone, stating that, “these things are related to workers; the days when people think Ministry of Labour will only be concerned with giving jobs are over.
“No, we also make sure that when people are given jobs whether in public or private sector, the job is safe, workers are paid well. It is decent if you protect them, and to protect workers and look after the risk of health hazard, you must put some safety checks.
“I am told that one safety check for this gas plant is from sprinklers on top of where you are gassing so that in case of anything, the sprinklers will automatically sprinkle and put off the fire and cool the gas plant.”
The minister further explained that “if there are lapses, they will have to correct them. Otherwise, we will have to prosecute them”. To this end, he assured stakeholders of new laws and rules that would strengthen industrial safety across the country.
Manager Director of the company, Louis Ilozue explained that the company was able to ensure that workers and customers were not affected by the gas explosion.
Ilozue said but for the quick intervention of the gas consultant, the devastation would have been more severe. He told the minister that only three deaths were recorded, including a pregnant woman.
Ilozue assured the minister that the company would provide all the necessary details regarding the explosion to facilitate government investigation on the root cause of the gas explosion.
Speaking to journalists on the need for industrial safety nets for workers, Managing Director of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) Abubakar Munir said: “Our major concern has always been whether you are at peace or at war as you can see the unfortunate has happened, it is very unfortunate. It is always very good to register and make sure they pay the contribution as is stipulated by law because we don’t know what will happen. Nobody is safe, it could be in a second; even in a normal office atmosphere that something can happen.
“So obviously this registration is very important that is the reason why we are emphasising that everybody must register but unfortunately, all of the companies are registered apart from this particular company which is very unfortunate.”
Munir stated that “my people had assured me when I met with them that they are already coming here to get them registered. Unfortunately they are going to register them when this has happened to them.”
He contended that though “nobody died; those who are injured, we can take care of the bill but then they will pay arrears right from day one. We are following the process.”
Munir added that the arrears will be paid “from the day the scheme started, from the day they started operating. The scheme started way back during Jonathan’s government in 2011, the day they started operation that is the day they started paying.”
*Charles Onyekamuo & Paul Obi – Thisday