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Victims of pipeline fire buried in mass graves

Posted by By TESSY OKOYE, JULIANA FRANCIS, Lagos and FRANIS AWOWOLE-BROWN, Abuja on 2007/12/29 | Views: 445 |

Victims of pipeline fire buried in mass graves

Forty-two victims of the pipeline explosion, which occurred at Ilagbo Village, a riverine community near Ibagbo-Iru, Victoria Island, Lagos, have been buried in mass graves.

• FG reads riot act

Forty-two victims of the pipeline explosion, which occurred at Ilagbo Village, a riverine community near Ibagbo-Iru, Victoria Island, Lagos, have been buried in mass graves.

The remains of the victims of the Christmas Day tragedy, who were scooping fuel from vandalized Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) fuel pipeline were interred in three graves at the scene of the incident.

This came as the Federal Government, in a reaction to the tragedy, threatened a crackdown on pipeline vandals.
When Daily Sun visited the scene on Wednesday the fire from the explosion had been put out, but smoke still smoldered from branches of burnt trees and grasses around the area.

Also, human body parts and bones burnt beyond recognition still littered the scene.
Red Cross officials drafted to the area were busy, on Wednesday, sorting charred remains of victims into bags for disposal.
An official of the Red Cross, Mr Philip Dafe, told Daily Sun that the area had been fumigated and might be cordoned off to prevent outbreak of epidemic.
Over 3000 jerry cans, some of them containing petrol, stored away by the vandals, were discovered in the surrounding bush.

A villager said the vandals, mostly from the village, had made it a habit to scoop and sell fuel from the damaged pipelines.
He said:” They are our people. They say it is their fathers’ land and since government passed the oil pipelines through it, they must eat from it.”
Though the actual cause of the fatal explosion could not be ascertained, some villagers, who spoke with Daily Sun, said it may have been triggered off by sparks from metals used by the victims during the illegal operation.

One of them told our correspondents that the seaside was rocked by a loud explosion at about 2.00 a.m on Tuesday resulting in the conflagration. The Baale of the village, 80-year-old Nurudeen Jelowu, however, said that the vandalisation was not done by his kinsmen alone. He said that people from neighbouring villagers were involved in the criminal activity and claimed that the NNPC officials were aware of this.

An NNPC official, Engineer Parker Ekpo, told Daily Sun that security around NNPC pipelines and installations in the area was inadequate and may explain the repeated pipeline vandalisation and explosions in the vicinity. He stressed the need for people to desist from acts that could be inimical to their lives and that of others within the environment.
He, however, debunked claims that NNPC officials connived with vandals to siphon fuel from pipelines in the country.

“We have buried the dead and secured the facility. We are warning people to stay away from the place, as it is still susceptible to explosions. It is totally false that our staff collaborate with vandals. None of our officials has been caught in the act, neither have any been identified among the dead victims involved in past explosions.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Communication, Mr. John Odey, said on Wednesday that the Federal Government was embarrassed by the pipeline fire, lamenting that the “incident is worrisome” in view of the intensive efforts of the present administration to ensure safety of life and property of all Nigerians irrespective of their status in the society.

“At a time when Nigerians were savouring the peace and joy of the Yuletide season, it is sad that a group of criminals could go about to engage in acts that could slow down our development. It is unfortunate that some people could still attempt to embark on criminal activities by bursting petroleum product pipeline in order to make ill-gotten money.

“This present administration is not only going to govern in line with the provision of our laws, the government is equally determined to ensure maximum protection for the lives and properties of Nigerians from criminal elements. The Federal Government can no longer tolerate acts of vandalism to our national infrastructure.”

According to him, all relevant security agencies have been issued fresh directives on how to tackle the menace and urged all Nigerians to realize that optimal security of life and property can only be achieved in the country when the citizens, individually and collectively, obey the laws of the land and refrain from criminal activities.

Government told Nigerians to be vigilant about events in their neighborhood and report every criminal activity to the law enforcement agencies.
The minister expressed the sympathy of the government to the families of those who lost their lives in the pipeline fire and urged family heads to always ensure that their wards are law-abiding.

In a related development, the Lagos State Police Command said it had launched investigation into the fatal pipeline explosion. Spokesman of the command, Mr. Frank Mba, said the police had got some leads, which would help them in their investigation. He said effort was on to arrest other perpetrators who escaped the explosion.

The PPRO disclosed that more than 500 jerry cans containing petrol had been recovered at the village where the incident took place. He added that plain-clothe policemen had been drafted to the area for intelligence gathering.

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