On Sunday, January 19, 2020, explosion rocked the sleepy community of Abule-Egba in Lagos metropolis and claimed the lives of five people.
Heart-rending was the death of one of the victims, a toddler. The toddler, according to report, was trying to crawl out of the fire, which accompanied the explosion. The baby was crying as she tried in vain to reach her mum. Unfortunately, the mother was writhing in the throes of death. Both mother and child were consumed by the inferno.
Apart from those who lost their lives, scores of other people were injured while several others lost their valuables worth millions of Naira.
At the end, 17 shops were burnt while 33 trucks, three cars and three tricycles otherwise called Keke NAPEP were destroyed.
About 150 other people were displaced.
The explosion did not just occur. It was a direct effect of the ubiquitous vandals of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) oil pipelines.
This was not the first time the activities of oil pipeline thieves have wreaked havoc on Lagos residents, particular those living in the Abule-Egba axis of the metropolis.
On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, the vandals breached a pipeline at the Awori end of Abule-Egba which caused a huge explosion, which as usual, was followed by fire.
It was weeping and gnashing of teeth for residents of communities such as Abattoir, Abule-Egba, Awori, Oja-Oba, etc.
Fuel from the breached point at Awori flowed through the gutter spanning several metres and ignited fire at the Abattoir end which resulted in a conflagration at about 3a.m.
Property and goods worth over several millions of Naira were lost.
It was a disaster of monumental proportion.
Over 50 vehicles, 19 of which were parked in a car port belonging to a dealer, as well as about 100 houses and shops were completely razed in the sweeping fire.
Although the 2018 explosion was a huge disaster, it was a child’s play compared to that of December 26, 2006 in the same Abule-Egba axis.
In that incident, almost 300 people were believed to have lost their lives.
Vandals breached elevated pipeline carrying petroleum products, which attracted scores of people using plastic containers to scoop fuel into a tanker before puddles of flowing fuel ignited fire at dawn.
Explosion is not restricted to the Abule-Egba axis.
Nigeria has lost a great deal of revenue to pipeline vandalism.
According to a report, as at November 2019, the country had lost about $126.3 billion in revenue to activities of oil pipeline vandals. The report quoted Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Development Company Limited, the operators of the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL).
Aiteo said in a statement that the spate of sustained attacks on the key national oil infrastructure in its asset base, the NCTL, had become a matter of grave concern.
It said: “Despite significant investments in security, technology, and civic engagements, the destructive pattern of pipeline vandalism still persists.
“These attacks are persistent, sophisticated, and appear timed to inflict debilitating and disruptive effect…
“The disruptions that these attacks have brought about have led to direct, irretrievable and significant losses in production and consequently have created revenue deficits that directly impact all the stakeholders across the relevant value chain. The consequences say nothing of the significant negative and inherently damaging effect that these malicious infractions have on the environment
“Industry sources forecast that Nigeria will be producing at least 2.5m barrels per day (bpd) by the middle of 2020, mainly by fixing damaged pipelines and dealing with security problems. In the face of this extremely high level of deliberate sabotage, it seems clear that there are interests within the country that seem determined to scuttle this aspiration.”
On the individual level, it is difficult to quantify, in monetary value, the loss.
Apart from those who died, several others were maimed while others are still suffering from the psychological and traumatic effects of activities of the vandals.
We call on government at all levels and the NNPC to take urgent steps to end vandalism of pipelines.
Activities of security agents should also be properly scrutinised and anyone who has compromised the integrity of the agencies should be severely punished to serve as deterrent to others.
To secure the oil facilities, government and the NNPC must involve the local people. There is need for dialogue with traditional rulers – Baales, Obas, Obis, District Heads, Emirs, etc. – on ways to check attacks on oil pipelines.
After dialogue, we also urge government to hold the traditional rulers responsible for the breach on oil pipelines in their domains.
From the record, it has been discovered that some of the traditional rulers are actively involved in vandalism or give tacit support to vandals.
Government must be firm in its resolve to end the huge losses being recorded from the economic saboteurs.
A stich in time, it is often said, saves nine.