A former Environment Minister in the John Mahama administration has disclosed that a lot of political pressure was brought to bear on him, which affected his fight against illegal siting of filling stations.
As a result, Mahama Ayariga said he was unable to close down a few more illegally sited gas and petrol stations.
“It is a major problem and I have to be very frank that undue political pressure is the reason why filling stations get sited at the wrong places,” he told Gifty Andoh on The Pulse on JOYNEWS channel on MultiTV.
The Member of Parliament for Bawku Central said at the Municipal Chief Executive level, permits are issued to people to site gas and petrol stations at wrong locations.
“But party financiers and cronies insist [going ahead with operations] and sometimes bend the rules in their favour,” he added.
According to him, with regards to some filling stations that were pulled down or shut down during his tenure, even senior church leaders, big imams, colleague Ministers, party functionaries on the ground all called to give him pressure.
“They all try to say that this and that person whose station has been shut down has been this or that helpful to the church, party or the community so isn’t there nothing that can be done to ameliorate the situation?”
Mr Ayariga said he just declined their requests and referred the persons in question to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but another dicey issue to navigate was that the complainants already have permits from the EPA.
Last Saturday, a tragic gas explosion left seven dead and more than 130 injured at the busy business community of Atomic Junction near Madina in Accra.
The explosion comes more than nine months after a similar disaster at La in Accra claimed 11 lives including the sister of Trade Minister nominee at the time Alan Kyeremanten, Bridget Darko. Close to 40 were injured in that disaster.
Preliminary investigations into the December 22 gas explosion pointed to missing bolts and nuts on a tanker emptying gas at the station as the possible cause of the fire.
However, in the latest case, Mahama Ayariga said although the Atomic Junction filling station did not escape their radar when they were undertaking their routine checks, “most of the areas they stopped [from operating] were triggered by community complaints.”
Mr Ayariga explained that his office received lots of petitions and a lot of the communities he visited during his time in office which became the subject of discussion received attention as individuals and groups petitioned.
He explained that he did not fail Ghanaians an Environment Minister arguing the area is inappropriate for the siting of gas and petrol station otherwise the National Petroleum Authority and EPA would not have granted them operating permit.
“The issue that may arise today may be a failure of some equipment there and that is the responsibility of routine checks. Like they themselves have indicated, they [EPA] did go there, found that there was a problem, recommended that it should be fixed and it wasn’t fixed,” he said.