Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Sunday, accused officials of National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of conniving with vandals to wreak havoc on the country's economy through pipeline vandalism.
He said this following the fire at the corporation's pipeline at Arepo village in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of the state, which claimed unsuspecting number of lives.
Meanwhile, the Arepo explosion has disrupted fuel supply to South-Western states, an official of Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC, has said. The pipeline supplies fuel from Atlas Cove jetty in Lagos to other South-Western states.
Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, has, meantime, described the Arepo pipeline vandalism as big business for youths in communities close to the pipelines, because vandalisation had gone unchecked for over a decade, adding that explosions would occur as long as the security operatives and managements of NNPC/PPMC refuse to tackle the issue headlong.
Meanwhile, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, yesterday, said it had begun evacuation of dead bodies from Arepo village, scene of the pipeline explosion, adding that three additional bodied had been recovered.
It would be recalled that the death of over 50 suspected vandals occurred following a fire which was sparked off by some vandals, who stormed the creeks by boat to siphon fuel from NNPC pipeline.
Speaking when he visited scene of the explosion, Amosun told newsmen that, he was disappointed with the attitude of NNPC officials, who he said deliberately abandoned the multi-billion naira project for it to be damaged by hoodlums.
"It shows that we are our own problem in this nation. We are our own enemies, because, this is clearly a failure of governance. We have NNPC there, I have to say it and I am saying it with every sense of responsibility that, NNPC by their inaction is aiding and abetting the vandals.
"I want to believe that they are part of this pipeline vandalism with their inaction. Because, you can't have somebody there as Group Managing Director and they allow this to happen.
"Even the security people here are risking their lives. Look at the canoe NNPC is using at this age and time. Even when they say the place is combustible, they can use solar power canoe. If they agree, I will get all these place cleared before the end of March.
"Look at where they said the security watchtower is. Who will stay there to watch anything? This is not good for us as a nation, we are our own enemies. Public property are not looked after. We should do the right thing. This is a multi billion naira investment.
"How can we not spend a small amount to maintain it? That is why I said NNPC with their inaction are part of this problem. I want to believe that they are the people aiding and abetting these vandals. How can some vandals put everybody in this nation into problem? Just look at dead bodies littering the place?
"There is no access to go there and these are the people with sophisticated weapons. I even understand that it was the same spot where NNPC engineers were killed, so which officer will want to risk his life? If, we have this type of investment, of course it will do us good. We have started erecting the platform. They will put CCTV there and there will be control room.
" If they want to stop vandalism in Ogun State, I don't know of any other state, they should come and we will discuss because I don't want Ogun State to be on the front pages of newspapers for wrong reasons. I will write again to the appropriate authorities and I have been doing that.
The pipeline fire at Arepo ...
"This is not good for us as a nation. Every time, they will say that vandals have done this and that, what have they (NNPC) done. Some people will be in Abuja blowing big grammars, very ineffective" Amosun said.
A top management staff of DPR who spoke to Vanguard on telephone, yesterday, said, "Arepo pipelines is a big business because, some village live off the pipelines and have no other job, so vandalism will continue.
"Arepo has been happening for years, not one, not two, even over 10 years and since then, the security agencies are not helping neither is PPMC the owners of the pipelines in checkmating the havoc."
Members of NNPC Group Public Affairs Department contacted by Vanguard said they were in a meeting.
"We were lucky this time around because a lot of people could have died in the explosions. This is because when the first explosion happened, people in the area ran away, and the nearest depot also shut down, so that by the time the second explosion happened, which was more deadly, there was hardly anybody around."
NEMA's Public Relations Officer, South West, Mr Ibrahim Farinoye, told Vanguard on phone that, so far, three additional bodies have been evacuated from the area, adding that search for bodies would continue today.
He said the agency will employ the service of the people in the area that know the terrain in the search effort.
"So far, three additional bodies have been evacuated. We are going there tomorrow (today) to continue the search and remove anything we found there."
Asked to comment on the figure published by national dailies, Farinoye said it could not be established until the exercise was concluded.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun, C.P. Ikemefuna Okoye and other Security Agents inside the local boat heading to the scene - Photo by WUMI AKINOLA
Residents flay security agencies
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Journalist Estate Residents Association in Arepo village, Mr Gbayode Somuyiwa, has said that he suspected unholy alliance between some security operatives and vandals, who siphon petroleum products from NNPC pipelines.
Somuyiwa alleged that security personnel attached to the place had failed to safeguard the place against activities of the hoodlums.
He described the situation as a major concern to the residents of the area, who are mostly journalists and urged the Federal Government to intervene, adding that the government needed to go beyond talks to employing more technology in monitoring the areas.
Spokesman for PPMC, Mr Nasir Imodagbe, when contacted by Vanguard, said the vandalisation of Arepo pipeline had disrupted operations of the company, adding that officials of the firm were already on ground to arrest the situation. He added that the effects of the vandals' activities were minimal as PPMC plans to resume operation soon.
"Vandals have disrupted our operation but PPMC officials are on ground to put out the fire. The effect cause by the damage was not much but as soon as the situation was addressed, we will resume operation. The situation will not be as bad as the first incident that led to fuel scarcity in Lagos and other south-western part in the country."
He regretted that few nefarious elements were bent to destroy government property at the detriment of Nigerians.
Imogagbe urged Nigerians to be vigilant and report any suspicious movement made by hoodlums in areas where government property are sited, particularly pipelines.