It was yet again another pipeline fire tragedy in Lagos on January 19, when at least three persons were killed in multiple pipeline explosions in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State.
Several others were injured in the inferno which torched many houses and vehicles. Many of the residents in the vicinity fled as soon as they started perceiving heavy smell of petrol, about 15 minutes before the explosions.
Even many people living far from the scenes of the incident kept vigil, just in case of any emergency. Three fire stations – Agege, Abesan and Alausa – were drafted to battle the fire even as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mosimi, Depot, Ogun State, had to shut down the line to reduce the intensity of the fire.
Although the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) said investigations had begun to ascertain the actual cause of the fire, many people finger the hands of pipeline vandals who usually burst the pipes to siphon petroleum products.
It is difficult to fault this line of reasoning, especially given several such experiences that had also led to loss of lives and property. Pipeline vandalism did not just start in the country today; it has a fairly long history, with the attendant loss of limbs, lives, property as well as a lot of cash needed to fix the damage. We also have the collateral environmental pollution whenever pipelines are wilfully damaged by people who seek to make economic gains from the act.
Petroleum and associated products are transported through extensive network of pipelines that run across different locations throughout the country.
The problem, however, is that the pipelines are poorly secured, thus making it easy for vandals to have access to them whenever they want to carry out their nefarious activities.
Between January and August 2016, for instance, Nigeria recorded 1,600 cases of pipeline vandalism. The then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who disclosed this at the 2016 Annual Conference of National Association of Energy Correspondents with the theme, “Low Oil Price: Impact and the Way Forward”, in Lagos, added that 3,000 pipeline vandalism cases were recorded from 2010 to 2015, with heavy consequence for the country’s revenue.
What the recurring incidence of pipeline vandalism tells us is that the Federal Government and the vandals have not learnt any lesson from the dangerous act. On the part of the government, it would have been expected to devise a working mechanism to reduce the incidence to the barest minimum.
Technology can be deployed to monitor the pipelines such that it would not be a free reign for the criminals whenever they decide to strike. The vandals, on the other hand, ought to have learnt useful lessons from the deaths of criminals like them who died in the process of siphoning fuel from vandalised pipelines.
Nothing can justify such high risk venture, especially when it is realised that the wages of pipeline vandalism is death. Unfortunately, many other innocent persons suffer collateral damage whenever things go awry in the course of siphoning the fuel.
We commiserate with the families of those who died in the unfortunate incident. We also commend the various emergency responders who quickly rose to the occasion when the incident occurred, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), the Lagos State Fire Service, etc.
It is our fervent hope that the state government would fulfil its promise to see how it could help the victims mitigate their losses.
More importantly, the state government should collaborate with the Federal Government to see how such calamities can be averted in the future.