By Olabode Jegede
Sunday night pipeline inferno was another tragedy of pipeline vandalism that claimed lives and loss of properties with millions of naira. The tragic mishap however is not the first of its kind. It appears stubborn elements among Nigerians have refused to learn lessons from the dangers embedded in pipeline vandalism.
History of vandalism on NNPC pipelines in Lagos
It would be recalled that on December 26, 2006, Abule Egba became popular as more than 260 people were burned alive when a ruptured oil pipeline burst into flames in Lagos.
Crowds of local residents had gone to scoop up petrol using plastic containers after an armed gang punctured an underground pipeline to illegally siphon off fuel.
Red Cross secretary-general, Abiodun Orebiyi said “The number of dead is confirmed at 269. We have retrieved all the bodies while another 160 people were taken to hospitals suffering burns.”
The remains of hundreds of bodies, most burned beyond recognition, were at the scene of the blast in the densely populated Abule-Egba district of Lagos, next to a car workshop and a sawmill.
Some corpses lay rigid on the ground, arms and legs thrust awkwardly in the air with their clothes and skin burned off. It took firefighters equipped with about six hours to put out the flames as hundreds of people watched.
Furthermore, on December 18, 2018, there was another fire outbreak at Isopako Awori, Abule-Egba area of Lagos State.
The fire emanated from NNPC pipeline that was deliberately ruptured by vandals in their bid to siphon Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from the broken pipe.
The consequence was a huge ball of fire that consumed about 100 houses and 77 vehicles worth several millions of naira.
Based on the development, operatives of the State Anti-Robbery Squad, Ikeja, were detailed to investigate the incident and ensure the arrest of those behind the crime.
The operatives mobilised to the scene and picked up some pieces of evidence for analysis, which led to the arrest of a suspect, who confessed to committing the crime.
Reactions to Sunday’s pipeline fire outbreak
The newest version of the Abule-Egba pipeline fire outbreak of Sunday have not failed in sparking reactions from various angles as usual.
NNPC GMD rallies communities support to expose culprit, as fresh facts of losses of billions of dollars unfold
The General Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari had rallied communities’ support to expose the bad eggs in their midst.
The GMD made this statement on Monday when he arrived at Abule Egba in Lagos, for on-the-spot assessment of the scene of Sunday’s unfortunate pipeline explosion.
Kyari noted that efforts are made daily with security agencies to contain this situation which portends danger to Nigerians.
He however confirmed that five lives were lost as to two persons that was reported earlier.
According to Kyari, “It is unfortunate we lost 5 lives to this inferno, with many in critical condition in the hospitals, all due to unpatriotic acts of vandals along our Pipeline Right of Way, who make insertions into the pipelines to steal products, leading to disasters such as this.
”We are working daily with security agencies to contain this situation which portends danger for all of us.
“Nigerians must know that these acts of vandals are happening within communities and if they are allowed to continue, then they will eventually kill all of us.
“We are counting on Nigerians to help us resolve this as it is becoming a matter of national security concern.
“Having shut down to contain the damage yesterday, we have now fully restored the line. We are now back on stream. Petroleum products are flowing all the way from Atlas Cove to Mosimi all the way to Ilorin Depot. We enjoin everyone to work with us in sustaining this,” he added.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed report from a source in NNPC revealed that the corporation lost $745million to pipeline vandalism between January and December 2019.
The source revealed that the loss represents the figure captured directly by the corporation during transportation of products through the pipelines. When added to other sources, the unconfirmed report shows that the corporation lost $2 billion to vandalism during the year.
For instance, the official said that for a product sent through Warri pipeline only 30 per cent of product was delivered at the depot which made the corporation to shut down the pipeline completely. He described communities and houses along the pipeline as thieves sabotaging the corporation and the nation. This, he said informed the recent demolition of certain houses near the corporation’s pipeline at Ijegun area of Lagos state.
Additional report shows that 436 breaches occurred on NNPC system 2B pipelines between Atlas Cove and Mosimi depot.
Lagos state government reacts to pipeline explosion
Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat on Tuesday called for collaboration among the relevant stakeholders on how to end the incessant vandalisation of pipelines in the State.
Speaking during a visit to the scene of the Abule Egba pipeline explosion which occurred last Sunday, the Deputy Governor, accompanied by some State officials, said such collaboration has become imperative, in view of lost lives and property occasioned by the handiwork of vandals, whose activities can bring tears and sorrows to the people.
Hamzat, who described the fire incident as “very unfortunate development’’, assured that government would fish out the perpetrators and punish them according to the laws of the land.
