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 Oil Theft: Two Pregnant Women, 28 Others Perish in Fire Incident in Rivers

Oil Theft: Two Pregnant Women, 28 Others Perish in Fire Incident in Rivers

Two pregnant women and about 28 persons were reportedly burnt to death in a fire incident that occurred at an illegal oil refining site in Rumucholu community in Ibaa, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

THISDAY gathered that the incident occurred last Sunday night when some persons where trying to set up an illegal refining site in the said area.

A community source,  who pleaded anonymity, said the fire incident occurred as a result of attempt by illegal refiners who tried to set up refinery at a location where the Government Security Agencies (GSA) and PINL had previously destroyed about two weeks ago.

Another source in the community, who gave his name as Daniel Emma, said the victims had gone to trade on the petroleum product before the fire ignited from the refining site.

Emma revealed that most of the affected victims were people from Isiokpo Kingdom in Ikwerre LGA, Ibaa and Oduoha in Emohua Local Government Area (LGA).

He narrated: “More than 40 people were there at the site. They were there scooping and bagging crude oil when fire caught. The fire came from a refining site that is close to the point where they were bagging the crude.

“Many Isiokpo and Oduoha people, and Ibaa people were there. Seven of the people died inside the pit where they were scooping the crude. About 10 burnt to charcoal by the pit.

“About 30 people died at the site while over 15 have even rushed to the hospital. I hear that three of them have died while they were being rushed to the hospital.”

Representative of PINL, who refused to disclose his name, told journalists at the scene of incident yesterday, said the feedback from some community members reveals the victims were burnt due to the illegal refining at the location as the illicit business was hurriedly been carried out for fear of Private security Contractor (PINL) and GSA.

“PINL and GSA from 26 Support Engineer Regiment (SER-Nigerian Army Engineers) have intensified destruction of illegal refinery over the last six months.”

PINL representative, who led his team along with some stakeholders to the scene expressed worry why after engaging over hundreds of youths in Ibaa communities in public enlightenment and on the danger of illegal refining, they still engaged themselves in the illicit business of crude oil theft and illegal refining.

He further said PINL will not relent in its synergy with the community stakeholders and relevant security agencies towards sensitizing the youths to shun all forms of illegal crude oil refining in the area and also keep the TNP safe.

On his part, the Chief Security Officer of Ibaa community, Rufus Welekwe, while expressing sadness over the incident, appealed to the youths of the community to stay away from illegal crude oil refining and ensure they engage themselves in  legitimate business.

Reacting to the incident, Chairman of Emohua Local Government Council, Chidi Lloyd , said it is unfortunate that some youths are still engaging in illegal oil activities despite numerous advocacies to educate them about the dangers involved. He called on traditional rulers in the area to speak out against criminal activities within their domain.

Confirming the incident, the State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Rivers State Command, Basil Igwebueze, hinted that the fire outbreak started at a very late hour hence 18 victims were burnt beyond recognition while 25 injured persons were rescued.

“From our preliminary findings it was gathered that the inferno was caused by a local refinery cooking pot constructed close to an oil reservoir which contained combustible materials, the burning temperature eventually became too high and the environment gutted fire.

We also gathered that the cooking pot belong to one Mr John Bodo who sustained severe fire injuries while his son, Uche John Bodo a fresh graduate died on the spot.

“It is also lamentable to relay that most of the victim were youths; then a pregnant woman and a young lady getting ready for her marriage ceremony next month were all casualties.”

While condoling with the affected families,  the NSCDC state commandant warned against those operating local refineries in some communities across the State. He said: “The negative impact such activities portend is tantamount to irreparable loss. Therefore, critical stakeholders must align and vehemently fight against Illegal Oil bunkering activities in Rivers State.” (ThisDay)

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