Falcon Corporation Limited, a privately held, wholly indigenous midstream oil and gas company, and operator of the Ikorodu Natural Gas distribution franchise recently organised a stakeholders’ forum themed: “Gas Pipeline and Underground Infrastructure Safety: The Community Advantage.”
The forum served as a platform to engage stakeholders within the gas franchise zone on the importance of managing underground infrastructure in a collaborative, concerted, and cohesive manner so as to ensure safety of lives, properties and investments.
Participants at the event included business managers, heads of departments, representatives of government agencies, community leaders and the media.Welcoming participants, Manager, HR and Shared Services, Falcon Corporation, Mrs. Chidinma Maduka, said: “we created this forum to engage private, and government entities whose operations within the zone involve deployment of underground infrastructure, as well as, the host communities. (This is) in order to educate them on the need to preserve the assets in the local environment, and take the infrastructure on ground as their own.”
Falcon Corporation has several kilometers of gas pipeline traversing Ikorodu, which supplies Natural Gas to Nichemtex Limited, Sunflag Limited, Dangote Pasta Limited, Africa Steel Mills Limited, MBH Power Limited, Ikorodu Steel Mills Limited, and Industrial Energy Ikorodu Gas Limited, and a host of others.
The Head, Business Development and Commercial, Falcon Corporation, Mrs Chichi Emenike, said the issue in focus related to the rising level of infringement the gas pipeline network, and the potential dangers of encroaching on our Right-of-Way (R-o-W).
Right-of-Way is the legal right granted to a pipeline operator to install, operate, repair and maintain pipelines strictly under the Oil Pipelines Act. She said: “Infringement on a gas pipeline either unintentionally or through direct acts of vandalism, not only causes losses to our organisation, the companies which are dependent on our gas as fuel for their operations, but can also cause extensive damage to both lives and properties within the host communities.
She attributed the infringement to two major factors, including the award of multiple permits by government agencies (State and Federal) to various operators on the same R-o-W, and the lack of composite data, and mapping of the existing underground infrastructure within the area.
In his keynote address, the Managing Director, Falcon Corporation, Prof. Joseph Ezigbo, reiterated the need for individuals, corporate organisations operating in Ikorodu, and relevant oversight government agencies to fully understand the existence and significance of the natural gas pipelines and associated infrastructure.
Represented by his Manager, Technical Services, Emeka Arizor, he said: “the continuous growth in the nation’s production, processing and commercialisation of natural gas to feed projects of strategic national importance is placing increasing pressure on the already inadequate national gas pipeline grid. Indeed, gas network infrastructure is one of the highest investment requirements for use as a nation now if we are to attain some of our stated industrialisation objectives.
“Therefore, there is a heightened imperative to maintain and preserve the existing pipeline infrastructure while attention is paid to other areas required for growth. Lagos State, in its development into a megacity plays a prominent role in this national industrialisation; of which the Ikorodu area is of critical significance.”
The HSE and Quality Manager, Falcon Corporation, David Musa, cited instances of vandalism Falcon had experienced, and suggested ways to engage the company should there be attempts to infringe upon the gas pipelines.
Musa said: “Gas pipelines are vulnerable to unsafe human activities that can cause destruction of lives and properties. We have for instance, previously recorded cases of excavation on the R-o-W by telecommunication, Internet service providers, and power companies. It is advised that third parties being engaged by these companies should have the authenticity of their licences checked, especially as Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulation Agency (LASIMRA), has previously sent reports of fake licenses used by said vendors (third parties).”
Commenting, Head, Enforcement Unit, LASIMRA, Alao Lateef, said his agency is the one-stop governmental institution specifically in charge of all R-o-W permits, and are liable for all documentation with regards to permits and authorised permission provided to install infrastructure.
The representative, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Obiora Emenike, commended Falcon Corporation for its community engagement, urging continuation, as this will garner the support of Ikorodu residents in ensuring the security of the infrastructure.
Representing the Nigerian Gas Marketing Company (NGMC), Tari Olali, affirmed that Falcon Corporation operates strictly on global best practices given its certification on ISO 9001:2008, and OHSAS 18001:2007.
He explained that Falcon infrastructure is operated on behalf of NGMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and is therefore a national asset every stakeholder must safeguard.
Other stakeholders at the forum, including community representatives from Ikorodu North, also gave feedback and suggestions to avoid further infringement on the gas infrastructure.
Representatives of telecommunications service providers, Globacom, and Airtel agreed with Falcon’s position, confirming they had also experienced similar issues on their infrastructure regarding excavation and infringement of their transmission lines due to multiple R-o-W permits issued.
They therefore requested that government put in a greater effort in safeguarding infrastructure investments by private companies that have authentic permits. The representatives of National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), and Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, commended Falcon Corporation for the forum. Also, the State Fire Service, Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA MPP & UD), and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), affirmed the importance and appropriateness of the forum.
The Chairman, Community Development Association, Ikorodu North, Laja Martins, also commended the activities of Falcon Corporation, and its continuous engagement with Ikorodu residents, while promising of their full support.