Chairman of Emohua local government area of Rivers state, Mr. Chidi Lloyd, has blamed security agencies drafted to protect oil pipeline infrastructure in the state of collaborating with oil thieves
He made the allegation while visiting the site of the crude oil pipeline explosion last Friday in Rumuekpe community in the LGA. He said most of the security personnel in the state had became corrupted and turned into crude oil illegal merchants at the expense of the lives and property being wasted with each explosion.
He also blamed the federal government for ignoring locals in the security architecture meant to protect the pipeline infrastructure.
“There a number of things the local vigilantes, for instance, can tell about the location that the security personnel from Abuja cannot tell. The local government authority is ever ready to help and collaborate with any investigators or panel from the federal government,” Mr. LIyod said
He said: “It’s unfortunate that IOCs and security personnel are also involved in this. If they were not involved, tell me how those who scoop this product manage to transport them out of here, considering the number of security checkpoints around here.
“There is an army formation very close to the scene of this fire outbreak. Would they say that they don’t know that criminals are scooping petroleum products here?
“These days, security personnel lobby to be posted to juicy locations in the Niger Delta so that they collaborate with the perpetrators, everybody wants to be posted here to come and collect money,” the local government chairman said
“If officials of the oil companies are not involved, how do the criminals know when there is pressure in the pipeline? You can see that there’s a very strong cabal who are benefiting from this; not these ones roasting in the fire here.
“Top officials of the oil companies release information on when there’s pressure in the pipe.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Shell Petroleum Exploration Development Company [SPEDC] and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) are said to be currently investigating circumstances that led to the oil explosion.
There have been different accounts of the cause of the inferno. Some said it when a faulty vehicle battery sparked light off fire which caught up with the rickety bus carrying drums of crude oil
Another account said it occurred when a perforated oil pipeline burst, attracting miscreants to come and scoop oil in the location.
The incident, which occurred at about 3 am on Friday offered little chances for rescue as 12 persons were reportedly burnt beyond recognition, including vehicles and materials the oil thieves used.
A spokesman of Shell, Mr. Mike Adande, confirmed the oil fire at Rumuekpe – Nkpoku Trunk Line, operated by Shell. He said however that the technical team of SPDC was working with government authorities to ascertain what happened?” Mr. Adande said
In a report credited to the News Agency of Nigeria, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) confirmed that it has begun investigation into the explosion.
The chief executive officer, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, stated on Friday in Abuja that indeed the Commission began the investigation in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and would provide updates appropriately.
According to Mr Komolafe, the investigation is in line with NUPRC’s statutory regulatory oversight of upstream operations in the oil and gas industry.
“NUPRC wishes to announce that an explosion leading to a major fire incident near a pipeline in Rumuekpe community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers on Thursday night has been reported.
“There are speculations about the level of casualties, but the Commission cannot confirm any until after our investigation,’’ Mr Komolafe stated.
He assured that NUPRC would take all necessary measures to ensure that safety and environmental measures were put in place in line with global best practices to safeguard lives and the environment
The Rivers state Police Command spokesperson, Grace Iringe-Koko, also confirmed the incident, saying Police is already making progress with its investigations
By Bosco Agba