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Danger, disaster looms as illegal refinery thrives in Ughelli South …One dies as soldiers invades camp


By Godwin Utuedoye,


Despite the constant destruction of illegal refineries coupled with fire disaster and arrest of those involved in this illegal oil refining business by security agents, mostly in the Niger Delta area, more refineries still springs up with desperate unemployed young persons defiling all warnings, laws and ventures into the risky deal in Otor-Edo-community in Ughelli South Local Government Area, Delta State.

                                     An illegal refinery being burnt

Though the business according to a source is lucrative but the chances of survival in case of any fire accident is so slim.
This was the case when a young man whose identity is yet to be known on Friday, March 2, 2018 allegedly lost his his life as he was trying to escape from soldiers who stormed the area with aim to stop the illegal activities of the bunkerers.
A source who witnessed the incident confide in Advocate  that the deceased who hails from Agbor, was at the camp where illegal refining of diesel is taking place when the unfortunate occurred.
The source added that being an illegal business, those involed are always at alert of security agents especially the millitary.
“And so, immediately they got hound that security agents were coming, the said young man jumped into the river as others escaped throught the bush while some jumped into the river to evade arrest, but unfortunate for the deceased, he has no option but to jump into the water even when he does not know how to swim. His corpse was later found the following day floating in the river.
 Disaster and deaths recorded so far
Since the resumption of the illegal oil activty in the area, many has allegedly lost their lives. According to a reliable source from the area but does not want his name disclosed, told Advocate Newspaper, that scores have lost their lives through fire inferno in the process of siphoning the crude oil from vandalized pipe-line or in the process of moving the product from one point to the other. The source added that many young boys have died in the process. In his words; “una nor dey hear anything na, you know how many people dey burn every week?”, he stated. 
On December 31, 2017 a young boy in his late 20’s and hails from a neighbouring community to Otor-Edo was burnt beyond recognition when the pumping machine he and others were using to siphon condensate from a vandalized pipeline somewhere at Otor-Edo caught fire and exploded. Four persons where said to have lost their lives to that fire incident.
Early January 2018, a Volkswagen Jetta car loaded with locally refined diesel and kerosene also caught fire as a result of a spark from the car engine, burning the three occupant including a mother, her son and son’s wife, all dead on the sport.
Another incident according to another source, was that of February 10, 2018 when a vehicle loaded with substances believed to be illegally refined diesel and kerosene was chased along the Jeremi-Udu road through the railway immediately after Ujevwu Community in Udu Local Government Area by security agents. Sensing that the driver may escape arrest with the products, the police allegedly fired a shot which accidently hits one of the tyres of the vehicle thereby making the driver to lost control of the vehicle thereby leading to a head on collision with an oncoming vehicle. According to source, the two vehicles immediately burst into flames killing both occupants with one of the vehicle occupied by a man and his wife and their child.
Another incident was the destruction that took place on Monday this week when men of the military on a tip off intercepted two buses loaded with illegally refined diesels and kerosene worth over 15, 000 litres at a nearby community at the overside of Otor-Edo community probably on its way to sales point. Our source told us that the driver of the vehicle was commanded by the soldiers to a particular spot close to the pipe-line that passes through Iwhrekan community and adjacent to the military base after Okpare-Olomu bridge before setting the two vehicle with the products ablaze. This the source said; is not among the hundreds of products seized or destroyed by the different security agents on daily basis.
 
Pollution and burning of natural vegetation by military
A visit to the affected community where the illegal refinery is situated will no doubt informed of the impending disaster and the harm these quick rich racket is doing to the acqua-nature and the ecosystem. With the level of oil spill and with the quantity of crude on the water that strecthes from Otor-Edo through Iwhrekreka to Okpare-Olomu river and  Iwhrekan Community etc., without an iota of doubt, will tell that no acquatic life/organisms can survive in such environment. According to some residents, whenever the soldiers stormed the area, they ensure they live behind horror and pains which not only affects those behind the act but the entire community as both fishing nets, canoe, palm wine trees and other natural vegetation are all burnt and destroyed.
 
Another Eye witness account
An an witness who claim to reside in one of the neighbouring communities told Advocate that despite the incessant seizure, arrest and destruction of the illegal refineries/refined products, the business seems to be on the increase as she alleged that no day past without you seeing people carrying jerry cans of refined diesel and kerosene either on motorcycle or in vehicles. The eye witnessed said, the communities around the area is been monitored and patrolled by different security agents including the police, army, civil defence corp among others. probably to collect bribe.
Allegation
Some of the person spoken with however accused the military, the police and the NSCDC of complicity and collecting of bride hence they said; “why are they concerned about the destruction of the products but live the oven where these products are being cooked/refined as well blocking the source of getting the crude”. They blamed both security agents and the leadership of those communities where these dangerous act is taking place, alleging that they have turned it into a racketeer or a point of exthortion. Those who spoke to us noted that if the community leaders understand and are aware of the dangers involved, they will work hard to put a stop to blood business in their community.
 
Inflow of strangers into the community
It was also revealed that due to the business taking place in the area, young men and women from different places especially the riverine areas dialy trooped in to either buy the products or involved in the shady deal. We where reliably informed that most of those doing the business are not from the community or the area but experts in the business from the riverine communities.
 
Community elder speak under strict anonymity 
One of the community elders who spoke to Advocate under strict anonymity blamed this dangerous business on the lacaidaistic attitude of leaders in the community where this illegal refinery is situated. The elder also noted that the soldiers guiding the various pipe-lines in the area are not doing enough. He said, ” they are at Iwhrekan and this is Otor-Edo, so you mean before this volume of crude flowing through the water to these areas, they don’t see it? He question. They can’t claim ignorant of it” he concluded.
Appeal to NNPC, NPDC and Government
Meanwhile, some fisher men from Okpare community have appealed to NNPC, NPDC and the state government to come for an immediate clean up, saying that only Iwhrekan community river have been cleaned up living the side of Okpare-Olomu community. They lament the untold hardship the oil spill have caused them and begged those involved to speed up action in cleaning up the river as it is the only source of their income and livelihood.
Meanwhile, an unconfirmed source confide in Advocate that the NNPC/NPDC has accused the community of their involvement in pipeline vandalization, an allegation the source said the community strongly denied, as the said pipeline does not passed through their community nor such illegal refinery is in their community. But in all these, urgent steps need to be taken either by the NPDC, NNPC, the Government or those involved to avoid a major inferno that may cause human disaster or lost of lives. Efforts made to speak with the President-General of both Otor-Edo and Okpare-Olomu community proved abortive as none could be reached as their phone response says ” the number you are calling cannot be reached.”
 

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Danger, disaster looms as illegal refinery thrives in Ughelli South …One dies as soldiers invades camp

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