Some residents of Tema Communities 16 and 17 Batsoona and Lashibi, have against the siting of some fuel service stations namely Nick Petroleum and Shell Vigo Service Station within the communities.
According to them, they have been forced to take this step because of the complete disregard of the many petitions submitted to the agencies of state responsible for regulation and enforcement. They are frustrated and disappointed at the lack of action by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA), the Ghana Police Service, and their supervising Ministries who have all looked on unconcerned whilst the construction of these service stations have gone on with impunity, and in complete disregard of the recent directive from the Presidency that all such constructions nationwide be discontinued until further notice.
Narrating the situation to the Press, The residents of Communities 16, 17, Baatsonaa and Lashibi, said they became aware of the construction of a fuel service station in the community, off the Abattoir Road sometime in February 2017 and a petition was sent on the 13th of February, 2017 to the NPA and EPA expressing concern over the siting of this station in the community. Even before this issue could be discussed, construction of a second service station, less than 100 meters away commenced. The environmental sanity and safety risks of these activities were highlighted in the petition.
A resident Lucas Y. Chigabatia who spoke On Behalf of Residents of Communities 16 and 17, Batsoona and Lashibi, Tema said construction works continued whilst they were waiting for a response to the petition and with the onset of rains, water filled the large dugouts for fuel tanks posing imminent danger of collapse of the fence wall of one of the adjoining properties.
A second petition was submitted on the 20th of March, 2017 to draw the attention of the authorities to the danger and after waiting for about 6 months, the residents received a letter from the CEO of the NPA informing them that the Authority had granted permission for the construction of the service stations.
In his letter, the CEO indicated that a committee set up to investigate the matter confirmed that indeed the service stations were less than 10 and 50 meters away from a school and a hospital, and shared walls with the homes of some residents but he went ahead to granted permission assuring that strict supervision will be exercised during construction to ensure that the walls of the dugouts to house the underground fuel tanks would be re-enforced. Not long after, the walls under construction at one of the service stations collapsed.
Some inconsistencies in the claims in the CEO’s letter left residents suspecting that the CEO might have been tricked into signing a letter so full of untruth and fraudulent claims. No further reactions have come from the NPA since. Meanwhile, the construction of the second service station, less than 100 meters away from the first one, had commenced in earnest, and in complete disregard of the concerns of the community.
In September leaders of the community were invited by the National Security to discuss our concerns following our reply to the letter of the CEO of the NPA granting permission for the construction of the service stations. At this meeting, residents were assured by a Minister of State, Bryan Acheampong, those investigations would be conducted to ascertain how the permits were acquired, and whether all the procedures, processes and laid down regulations were followed including community engagement. No official feedback has been received since then and yet construction works continued.
Residents said the construction works have persisted in complete disregard of the directive from the Presidency and the concerns expressed by residents in several petitions to state institutions (Ministries of Energy, Environment and Interior, the National Petroleum Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly). Nothing has happened. There has not been any action.
“So as you can see, we have all along conducted ourselves as responsible citizens of this country but unfortunately, the institutions that are supposed to protect us have failed. We have concerns, we are frustrated and frightened at what will befall us in the event of a disaster. How are we expected to be good citizens and not spectators if no actions are taken by state institutions to right wrongs in the society and protect the citizenry?” He questioned.
Residents revealed that there are a lot of risks associated with the siting of fuel stations at the community such as The risk of destruction to life and property, Environmental Pollution, Depreciation in the values properties in the area, Hikes in Property Insurance Premiums in the area, Lack of Community buy-in and doubtful legitimacy of Permits.
Mr. Chigabatia indicated that the legitimacy and grounds for issuing any such permits for these constructions, if indeed they exist, is questionable the Nick petroleum construction is not backed by any permit from the NPA. He said, The siting of these facilities have resulted in widespread anxiety among residents and parents of children who attend school in the community with knowledge of recent incidences in the Capital City resulting in loss to life and property.
They are hence calling on the responsible authorities for regulation and enforcement to give the needed attention to their petitions and take action to address their concerns. “We want to continue to be good citizens living in the belief that state institutions work to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the vulnerable in society. We are disturbed by the impunity of the owners and the inaction of the NPA and other regulatory bodies which could lend some credence to perceptions of implicit approval of this impunity because of political and other considerations.” He concluded.