12 December 2011, Sweetcrude, WARRI – THERE was pandemonium at the David Ejoor Army Barracks, Effurun, near Warri and environs in Delta State, yesterday morning, as a Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC oil pipeline, located within the Area of Responsibility, AoR, of the military formation, was razed by fire.
The pipeline fire came as a surprise to many residents because it is located at the backyard of the military settlement, supposed to be a no-go-area.
Delta State police spokesman, Mr. Charles Muka confirmed the pipeline fire, but said he does not have details of the cause of the petrol fire.
As at 4.00 pm, yesterday, when our reporter left the scene, fire was still burning, but fire fighters from the Nigeria Gas Company, NGC, have managed to bring it under control. The fire fighters had to break open part of the wall of the barracks to put out fire.
Panic-stricken soldiers who thought that the fire might spread cordoned off the Effurun roundabout portion of the military barracks and harassed commuters and motor cyclists, some of who were ordered to do frog jump for driving or riding near the burning pipeline.
Men of the Anti-Bomb Disposal Unit of the Nigeria Police Force were also seen at the scene, but Vanguard gathered that the pipeline fire was as a result of leakage.
A source, however, said, “It was caused by saboteurs; these people have been pilfering petroleum products on the pipeline for a long time”.
But, a resident of the area disclosed that, “If you enter into the barracks, at this side where the fire is burning, you will see that they are many burrow pits dug there, all of them are filled with crude oil. It had been leaking for a very long time now, the pipeline is bad”.
“A new pipeline was laid recently but I don’t think that they have properly connected it and so the leakage is still one, the whole area is filled with crude oil. What happened is that some people were burning something in a dustbin and because of harmatan, it was easy for the leaking pipeline to catch fire”, he disclosed.
An NNPC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the pipeline had been leaking before now and that there was fire, last year, on it. He wondered why the management had not fixed the problem.
An eye witness who pleaded anonymity said he suspected that some people were also doing illegal petroleum business in the area, but another said it was not possible since the soldiers would not allow such business within their territory.