By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The cause of the oil pipeline fire incident recorded last Friday in Umuaduru and Umuimo communities in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State has been attributed to thieves and vandalism.
According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the incident was never caused by its negligence as it is being speculated.
Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the state-owned oil firm, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, said in a statement yesterday that the incident was triggered off by suspected oil thieves who had hacked into System 2E pipeline network of the corporation with a view to intercepting the flow of petrol from Port Harcourt to Aba.
Mr Ughamadu emphasised that the clarification became necessary in view of the recent statement by a lawmaker indicting NNPC on the fire outbreak which had claimed lives and valuable properties.
The NNPC spokesperson explained that the presence of items such as jerrycans, among others, at the scene of the incident as contained in the preliminary report on the matter indicated that the activities of vandals in the area ignited the flame.
He regretted that incessant vandalism of pipeline facilities along System 2Ex Pipeline Right of Way (PROW) has led to the underutilization of the Enugu Depot, saying that the breaches have prevented the corporation from pumping fuel into it.
He called on relevant government agencies to collaborate with the corporation to appropriately criminalize vandalism of oil facilities across the country, adding that host communities should also partner the NNPC to tame the scourge.
Mr Ughamadu prayed that God reposes the souls of the innocent ones that perished in the incident, even as he warned members of the public against tempering with oil facilities which he described as inflammable.
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