Two petroleum pipeline explosions that killed 18 people between June and July happened because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was “negligent”, a Senate committee said Tuesday after investigating the blasts.
The deadly explosions occurred in Rivers and Lagos States after leaked petrol caught fire as residents tried to scoop the inflammable liquid.
A Senate ad-hoc report said its investigation that lasted three months showed the explosions were avoidable but NNPC “chose to be negligent.”
The committee also blamed the Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the NNPC, as well as two contracting companies.
Presenting its report at plenary on Tuesday, the chairman of the committee, Gobir Ibrahim (APC-Sokoto East), said the committee found “both NNPC/NPSC and the UTM contractor were aware of the Komkom pipeline leakage two days before the explosion but failed to take quick action.”
“That both the NNPC/NPSC and the Oilserv contractor were aware of the intended activity of the vandals and the leakage a week and a day before the Ijegun explosion but delayed in taking necessary actions,” he said.
The committee also reported, “That the security personnel in connivance with NPSC staff collaborated with the vandals to siphon petroleum products from the pipelines.”
It said it found that the gunshot by a police officer who wanted to scare villagers away ignited the explosion in Komkom, while that of Ijegun was triggered by “a distant unintentional spark due to the flow of petroleum products through the sloppy drainages along the streets of Ijegun.”
No relief materials
With lives and properties lost to the inferno, the report also said that no relief materials or any form of assistance have been given to the victims.
Also, the report added that neither the NNPC (NPSC) nor the contractors have attempted to clean up or remediate the contaminated environment for the safety of inhabitants of the pipeline host communities.
It further passed a vote of no confidence on the two contactors, UTM Offshore Limited and Oilserv, involved in the maintenance of the pipeline.
It said the former was asked to purchase modern equipment for proper monitoring of the pipelines but only employed a manual monitoring system. The second company was to secure and maintain the pipeline in the Lagos axis but was not properly engaged by the NNPC.
The committee, therefore, charged the NNPC to invoke article 3.2 of its contract with UTM Offshore Limited, issue a query to the company, and provide evidence of compliance to the Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.
The report further read: “The committee found] that no formal contractual documents/agreements [exists] between Oilserv and NPSC.” To this, the committee called for the formalization of the agreement between the two parties and “provide evidence of compliance to the Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.”
“Oilserv, since the period It was engaged through a letter of comfort by NPSC, has not been paid for services rendered, hence the ineffectiveness of the company to adequately provide security on the pipelines
“The claim by NPSC of spending three hundred and eighty-two million two hundred and three thousand fifty-five naira seventy-four kobo (N382,203,055.74) only on firefighting operation in Komkom is very outrageous and unfounded.”
The committee called for the refund of the funds, with evidence of compliance submitted to the Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.
A spokesperson for the NNPC, Samson Makoji, told PREMIUM TIMES the committee’s submissions were “allegations.”
“That’s what they are. Talks are free. Facts are sacred. We don’t want to go into reasons,” he said. “That people lost their lives is unfortunate. The truth is that NNPC would not engage in things that would make our pipelines to explode.
*We would do our own internal review. We have our good rapport with the Senate.”
The committee urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send relief materials to victims of incidents. It also asked the NPSC to carry out a proper assessment of contaminated environments for immediate cleanup and remediation.
It also recommended that the NNPC should “embark on Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in re-laying pipelines especially in identified hotspots where erosion has exposed the pipelines to the surface so as to conceal them from vandals as earlier advised by the Lagos State Government.
“NNPC (NPSC) should as a matter of urgency install pressure monitoring devices and shut-off valves at close intervals on all petroleum products pipelines across the country.”
It added that: “NNPC should start the process of deploying modern technology in pipeline surveillance and detection of leakages as well as introduce cathodic protection on the pipelines.
“NNPC (NPSC) should carry out a proper check on all the petroleum product pipelines across the country to ascertain their status for either repairs or total replacement.”