After a weekend explosion at an illicit oil refinery plant on the border of Nigeria’s Rivers and Imo states that killed over 100 people, charred carcasses were left sprawled among burnt palms, vehicles, and trucks on Sunday.
The ground, which was stained by oil and soot and still spewing smoke in some areas despite overnight rain, was littered with flip flops, bags, and clothing belonging to individuals who died.
“So many people have perished in this place. I’m begging the government to investigate this “At the scene of the blast on Saturday night, Uche Woke, a commercial bike rider, told media.
On Sunday, the Nigerian Red Cross Society arrived on the scene to assess the blast, which devastated a piece of the Abaezi forest, which straddles the boundary between Imo and Rivers states.
Following what he called as a “catastrophe” and “national disaster,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stated in a statement that he will step up the crackdown on illicit refineries.
In the oil-producing Niger Delta, unemployment and poverty have made clandestine refining appealing, but with often fatal repercussions. Crude oil is extracted from a network of pipes operated by major oil firms and processed in improvised tanks.
Oil leaks in fields, waterways, and lagoons have already poisoned the region, resulting in tragic accidents.
Several automobiles in a line to acquire illegal fuel were burned, according to the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre.
The fire broke out at an illegal bunkering facility, affecting over 100 individuals, according to Goodluck Opiah, the state commissioner for petroleum resources.
The position of the boundary is in response to a recent crackdown in Rivers on illegal refining in an attempt to curb growing air pollution.
“There have been multiple raids in the previous month or two, and some security agents involved have been tackled,” said Ledum Mitee, former head of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
In October, an explosion and fire at another illicit refinery in Rivers state killed at least 25 people, including several children.
Local authorities announced in February that they had begun a crackdown on the processing of stolen crude, but with little apparent result.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and exporter, is estimated to lose 200,000 barrels of oil a day, or more than 10% of production, due to illegal pipeline tapping or vandalism, according to government officials.
As a result, oil companies have been obliged to declare force majeure on oil and gas shipments on a regular basis.