As victims count their losses, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said the vandalism of a pipeline in Abule Egba area, a suburb of Lagos would not affect petroleum products distribution during the Yuletide.
Mr Ndu Ughammadu, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs of NNPC, said in Lagos that the tampering of the pipeline caused the deadly fire.
He said that the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Dr Maikainti Baru, had directed the Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company (NPSC) to carry out full investigation of the incident and ensure immediate repairs of affected portion.
Following explosion along Tipper Bus-stop at Oko Oba, a Lagos suburb at the early hours of Wednesday, residents of the area called on security agencies to improve surveillance of pipelines across the state.
Mr Tiamiyu Adesina, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) said: “It is obviously a case of pipeline vandalism and investigation will reveal how it happened.’’
“What I can see here is that there is a breakpoint and a container shop covering the point from where the fuel was being siphoned. So, obviously someone has been doing this illegal business for some time now.
“How the fuel was released into the drainage travelling up to abattoir beats our imagination, but off course it ignited fire at some point and travelled back through the route.
“We are here to ensure we limit the destruction, damage to lives and properties, and the police are also here to conduct further investigation and pick information from residents,’’ he said.
The general manager advised residents to always volunteer information when such activities were noticed within their community to forestall a recurrence and loss of lives and property.
Also speaking, the Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Mr Rasaki Musibau, said “we got information about the fire around 1.58 a.m and we quickly called on our officials at the Agege fire station which is closer to this place.
“But when we discovered it was pipeline vandalism, we quickly rolled out as many fire trucks as possible from Ikeja, Alausa, Bolade, Ilupeju and Unilag.
“The fire destroyed so many properties but we have been able to put it under control and what we are doing is to dampen any pockets of fire so that there won’t be a re-ignition,’’ he added.
Musbau advised the public to be fire-safety conscious of anything that they feel could result to fire outbreak, especially during the dry season.
Mr Kehinde Elewa, a mechanical engineer whose office premises was engulfed by the inferno, said that his loss was huge.
“The fuel spread everywhere up to Abattoir, Agege area, and finally the petrol caught fire from that area and returned to the tipper garage where the vandalism occurred.
“So many houses and shops along Sobowale, Santos and Arowolo streets were consumed by the fire.
“If I were to quantify my loss, it would be in the range of N10 million,’’ he said.
He, therefore, urged relevant government agencies to ensure the apprehension of the perpetrators of the incident s well as assist the victims.
“We are not located along the pipeline, so government should come to our aid,’’ he said.
Another resident who identified himself as “Stubborn’’ said the incident was the second recurrence.
“Yesterday night, some men from the Nigerian police came here (tipper garage) around between 10.30 p.m and 11.00 p.m and began to chase residents to go inside that there was information that some robbers were coming to attack.
“This is not the first time this is happening and we have been laying series of complaint but its so sad that it has destroyed people’s properties and possibly lives.
“I had to carry two of my children on my shoulder to scale the fence. We were not aware that such an illegal activity was still being perpetrated here.
“The last time such was discovered not too far from here, officials of the Nigeria Security Civil and Defence Corps were deployed to cover the scene.
“But some people, especially those who ply their trade at the tipper garage will definitely know more about this incidence. As youths in this area, we don’t want a recurrence or any trading activity to continue here,’’ he said.
The residents also blamed vandals who had been puncturing pipelines to siphon fuel for the mayhem, while urging security agencies to scale up vigilance and arrest culprits.