Yet to be specified numbers of persons have been feared dead after a crude oil tapping point in Rumuekpe community in Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State exploded in the early hours of Friday.
The chairman of Emohua local government area, Dr. Chidi Lloyd blamed and accused International Oil Companies (IOCs) and Security Agencies of aiding oil theft and illegal oil bunkering activities in the local government area, leading to the unfortunate loss of lives in the council area.
The Council Boss in a news release made available by Bright Jossy-Elendu, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman, Emohua Local Government Area, described the collaboration between the officials of IOCs and security operatives as a delibrate attempt to sabotage the fight against illegal oil bunkering activities otherwise refered to as Kpofire in the area.
According to the Press release, the council chairman made the accusation when he visited the scene of the fire outbreak occasioned by illegal oil bunkering activities in Rumuekpe community, Emohua Local Government Area on Friday.
The fire outbreak which claimed the lives of yet to be established number of persons who were allegedly scooping petroleum product from a pipeline along the Ovelle-Nvakaohia section of Rumuekpe community in Emohua Local Government Area occured at the early hours of Friday, leaving about five vehicles and three tricycles suspected to be used for the transportation of the criminally scooped petroleum products completely burnt.
“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 places like this so that they collaborate with the perpetuators, everybody want to be posted here to come and collect money.
“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”, the Council Boss said.
The Emohua local government chairman who commiserated with the families of the victims of the fire outbreak, urged relevant organs of the Rumuekpe community to activate the necessary machineries in the community to establish the number of the victims who are indigenes of the community.
He however frowned at the resurgence of illegal oil bunkering activities in parts of the local government area after an advocacy and enforcement exercise carried out in the area by his administration in line with the directive of the Governor of Rivers State, H.E Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who has been at the forefront in the fight against oil theft and illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria.
“Today my people have died as a result of this but when you try to stop them, they say there’s hunger in the land. Then I ask, do you need to dig a hole to cover another hole?”.
“We commiserate with the families of the victims and pray that the souls of those who died in the inferno rest in peace but it’s unfortunate that after all we did to stop this menace; after all the advocacy to make our people understand the danger associated with this activity some still went back to it.
“In line with the directive of Governor Nyesom Wike, the chairmen of the 23 Local Government Areas in Rivers State did everything possible to stop this menace but we were never encouraged by the federal government”, the Council Chairman said.
The council chairman called for a sincere collaboration between the three tiers of government for an intensive enforcement to eradicate oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products, especially in the oil producing states, stressing that the federal government that is exclusively empowered to champion the fight against oil theft cannot succeed without the government at the third tier who understand the localities and the geography of the rural areas where these menace are perpetuated.
“The federal government need to be sincere, you don’t come here and go straight to communities to do a road show without synergizing with the local government councils who understand the area very well.
“The minister of petroleum and the chief of army staff visited some communities, clamped down on a few perpetuators and went back to Abuja without a proper synergy with the state and local governments.
“Today the boys are back and I hear they’re even more technical now. So, Mr Minister and the army chief have to come back and do the right thing because there’s a limit to what the local government can do because petroleum is in the exclusive list but with a proper synergy we can end this.”
The Emohua council Boss was accompanied by the councillor representing Rumuekpe community (Ward 8) in the Emohua local government legislative assembly, Honourable Bright Green Obilor and a combined team of security personnel, as well as pipeline security and surveillance, according to the press release.
It was gathered that one of the buses loaded with crude oil went up in flames while trying to navigate to an illegal refining point in the area.
The explosion caused an inferno that burnt dozens of people including women beyond recognition.
The incident, which occurred along the Trans-Niger Delta Pipeline (TNP), also burnt many vehicles and tricycles to ashes.
It was gathered that persons around the tapping point, who had either loaded the crude or waited for their turns were all killed by the explosion.