A pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) exploded at Arepo Village, Owode, Ogun State killing nothing less than 50 suspected vandals.
The explosion is said to have been ignited by some vandals who stormed the creeks by boat to siphon fuel from the NNPC pipeline.
Arepo was the scene of the murder of three NNPC officials last year by vandals. One of the vandals who survived yesterday’s incident was said to have participated in the murder. He was arrested alongside a doctor taking him to the hospital for treatment by the police.
The doctor, in his defence, said he was only responding to distress calls.
It is feared that the damage to the pipeline could worsen petrol scarcity as it supplies the product from Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos State to other South-Western States.
According to an eyewitness, the explosion occurred after an argument erupted between two of the vandals who were struggling to siphon the product from the pipeline and it resulted into a heated argument that made one of them who was armed with a rifle to shoot indiscriminately into the air. The bullets from the rifle then hit the ruptured pipeline and led to an explosion. Meanwhile, men of the Inspector-General of Police’s Special
Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit who were on patrol of the area responded to the explosion.
It was in the course of the response that they arrested some people, including the survivor identified as Sunday Reuben and the doctor.
The source alleged that the doctor was trying to smuggle the survivor to his private clinic for treatment. The survivor who had suffered severe burns disclosed that more than 50 of them were stealing petrol from the ruptured pipeline when the explosion occurred as he pleaded for the rescue of his colleagues “blown away by the force of the blast and dying in the creeks.”
His claim could not be confirmed as the fire was still raging as at the time of this story preventing access to the place.
In his story, he said he was at home when a friend of his, Sulaiman called him and informed him of a job at Arepo creeks. He was asked to look for a canoe and come with as many gallons as he could carry. Shortly after his arrival, he saw people fighting and then a gunshot rang out.
“The next thing was the explosion. Thank God I wasn’t close to the pipeline. It was the heat of the pipeline that affected me. I was able to run to my boat where my mother was waiting. There were so many of us, both men and women. We are more than 50 persons there, and most of us are still inside that fire. Most of them are still in the creeks dying, please help them. Iya Olabode called a doctor who was about taking me to the hospital when we were arrested by the police.”
The doctor on his part said he was merely acting on his oath to protect life. He explained that Iya Olabode, his customer called him to attend to a patient in her house at Abule Oba, Ikorodu area of Lagos.
“I have been a family doctor to Iya Olabode for the past three years. So when she called me that there was an emergency, I quickly rushed to her house where I saw Reuben badly burnt. I advised that we should take the man to my clinic for better treatment. It was on our way there that the police arrested us.”
He went further to state that he never inquired how the patient sustained the burns, because he knew Iya Olabode to be a good and respectable business woman and he was in a rush to save a life.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the task force, Friday Ibadin confirmed the arrests saying the explosion took place at 2am yesterday.
“Shortly after the explosion, policemen led by Sector Commander, Lagos, DSP Onaghise Osayande, cordoned off the area to reduce casualties while they awaited the arrival of fire fighters to quench the fire. It was in the process that they stumbled upon a jeep carrying one of the survivors and a medical doctor who were on their way to the hospital. In the course of interrogation, we discovered that the survivor was one of those who participated in the murder of NNPC officials last year.”
He disclosed that the task force arrested six suspected vandals who were alleged to have been involved in the killing of the three NNPC staff at Arepo village, Owode, Ogun State.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Ogun State which has deployed its men to the scene of the pipeline explosion has hinted that the NNPC has been asked to stop further supply of petrol to the pipeline in order to reduce the fire.
It is feared that this interruption of supply is bound to worsen fuel scarcity in the south-west states.
The Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC, Mr Olarenwaju Kareem had released a press statement in Abeokuta saying that an explosion had occurred on the NNPC pipeline at Journalists’ Estate, Arepo in the state.
“The fire was taken note of by our surveillance team posted to monitor the situation around the place.
“The fire might have been caused by vandals as we received an earlier call by the same surveillance team of suspicious movement around the waterways.
“Our combat team was on its way around 8.15am following instructions by commandant Abulowoye Akinwande for possible arrests when the explosion took place.
“However, no arrest was made as the vandals made their escape through the Majidun side of the waterways.
“The Corps Commandant, Abulowoye Akinwande was there early this morning to have an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
“He immediately called on the NNPC to stop supply through the route. The NNPC has made me to understand that the fire would gradually come down.”