He noted that the Lagos State Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and relevant security agencies must put in place, measures that would deter these criminals from perpetuating evil acts.
While expressing his displeasure on acts of vandalism, he called on the residents to be more vigilant by reporting any suspicious moves by the vandals to the appropriate authorities.
He said, “Please, endeavour to call security people on any of free toll emergency numbers for appropriate response to forestall any form of vandalisation of our infrastructure. We need the help of the community to provide information. The people doing these evil acts are not ghosts, they are human beings and can be caught. We must apprehend them. We will work with security operatives to catch them and make examples.”
While commiserating with those affected by the fire incident, the Deputy Governor said the State government will meet with the families who are affected by the inferno and see what can be done to ameliorate their losses, adding that government will support the community in whatever they are doing to ensure the safety of their lives and property.
Reacting, the Director General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu confirmed that five fatalities, three adult males, one adult female and one female child aged five-year-old were recorded.
A total of 20 people were treated for minor injuries and discharged at the scene while 150 people including children were displaced.
The Agency further noted that about eleven buildings were also affected by the inferno.
According to LASEMA, seventeen shops, thirty-three trucks, three cars, and three tricycles were also affected by the fire.
DPR opens investigation on Abule-Egba pipeline explosion
Meanwhile, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) on Monday said it was investigating with other relevant stakeholders, the NNPC pipeline explosion at Ile Epo, in Abule Egba axis of Lagos State.
The DPR, which is the regulator of the petroleum industry, in a statement through its spokesman, Paul Osu made the announcement adding that a report on the agency’s inquest would be communicated when concluded.
The statement reads: “The Department wishes to commiserate with all who were affected by this unfortunate tragedy, which has been attributed to sabotage and vandalism by unscrupulous persons.
“In line with our regulatory oversight to the Nigerian oil and gas industry, as enshrined in the Petroleum Act Cap P10 LFN 2004, the DPR has commenced investigations with other relevant stakeholders into the incident.
“We assure the public that the safety of all Nigerians is of paramount concern in the discharge of our regulatory mandate for the oil and gas sector.”
Losses to pipeline vandalism overtime
In the Nigerian oil and gas industry, the effects of pipeline vandalism among others include huge economic losses from pipeline, plant shutdown, environmental pollution, fire outbreaks usually resulting in loss of lives.
Scarcity and shortage of petroleum products as well as decrease in electricity supply with the attendant socio-economic problems can also be attributed to pipeline vandalism.
Nigeria petroleum and associated products are transported through extensive network of pipelines that run across different locations throughout the country from remote to populated areas.
These pipelines are however poorly secured thereby making them targets of repetitive attacks by vandals.
Various steps have been taken by government for efficient service delivery but the problems appear to be on the increase.
The incessant attacks have greatly compromised the integrity of the crude and product pipelines because of the constant replacement and repair of the segment.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Report on Nigeria updated on October 16, 2012, attributes oil theft, commonly referred to as “bunkering”, as being responsible for pipeline damage that is often severe, causing loss of production, pollution, and forcing companies to shut in production.
The industry has been unfairly blamed for pollution that has damaged air, soil, and water, leading to losses in arable land and decreasing fish stocks, whereas a significant percentage of the damage is due to activity of vandals.Unfortunately, there is evidence that several international syndicates are involved in this nefarious activity.
Foreign flagged vessels have been arrested in the Nigerian coastal waters engaged in buying stolen crude oil and products. To do nothing means to mortgage the future of Nigeria to continued importation of petroleum products at huge cost and drain of scarce foreign exchange.
In spite of the above, opportunities exist for interested investors to go into refining of petroleum products in Nigeria.
Even if all the existing refineries were operating at maximum capacity, there still exists a robust demand for petroleum products in Nigeria.
Current aggregate product demand is put at equivalent refining capacity of 800,000 bpsd. Hence at least additional 300,000 bpsd capacity is required as at 2018. By 2028, the shortfall in refinery capacity would rise to about 550,000 bpsd assuming a growth rate of 3 per cent per annum.
This has informed the decision by the Dangote Group to invest in the construction of a 650,000 bpsd refinery which is expected to come into operation this year or soon after.
The actual conventional refinery capacity is 450,000 bpsd, with the other 200,000 bpsd being reserved for petrochemicals feedstock.
Thus, there would still be scope for another Greenfield plant of at least 250,000 bpsd capacity, simply to meet Nigeria’s needs. A higher capacity would be justified if the intention is to supply the West and Central African regions.