Saturday 7 December 2019

Seven dead in pipeline explosion in Lagos, Nigeria.

Seven people have died after a pipeline carrying petrol exploded in Lagos State, Nigeria, on Thursday 5 December 2019. The explosion happened at Idowu Egba to the west of the city of Lagos, and is thought to have been caused by thieves boring into the pipeline to steal petrol, which also released petrol fumes into the local atmosphere, fumes which were ignited when a cleric at a nearby church lit a candle. The dead are thought to include five members of the gang that was stealing the petrol, the clergyman, and one of his parishioners. A second churchgoer is being treated in hospital with 70% burns.

Investigators at the scene of a pipeline explosion in Lagos State, Nigeria, this week. Gidipoint.

Although Nigeria is a major exporter of crude oil, it is largely reliant on imported petroleum for its fuel needs, placing the country at a significant economic disadvantage. The combination of fuel poverty and pipelines criss-crossing the countryside has led to a thriving black market in stolen fuel, obtained at great risk from pipelines, either as processed petroleum or as crude oil which is then refined using home-made fractionation equipment, a process known as 'oil bunkering'. This raiding of oil pipelines is blamed by oil companies for the widespread pollution in the Niger Delta, though environmental and human rights groups claim that this is used as an excuse to cover poor maintenance practises, and that companies should be held responsible for the security of their pipelines anyway.

However the sale of black-market fuel provides a means of gaining hard cash in an area that has seen little benefit from the presence of the oil companies, and where the oil is often seen as a resource that should belong to the local people, not foreign oil companies or the (fairly remote) government of Nigeria. The environmental problems caused by both legal and illegal oil operations in the Delta strongly impact upon the local economy, which is based upon small scale farming and fishing, leaving many people with no legitimate source of income, which combined with a rapidly growing population and therefore increased demand for food, makes the black market oil industry more attractive than it might otherwise seem.

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