By Chiemelie Ezeobi
In order to undertake full and conclusive investigation, authorities of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may have decided to impound the oil barge identified as MT Britiana-U, which exploded and killed two persons at the Leventis Bus Stop, Marina, Lagos on Monday. There are suspicions that the barge exploded out of negligence and recklessness, which caused the fire.
Registered as no 284481, Brittania-U Nigeria Limited, the owner of the barge, is an indigenous and integrated company incorporated on December 4, 1995 under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Brittania-U group also diversified in 2008 into a downstream sister company known as Nextee Oil & Gas Trading Company Ltd. This was to increase indigenous participation in the downstream sector and as such started its petroleum products marketing operations.
According to a security source, who spoke to THISDAY on conditions of anonymity, some government officials had visited the dockyard Thursday to see the carnage.
Their actions, he said, stemmed from the fact that the explosion was said to have been caused by a welder who was working with flames onboard the ship.
THISDAY checks revealed that the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the group is one Mrs. Uju Ifejika. Her online introduction reads, “I am Mrs. Uju Ifejika, the Chairperson and CEO of the Brittania-U group, the first of my gender in the Nigerian Energy & Petroleum sector.
“We are an emerging Energy & Petroleum group, achieving laudable milestones in the industry and building partnerships that keep us on the win-win path.”
The company started business as a medium general enterprise and contracting company with the vision to become an integrated and profitable Nigerian oil and gas company.
According to Ifejika, the company’s mission is embedded in being a business entity that is professional, ethical, with clear business objectives, growth, profitability as well as customer focused.
She noted that since petroleum is their core business, starting from exploration to production, refining, trading, supply and distribution, and marketing, they would respond to local challenges, but act global, to meet international standards of business and operation.
However, their objective is to contribute to the nation’s value creation for the well-being of the people through “better quality of life and ensuring a safe environment” amongst others have been questioned with Monday’s explosion that culminated in the death of many people and injury of many others.
But when contacted, Deputy Director, NIMASA, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, debunked the claim.
According to him, “investigations are on-going. So, I did not impound any vessel. I just said they should co-operate with us but if they do not, then there will be trouble.
“But for now, we have no reason to impound the vessel and that is because it is a local vessel and so within our reach anytime we want to go onboard to clarify issues.
“If it were a foreign vessel, then we would impound it because there is every possibility of its absconding from the dockyard to avoid the penalties of their actions.”
Disclosing the intent of their inspection, he said: “We did not go there to blame anybody rather to discuss on ways to prevent future cases like this from happening.
“Although investigations are ongoing, we have to come out with a plan that would outline the lessons that we have learnt from this incident and then finally make the required changes.”
When THISDAY went back to the scene of the incident Thursday, tight security was mounted outside to prevent anyone from entering the premises.
One of the security guards, who spoke to THISDAY in confidence, said the owner of the ship was around to take the NIMASA team around the entire ship for inspection. However, all efforts by THISDAY to talk to some of the victims in the explosion proved abortive.
At the United Bank for Africa’s (UBA) parking lot where about seven cars were affected in the Monday explosion, only three were left behind. Checks revealed that the shipping company had agreed to pay for the cost of repairs of the affected cars.
They cars are: a Black-coloured Honda Civic with registration number IZ10AAA; an Ash-coloured Honda car with registration number MQ557KJA; and a Green-coloured Toyota Carina car with registration number CX355MUS.
At a glance, the Honda Civic and the Ash Honda car were terribly damaged by a heavy banister that was said to have flown off the ship at the impact of the explosion.
THISDAY met some mechanics at the site estimating the amount of damage done to the cars and what it would cost to repair the destroyed cars.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the mechanics told THISDAY that they were contracted by the shipping company to estimate the cost of repairs and then proceed to fix them.
He said: “The shipping company does not want to prolong the matter. That is why they accepted to fix the affected cars without any hassles but the other Honda car cannot be repaired.
“They have to buy a new one for the owner. They can afford to do so because the car in question is not expensive. At the least, it would cost about N450, 000 to buy a fairly-used car of the same make.”
Some of the victims whose cars were burnt declined to speak to THISDAY. According to them, they were already in talks with the shipping company and so; did not see the need to drag the issue.
Re-living Monday’s experience, some of the eyewitnesses said that when they heard the violent blast and the subsequent tremor, they all fled for their lives. They noted that their first thought was that the dreaded religious sect known as Boko Haram had invaded the state with their deadly blasts.
Despite claims that two people lost their lives in the inferno, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said only one person died in the incident. .
Others that sustained injuries, he said, were rushed to the hospital for treatment where they are receiving adequate care. He blamed the explosion on the leakage of gas from some of the cylinders aboard the vessel as it was undergoing repairs.
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