The bodies of four suspected vandals were found at the scene of Saturday’s pipeline explosion at Arepo, Ogun State on Sunday.
The bodies, which were found in the swamp around the explosion site, had little sign of burns.
Even though the fire had reduced when our correspondents got to the scene on Sunday, emergency workers said the situation was still precarious as there was need to completely put out the fire.
Spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, said evacuation of the bodies would begin later on Sunday.
He said, “Our assessment show that more bodies will still be inside the swamp. This is why we cannot give a specific number of casualties at the moment.
“Two of the bodies found seemed to have floated up from the water. It is likely that more bodies may float later. But we will start the recovery of the bodies found as soon as Red Cross officials and medical team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation arrive.”
Farinloye said there was a technique that could be applied to make the bodies of other casualties that had sunk in the water to float.
He, however, explained that it was necessary for the state in which the pipelines were domiciled to contribute to tackling the menace of vandalism “instead of shifting blames.”
“The state is expected to mobilise traditional institutions and residents, who know the terrain to assist in intelligence gathering,” he said.
Deputy Manager, NNPC, in charge of Pipeline Rights of Way, Mr. Obinna Otuu, explained at the scene that the repair of the damage on the pipeline would take less than a day.
“Fuel supply through the damaged point has been shut off since Saturday, but the repairs will be concluded before tomorrow (Monday). So, there won’t be any fuel scarcity,” he said.
Otuu, who is in charge of all pipelines in the South-West, said fuel marketers might start hoarding fuel to create scarcity if the pipeline was not repaired on time.
Amosun blames NNPC
Meanwhile, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, visited the site on Sunday, putting blame on the NNPC.
Amosun had initially been prevailed upon by aides not to go to the explosion site on arrival at Arepo for security reasons.
But he insisted on seeing things for himself after a batch of security agents had gone to assess the situation.
The governor said the swampy nature of the terrain had made it nearly impossible for security agents to work effectively and urged the NNPC to provide equipment that would aid them in carrying out their duty.
He said, “This (explosion) is clearly due to failure of governance. NNPC by its inaction is aiding and abetting this and I want to believe it is part of pipeline vandalism.
“How can this local canoe, for example, be used by NNPC to protect a billion-dollar investment? Even if the place is combustive, can’t solar-powered boats be used?
“If NNPC supports us, we will get the whole place cleared and if we’re given between five and 10 swamp boogies, we’ll clear this place, erect platforms and install electronic devices. We will put up the CCTV and also have a control room that will monitor the place.
“How can vandals hold us to ransom? Just look at dead bodies littering everywhere. It took us 45 minutes to access the place. I even understand that it is the same spot where the three NNPC officials were killed last year.”
He stated that it was necessary to invest in security of oil facilities since oil is the bedrock of the nation’s economy.
In a related development, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, has called on the Federal Government to make increasing vandalism of the nation’s pipelines a national emergency.
In a release on Sunday, Peterside said vandalism had a far-reaching implication on the nation’s economy.
He said, “The issue of pipeline vandalism must be treated as a national emergency. Its relationship to joblessness and poverty in the land is worrisome
“My grievance is with those who vandalise the pipelines and I condemn in strong terms the sponsors and perpetrators of this evil. Pipelines are used all over the world to distribute petroleum products; therefore Nigeria should not be an exception.”
He called on security agencies to intensify efforts in protecting oil facilities.
Also speaking on the recurrent tanker fire incidents along the dilapidating East-West Road, the lawmaker called on the relevant authorities to hasten the completion of the road.
One of the suspected pipeline vandals, who was arrested on Saturday after the explosion has died.
According to police authorities, the deceased, Sunday Reuben, sustained severe burns but died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital on Sunday.
The deceased was also implicated in the murder of three officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation last year.
Father of the deceased, Hakeem, is also standing trial for the same offence at a Federal High Court.
Reuben, who was arrested alongside a medical doctor, Odusina Adegboyega, had told journalists shortly after his arrest on Saturday that he was involved in the illegal operation.
He said, “I was in my house when Suleiman my friend called me that there was a job at Arepo creeks. He asked me to look for a canoe and come with as many gallons as I could carry. Shortly after I arrived, I saw people arguing and fighting. I suddenly heard a gunshot.
“Immediately the gunshot went off, there was an explosion, I was lucky that I wasn’t close to the ruptured pipeline. It was the heat of the fire that affected me. I managed to run to my boat where my mother was waiting. My mother called a doctor who was about taking me to the hospital when we were arrested by the police.”
Confirming the death, the officer in charge of Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Anti-Pipeline Vandalism Unit, Friday Ibadin, said another suspect was in the emergency unit of LUTH. He added that three suspects were arrested.
It was reported that the explosion occurred on Saturday as a result of the activities of pipeline vandals at Arepo.
Three engineers of the NNPC were killed by suspected vandals in the same location in October 2012.