Of Gas Stations, Regulators and Kyikyinga sellers

As a boy I remember listening with dismay and horror about eleven children who had died in an abandoned septic tank at Akoto Lante. To hear of major tragedies like that were few and far between. These days it seems large scale disasters are common-place.

Who can forget the June 3rd disaster of 2015? There was talk, condemnation and more talk and then nothing.

The Ghanaian authorities did what they did best…a reactionary and senseless approach. Structures in a perceived wrong place were demolished. I lost my favourite neighborhood yam seller and shoe repair guy in that eye service purge.

7th October 2017 will also go down in our history as another major, avoidable disaster. Another gas station exploding.  This time at Atomic junction. The inferno was seen in many parts of Accra and people as far as 20 km from the epicenter ran for their dear lives.

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The reaction the next day was typical.” Closing filling stations in residential areas” seemed to be the popular demand.

The truth is, regulators in Ghana suck. I know someone trying to operate a filling station, who has had to jump through a multitude of hoops to get approval from the National Petroleum Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, the district assembly, as well as neighbors where the filling station will be situated.  Why we can’t have a one stop shop for approvals with regards to safety I will never understand. We just loooooove bureaucracy, lines and frustrating people.

So when people reacted in 2015, by bashing the regulators, one of the explanations for the June 3rd disaster was that continuous rains for about a week had led to water mixing with the fuel and when the fuel tanks exploded water was a catalyst in the spread of fire killing over a 100 people. Apparently a single individual also had a major part to play in that disaster….an individual who left a cigarette butt lying in the vicinity of the station. There is always this need to point the blame to a person who can be identified and probably vilified for causing the disaster, as opposed to the faceless regulators taking responsibility.

The regulators then went to work promptly shutting down “unapproved filling stations”, and making it difficult to get licenses to operate filling stations.

Fast forward 2 years later and the villain this time is a khebab or ‘kyikyinga’ seller. Atinga was a better scapegoat suspect than the faceless regulators who had obviously gone back to sleep. I heard in details a nicely crafted story of the role of the ‘kyikyinga’ seller in this latest disaster. RR Martin should hire these storytellers to help in writing Game of Thrones. Mercifully, the Ghana National Fire Service has since dismissed these spurious claims against the khebab seller.

Social media was of course alive with footage from vigilant citizens turned journalists and the usual debaters all had something useful to say. See some of the more interesting and hilarious ones:


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This is Ghana.  Expect the story to die in the next month and everything back to normal like this never happened. Nothing learned.

May all the victims of this senseless disaster rest in perfect peace.