The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is collaborating with the security agencies, states as well and community leaders to check the incidence of pipeline vandalism as well as its attendant outbreak of fire, death and destruction of property
NNPC Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, told reporters yesterday in Lagos during his tour of the scene of the fire explosion that occurred at the corporation's pipeline at Abule Egba, a Lagos suburb on Sunday night, that the fire incident claimed five lives, left many critically injured while assets worth millions of naira were burnt.
The affected pipeline, which is among the System 2B Pipelines, supplies petrol from the Atlas Cove to Mosimi and Ilorin depots.
Kyari described the fire explosion in the area as unfortunate.
He said: "First of all, an unfortunate incident has happened, and more importantly, we lost five lives, confirmed, and there are many more people who are in critical conditions in hospital, and that is very pathetic for us. We think that it is right for us to come and commiserate with the community and the Lagos State Government for the sad incident that has happened.
"But more importantly what is happening around this pipeline from Atlas Cove into Mosimi, and all the way to Ilorin are acts of vandals of all natures along our right of ways. What they do is that they make insertion into our lines, tap petroleum products and at the end, it ends in the disasters we have seen like this.
"This is happening daily. We are working with the security agencies to make sure that we reduce this to the barest minimum. We are working with particularly the Nigerian Navy, the Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian police and all other agencies of security, including the Department of State Services (DSS) to contain this to barest minimum.
"What this portends is danger for all of us. If this incident had happened under a windy condition yesterday, we would be talking about thousands of people dying in this place. And more importantly, Nigerians must know that these activities are happening within communities - people are aware of what is happening".
He said Nigerians should support the corporation to stem pipeline vandalism, describing such as a major national security concern.
The GMD, however, said the line which was shut down due to the explosion had been reopened for continued supply of products to Mosimi and Ilorin.
"We are very happy also that we have restored the line after the break. We shut down the line to contain the damage that it could cause and now we are back on stream.
"Petroleum products are flowing all the way from Atlas Cove to Ilorin as we speak now. But what is important is to sustain this and sustaining it means that everybody must help us and cooperate with us," he added.
While acknowledging that there are some bad eggs in the NNPC who might be colluding with the vandals in their illicit acts, Kyari said through the collaboration with the security agencies, such compromised officials would be ejected from the organisation.
Kyari stated that NNPC had in the last two to three years worked with security agencies to flush out bad elements out of the corporation.
"And to the communities who harbour this, the warning is that this will constitute danger to all of us. But to those who are particularly involved in siphoning petroleum products or laying pipes into their homes, the Lagos State Government and the Ogun State Government have agreed that we take out these houses.
"Whoever owns it, whatever they do, once we establish that your property is involved in this, we take it out, and we are already doing that," he stated..
According to him, the Nigerian Navy has demolished over 300 houses along the right of way "and we will continue to do this; and by the time we are done with this, sanity will come to this line, and we assure Nigerians that this will be the safety for all of us, particularly the communities that live around our assets."
The Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral, Oladele Daji, who spoke on behalf of the security agencies, confirmed the collaboration between them and NNPC.
He said: "In line with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, we mobilised under Operation Awatse, all apparatuses of security agencies comprising the Nigerian Navy, civil defence, the police, the army and air force to support the NNPC clear its pipelines right of way all the way from Atlas Cove to Mosimi.
"It is an ongoing operation and we will be collaborating with the Lagos State Government in the coming days to ensure that the operation is hitch-free."