As Cameroonians tear their 2019 calendar and embrace 2020, one obstinate date continues to bug the economic mind of the nation: 9.55 pm, 31 May, 2019. That was the moment an explosion hit the production unit of Cameroon’s National Refining Company (SONARA). The SONARA is based in the coastal area of Limbe, headquarters of Fako Division in the South West Region. The deafening explosion unleashed a fire tongue gulping the central part of the only oil refining company that Cameroon has since 1973. Thankfully, no human life was lost to the ugly incident but oil economists maintained that one of Cameroon’s economic nerve centres was so destroyed. SONARA has continued unfailingly to supply the energy liquid though ever since, petrol traders have multiplied. Fuel from doubtful sources has inundated the street corners. Peddlers have strategically occupied highways and streets with their sign of the thumb pointing down. It is evident, for example, on the Douala-Limbe highway and even in major towns of the South West Region that one can find fuel after every one kilometre.
As the Government Minister of Water Resources and Energy, Gaston Eloundou Essomba, headed to the SONARA-base in Limbe in the morning of 1 June, 2019, the atmosphere was grim.
On-the-spot sources suggested that the damages observed were apparently caused by fire, which originated from a deafening explosion. The trembling effects reached the offices especially in the administrative block. Cracks appeared on the walls of the offices, broken windowpanes with debris littered on the floors of many rooms. Patches of the ceiling also came down, all of these suggesting major repair-works in the days ahead to enable a renewed conducive working environment. Even neighbourhoods of SONARA received quakes with cracks on walls of living homes. An investigation commission was set up to determine the exact and detailed causes as well as the dimension of the incident.
The fire consumed 70.769.400 litres of stock-fuel. SONARA had undergone an eight-month periodic work-stoppage due to internal works. They simply extended their holiday during which importation of fuel continued for the Cameroonian market. “Imports would continue normally and SONARA Laboratory will continue to perform its income generating analysis normally”, authorities said.