Port Harcourt — The police and the pipeline surveillance team have differed on the cause of the recent fire explosion on the 2E pipeline network operated by the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, which claimed over 40 lives.
The incident occurred in Komkom community, Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State.
A member of the pipeline surveillance team in the community, who gave his name as Obinna Ameachi, while narrated the events that led to the fire, accused the police of igniting the fire.
According to Ameachi, trouble started when some policemen in a stop-and-search operation accosted a young man carrying suspected illegally acquired products in jerrycans and upon efforts to make arrest, the man ran into the Komkom swamp while policemen pursued him into the bush.
He stated that unknown to the policemen that people were already on the pipeline scooping petrol, the policemen released some gunshots into the bush.
“The young guy has already escaped and ran into the bush, and left his jerrycans for the police. Why must the policemen chase him inside the bush. Why must the policemen fired any shot?” Ameachi queried.
But, the Rivers State Police Command said information available to it showed that the explosion occurred when engineers were carrying out repair works on the pipeline in Komkom swamp.
Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, who disclosed this, said: “Investigation has been launched by the Commissioner of Police. We are yet to ascertain the cause. But, what we were told is that engineers were working on the pipeline when fire sparked and explosion occurred. And we were also told villagers went to the pipeline to scoop products.”
The 2E pipeline network is a high pressure pipeline that supplies fuel, including diesel, petrol and kerosene from the Port Harcourt refinery to PPMC’s Aba and Enugu depots.
The pipeline, our correspondent gathered, is a highly-vandalised line from Komkom in Rivers State to Okwaza and Osisioma in Abia State. It is a beehive of illegal oil bunkering business and had witnessed explosions at different points in the past, killing people.
In October 2018, there was fire on the same pipeline in Umuimo and Umuaduru communities in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia state, leading to the death of at least 20 persons as confirmed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.