Port Harcourt — The Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC) has embarked on sensitisation of people in its catchment areas on the dangers of pipeline vandalism.
The Deputy Manager, Community Relations of the company, Mrs Edith Johnson, disclosed this in an interview in Eleme, near Port Harcourt, Rivers, on Friday. Johnson said that vandalism seemed to be on the increase, explaining that the high rate prompted the refinery to embark on the campaign.
She enumerated the dangers of pipeline vandalism as pipeline fire, pollution of the environment, loss of lives and economic sabotage. Johnson said that the enlightment campaign would be carried out at Okrika, Eleme, Port Harcourt Depot areas, trailer parks and other flash points in the area.
Also speaking, the PHRC Deputy Manager, Safety, Mr Uche Nna, said the organisation had been engaging the host communities on pipeline safety. Nna said that the company had set up a surveillance team to police the areas.
"Even at that, the rate of vandalism is still very high. I can speak that between PHRC pipeline outlets through Okrika to Jetty; so sometimes, we have several breakages daily.
"The Local Government chairman (Okrika) has been doing so well recently, trying to ensure that structures that are along that line are being cleared," he said. Nna said that some people had built structures along the pipelines where they could easily lay pipes underneath to tap oil unnoticed.
He said that the company had many pipelines passing through the community to the jetty where the bulk production of oil was pumped into ships. Nna said that the pipeline Right of Way (ROW), established by Gov. Chibiuke Amaechi was another measure to check pipeline vandalism.
He said that the ROW involved PHRC, Shell, AGIP and other companies that had their pipelines running through the 23 Local Government Areas with the state's Ministry of Environment coordinating.
"We have got to a stage where we identify and mark those structures so that as soon as the State Government comes in with the chairman of the Local Government area, we will remove those structures.
"As we are removing the structures, then the oil companies will quickly recover their right of way," Nna said. He said that apart from the fact that the pipelines were vandalized; the vandalism could clear a whole community.
"Once they vandalize the pipeline, if there is no fire coming from dowser strikes or coming from any other source of fire, all the materials, that is, the petroleum products, will find their way to the aquifer.
"As soon as they found their way to aquifer, the eco-system is altered, you will have the underground water contamination, you will have soil pollution. "And to remediate and recover those surfaces and take them out of the water is quite a lot.
"And if care is not taken and it gets down to Bonny Basin, that means the whole place is real issue, so it is a real concern," Nna said. (NAN)