23 July 2015, Lagos – No fewer than five suspected vandals perished on Wednesday during a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s pipeline explosion at the Arepo area, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Our correspondent gathered that the fire, which started around 1am, consumed the vandals who had allegedly stormed the area to steal fuel.
They were reportedly coming with loaded jerrycans of stolen fuel when the fire occurred.
PUNCH Metro learnt that a fight broke out between two different groups of vandals during the theft, which led to the explosion.
Another source, however, claimed that one of the vandals’ boats refused to start after loading the fuel, adding that the fire started from a spark while the men were trying to get the boat to work.
When PUNCH Metro visited the area by 10am, the fire was still raging.
Our correspondent was told that the NNPC officials, policemen attached to the Inspector General of Police Anti-Pipeline Vandalism team, and soldiers had tried in vain to put out the fire.
While at the scene, our correspondent saw a vandals’ speedboat, conveying about 12 persons, passing on the waterway.
A security man in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the corpses he sighted on the water were five persons, while several other people suffered burns.
He said, “Around 1am, we heard the noise of the explosion as the fire started. Thick smokes billowed from the river area. No one could move near because we knew the vandals, who were armed with weapons, would be lurking around.
“We learnt that the men, who came on Tuesday evening, loaded their speedboats with the product till the early hours of Wednesday. They were getting ready to move out of the area when the fire started.
“It was started by a spark in one of the speedboats. We heard cries from the scene as the vandals battled with the fire. By morning when soldiers, policemen and other security officials arrived, no fewer than five of the vandals had died and floated on the water.”
Another security official, who claimed to have visited the scene of the explosion, said a large number of the vandals also suffered burns.
He said, “The vandals stole petrol in many jerrycans. They were about leaving the pipeline area in their speedboats when there was an explosion. One of the boats refused to start and while they were trying to seek a solution, it resulted in a spark, and the inferno started.
“Five people died, and there were scores of others whose bodies burnt badly.”
The NEMA Spokesperson, Ibrahim Farinloye, who confirmed the explosion, said the explosion was caused by a vandals’ clash.
He added that efforts were on to put out the fire by the NNPC Safety Unit.
He said, “A report has it that a clash among different groups of vandals in the area led to the pipeline explosion. The NNPC was alerted immediately and it shut down supplies to suffocate the fire.
“Meanwhile, efforts are on to put out the fire by the NNPC Safety Unit. I cannot confirm if there are casualties or injured persons as of now.”
The Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Emmanuel Ojukwu, said the police were ongoing with rescue operations in the area.
He said, “The situation is under control. We are working with other agencies that are concerned with rescue to contain the fire.
“At the end of the day, we will be able to come out with the number of dead or injured. For now, rescue operation is ongoing.”