Mkpoikana Udoma 19 May 2014, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – At least seven persons were feared dead and scores injured on Sunday when an explosion rocked the Port Harcourt Refinery Jetty in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The explosion was allegedly triggered by the activities of pipeline vandals and oil thieves.
It was learnt that suspected oil thieves had tampered with one of the pipelines close to the refinery with the intention of stealing petroleum products.
This had caused a deafening noise and a huge fire that left not less than seven persons dead.
Chairman of Okrika Local Government Area, Mr Tamuno Williams, who confirmd the explosion after inspecting the area where the incident occurred, said the incident happened along a creek close to the NNPC jetty as a result of illegal siphoning of petroleum products from the NNPC pipelines.
“Indeed, there was a fire explosion as a result of some activities related to siphoning of product from NNPC pipelines and I have gone to assess the situation. I have been trying to get in touch with the company’s management but I have not been able to, I am told to come back tomorrow,” he said.
Tamuno Williams said the number of casualties could not be ascertained for now due to the nature of the terrain where the incident happened and the level of security within and around the jetty.
Williams said the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, was negligent.
He explained that though nobody was allowed to enter the scene of the incident, oil thieves in connivance with PPMC were allegedly responsible for the explosion.
He said, “Such activities, such connection, such highly technical work, well constructed by experts, could not have been perfectly done without the connivance of the PPMC.
“If you want to take any product and sell, I don’t have any problem with that. My quarrel is that their (PPMC) negligence is detrimental to the environment of Okrika.
“There was an explosion today (Sunday) because of the activities of the NNPC and their cohorts. That is the truth of the matter. Who did it, I don’t know. Who was there to watch over it, I don’t know. But I went there with the press; I was refused entry into the facility. So, what was there to hide?”
Speaking on the matter, the Executive Director, Services at PPMC, Mr. Ralph Ugwu, dismissed Okrika Council chairman’s claim that pipeline vandals and PPMC officials were responsible for the explosion.
Ugwu explained that the explosion had no impact on the operations of the NNPC as the corporation did not record any casualty.
He said, “I don’t want to describe the man (council chairman) in anger. What he has said is a departure from the truth. What I want to confirm to you is that our jetty operations are up and running. Our refineries are also up and running.
“The incident has no impact on our operations whatsoever and on our own side as NNPC, there is no casualty and the incident has no impact on our refining operations or on our jetty operations.
“I don’t want to take issues with whoever is accusing who; whether it’s the PPMC or the vandals because I don’t want to say what I don’t know. The truth is that nemesis caught up with people that came to steal products. Their boat got exploded. I don’t know about the number of people that died, but on our own side, we have no casualty. I cannot speak on the thing that does not concern NNPC.”