26 July 2016, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Warri — Many children were reported missing Monday while trying to escape from a Sunday night explosion at a gas pipeline operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Obotim Nsit, Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Confirming the pipeline blast, the Akwa Ibom Police Command monday said that there was an explosion at the gas pipeline in the community, but dismissed reports that the incident was caused by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which claimed responsibility for the explosion. It was also silent on reports that several children were missing as a result of the blast.
However, the village head of the community, Chief Akponidung Akpan Ukpong, raised the alarm yesterday, stating that several children could not be found after residents were forced to flee from the explosion that occurred late Sunday.
The community head said when he came out of his house due to the pandemonium that had ensued, he encountered very heavy flames and people running for safety.
“So many children are missing and we are still looking for them; we have not traced them and many people have been taken to the hospital,” he declared.
Besides the missing children, the village head said the explosion damaged the farmlands in the community.
But while the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Murtala Mani, said that the explosion was not caused by an attack on the pipeline by militants, the Transition Committee Chairman in the area, Mr. Victor Umondak, disagreed, saying militant activities could not be ruled out.
Mani, who spoke in Uyo, the state capital on the explosion, attributed it to a technical fault.
“It is confirmed that there was an explosion in Obotim Nsit in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of the state.
“People around the pipeline confirmed that the pipelines are old and overdue for servicing, there were technical problems with the gas pipeline.
“This is no militancy attack, our men are on the ground and the fire service have put out the fire,” the police commissioner stressed.
Although the incident happened at night, he said there were no casualties and no house was razed, adding that the site of the explosion had been condoned off.
“Our men are putting finishing touches, our people are completely on the ground and the place is well condoned off and secured.
“We are waiting for the experts to give us their report, so that we can write our report too on the incident,” he added.
However, Umondak gave another account of what might have transpired on Sunday night, claiming that militants connected a wire from the gas pipeline to the road before exploding the pipeline.
According to him, he got a call that his local government area had been bombed by militants in Obotim Ikot Ekong and he drove to the scene of the incident at 1.30 a.m. on Monday.
“I received a call that my local government was burning, and I wasn’t really sure of what had happened and another person called me to say they had blown a pipeline at Obotim Ikot Ekong.
“I drove down but nobody could get close to the place, so we stood about 200 meters away from the burning pipeline because it was like hell fire,” he said.
Umondak’s assertion aligned with that of the Avengers, which claimed responsibility for the latest incident on Sunday night.
It said yesterday in a statement that the attack was executed at 11.30 p.m. on Sunday.
According to its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, “At 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, the NDA blow up the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) gas pipeline at Nsit-Ibom LGA, Akwa Ibom State. NNPC should check their pipeline if it’s a system anomaly.”
- This Day