Six feared dead as tankers explode in Rivers

Six feared dead as tankers explode in Rivers

By Dennis Naku

A wildfire from two petrol tankers has resulted in the death of six persons who were said to be scooping diesel in Eteo, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.

It was gathered that the truck containing 33,000 litres of suspected illegally refined Automotive Gas popularly known as AGO was set on fire by security men.

The incident occurred in a bush near Trailer Park Junction, a popular business point at the Eleme section of the East-West Road.

An eyewitness identified as Gideon said drivers of two tankers were forced at gunpoint to drive into the bush, where the security agents set the tankers on fire.

Gideon alleged that the drivers may have refused to part with some cash which spurred the men to take such action.

He said, “They (security men) forced the truck owners at gunpoint to drive to the point where this happened.

“Remember, things like this often happen when the tanker drivers refuse to settle them for the amount of money they demand from them.

“I saw many residents scooping and transporting it (fuel) away. As the fire was set on the tankers, they started to burn, exploded and the products spilled. They scooped it at a distance while it was burning.”

He further said since the AGO did not burn as fast as petrol, especially as it was poorly refined, it was easier for locals to scoop the product as it oozed out from the truck into drainages.

Speaking on the development, an activist and executive director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene, condemned the action of the security men.

Dumnamene advocated a provision in the Petroleum Industry Act, where security officials who set ablaze petrol tankers and vessels should be tried in court.

He explained that security agents should be dragged to court under the PIA, since host community people who caused pollution could forfeit their three per cent as stipulated in the Act.

“The burning of two tankers of 33,000 litres each has caused the spilling of 66,000 litres of AGO into the environment.

“So, if the PIA says communities will be criminalised and penalised even with the withholding of the per cent, then we can see how to push this advocacy for security officials that set ablaze tankers and vessels to also be dragged to court under this Act.

“In fact, they can set ablaze tankers, but they should not spill its contents.

“The number one reason for confiscating and impounding the tankers is because they’re allegedly carrying illegal petroleum products.

“The reason for setting it ablaze is a combination of the fact that it is carrying illegal petroleum products and they also refused to settle them with something substantial, thus wasting their time,” he said.

On the casualty figure, he said about six persons, including a security official lost their lives, while others were hospitalised in an undisclosed facility on Sunday.

Dumnamene added, “As a result of the increased product scooping activity, with some of the scoopers climbing the tankers that were still standing with some product in them, an explosion occurred in the process, leading to the alleged deaths, burns and injuries to those caught in the fire including a dead body said to be in security uniform.”

He further said fire service arrived at the scene to out the remnants of fire and the area cleaned.

When contacted, the spokesperson of the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, confirmed the incident but said she was yet to get the actual death.

She promised to get back to our reporter, but had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.


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