– Government must do more to avert further tragedy
The Nigerian authorities must urgently investigate the recent catastrophic pipeline explosion in Komkom community in Oyigbo, River state and take urgent step to stop further tragedies said Amnesty International.
“This tragedy could have been avoided. The long history of deaths as a result of pipeline explosions across Nigeria is an indication that authorities are not doing enough to address these perennial oil leak and pipeline explosions.” said Seun Bakare, Programmes Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria.
At least 48 men and women are reported to have died on 22 June 2019 while people were scooping petroleum product from a ruptured oil pipeline, following a pipeline explosion in their community. The government blamed the leakage of the pipeline which is managed by the government owned Pipeline and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) on sabotage and vandalism.
Amnesty International investigation indicates the reasonable suspicion that policemen attached to the nearby Afam police station of the Rivers state police command were largely responsible for the explosion.
Eye witnesses and government sources told Amnesty International that policemen from Afam police station were seen near the scene of the explosion shortly before the pipeline exploded. They alleged that a patrol team from Afam police division fired gunshots into the pipeline because of failed demands for bribes from people stealing petroleum products from the leaking pipeline. The fire started shortly after the policemen shot in the air.
“The incident must be investigated and those responsible for the deadly incident brought to book. The government must compensate the victims and ensure that incidents of pipeline leakage and explosion are urgently addressed,” said Mr Bakare.
More than two weeks after the incident, a police spokesman contacted by Amnesty International said they are still investigating.
“Pipeline explosion and fuel leakages have become frequent causes of death in Nigeria. While many of the fatalities occur because of people recklessly scooping for fuel, it is the responsibility of authorities to put in place security and safety measures to avert such tragedies,” said Seun Bakare.
At least 150 people have died in over 17 cases of pipeline explosions in Nigeria since January 2015. In October 2018, at least 60 people died when a pipeline exploded in Osisioma in Abia state, south east Nigeria. Most of the explosions have been blamed on pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering by local community youths and criminal gangs. However, there were instances where negligence by oil companies had led to deadly explosions. Nigeria’s most deadly pipeline explosion occurred in October 1998 at Jesse town in Delta state, killing an estimated 1200 people, with many more people injured after a ruptured pipeline led to an explosion. In most cases there is no proper investigation and prosecution of people responsible for the explosion. Victims are hardly compensated or rehabilitated.