2 suspects sought as 100 die in Nigeria oil refinery blast In an explosion at an illegal oil refinery in southeast Nigeria, at least 100 people may have killed, a local oil official said Sunday, as the hunt for bodies at the site and for two people suspected of being involved in the disaster intensified. The official did not specify how many people died.
According to a statement released by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the explosion was a “catastrophe and a national disaster.” In an interview with The Associated Press, state officials said the explosion occurred Friday night at the factory in the Ohaji-Egbema local government area of Imo state and was triggered by a fire at two fuel storage locations where more than 100 workers were employed. Hundreds of people were injured or killed as a result of the explosion, and many more attempted to flee the scene by rushing into nearby wooded regions. The number of people that died in the tragedy is likely to be in the “hundreds,” according to Goodluck Opiah, the commissioner for petroleum resources in the state of Imo.
“A lot of people fled into the jungle because of the fires, and they died in the bush.”
2 suspects sought as 100 die in Nigeria oil refinery blast
A spokesperson for Buhari said the president has asked the nation’s security forces to “intensify the clampdown” on such facilities that are being operated illegally in several parts of southern Nigeria, according to the spokesperson. Despite the fact that Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, the country’s oil production capacity has been severely restricted for many years due to a persistent problem with oil storage and the operating of illicit refineries. As recently as March, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) reported that the country lost at least $3 billion worth of crude oil to theft between January 2021 and February 2022. Shady business operators often avoided regulation by setting up refineries in remote areas such as the one that exploded in Imo, according to the commission. “There have been no arrests yet, but the two perpetrators are on the run, and the police are actively searching for them,” said Declan Emelumba, the information commissioner for the state of Imo. Neither the suspects’ nor their identities were revealed by authorities.
In memory of those murdered in the explosion, a mass burial is being organized, according to Emelumba, who described several of the victims as “burnt beyond recognition.” Officials from the Department of Environmental Protection have begun to fumigate the area.
Such disasters are a regular occurrence in Africa’s most populous country, where poverty and unemployment – at 33% according to the latest government estimates – have forced millions of young people into criminal activities. Operating illegal refineries is not as popular in Imo state as it is in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, where militants have gained notoriety for blowing up oil pipelines and kidnapping workers from petroleum companies.
As many as 30 illegal oil refineries were busted in the Niger Delta region in just two weeks, Nigeria’s Defense Department said earlier this month when it announced a task force to curb crude oil theft. In the aftermath of the explosion in Imo state, the Nigerian ministry of petroleum told The AP there is “a renewed action” to tackle illegal activities in the oil sector. The government and the military are stepping up actions “to minimize the criminalities along the oil production lines,” said Horatius Egua, a senior official at the petroleum ministry.
However, many of the perpetrators continue to operate undeterred, particularly in Imo state, which is one of the few regions in Nigeria’s southeast that produces oil. According to Opiah, the Imo petroleum commissioner, the problem of illicit refineries has “never been this terrible” and will be “tough” to resolve in the future. Asked why kidnapping and armed robbery haven’t stopped, he replied, “it’s the same as asking why armed robbery hasn’t stopped.” “Even in the wake of this occurrence, it is unlikely that many individuals will be deterred.” In the future, I am confident that similar illicit refineries will spring up in other locations.”