Averting economic, human calamities from pipeline explosions

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Accidental  explosions all over the world usually come with far reaching consequences including loss of lives, properties, dislocation of families and collapse of economic activities.

According to the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Nigeria lost over $41.94 billion in 10 years to attack on critical national assets in the petroleum sector. Indeed, the latest of such incidences at Abule-Ado, a Lagos suburb is still fresh in the minds of the citizens considering that over 21 lives were lost while properties worth several millions of Naira were destroyed in the early Sunday morning March 8,2020 calamity.

While government agencies responsible for enumeration and disaster management are still putting together the value of the destruction and its impact on the economy, some observers have said the loss arising from the explosion could be in the region of billions of naira as over 50 houses and about 100 shops were destroyed.

Governor of Lagos State, Mr.Babajide Sanwo-Olu, during a visit to the scene of the incident, lamented the huge damage to lives and properties, declaring that the impact was far more than what the State could handle alone. But as a stop gap measure, the Governor announced the floating of a N2 billion emergency relief fund, with the State Government taking the lead with a donation of N250 million. while calling on well- meaning Nigerians and Lagosians to support the initiative to bring succour to the affected victims.

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The Abule Ado disaster is certainly not the first in the State’s litany of explosion induced disasters as two other pipeline explosion that also led to loss of lives and property happened last year in Ijegun and Oke-Odo respectively.

But, beyond the various incidences that have unleashed pain and irrecoverable damages to  most families and organisations, stakeholders have fingered the  failure of regulation and enforcement as some of the reasons behind their frequencies  .

On the one hand, others have blame the lack of proper training and certification of those handling equipment  involved with the movement of petroleum products could be a major reason.

Economic loss to pipeline attacks/explosions

The incessant attacks on critical national assets, especially petroleum products pipelines appears to have defied all solutions for those living within the locations where such infrastructures are located, thus  posing a national security threat capable of bringing the economy to its knees with a $41.94 billion loss in 10 years.

According to the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI),  the $41.94 billion loss in 10 years translated to $11.47 million a day, $349 million a month and $4.19 billion a year. This is a huge cost when views from the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari’s disclosure that the Corporation recorded 45,347 pipeline breaks on its downstream network across the country between 2001 and January to June of 2019.

This indeed underscores the gravity of the activities of oil thieves and pipeline vandals in Nigeria.

Accordingly, the NNPC in its July 2019 Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR), raised the alarm that pipeline vandalism reached an all-time high, rising by 115 per cent. The Corporation explained that a record number of 228 points were broken along the country’s pipelines in the month under review, adding that the breached lines represented an awful increase from 106 vandalised points recorded in June 2019.

According to the Corporation, out of the damaged points, 15 could not be welded, while five points were ruptured.

The report also stated that the Aba to Enugu axis accounted for 35 per cent of the breaks, while Port Harcourt to Aba pipeline route recorded 22 per cent, with Ibadan to Ilorin recording 16 per cent of the breakages.

Similarly, it said the Lagos Atlas Cove to Mosimi Zone logged 12 per cent with other locations accounting for the remaining 15 per cent of the breaks.

The Abule-Ado Explosion/loss

However, while Lagos continued to lament the latest incident, residents and some observers appear to be divided over the cause of the explosion., While the NNPC claimed it was caused by a leakage from a gas facility, residents of Abule-Ado who witnessed the incident insisted that it was a bomb blast.

A statement by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs, NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said it was as the result of gas explosion which occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the Corporation’s system 2B Pipeline Right of Way.

The Corporation explained that preliminary findings indicated that the impact of the explosion was so huge that it led to the collapse of nearby houses and damage to NNPC pipeline. Obateru stated that following the report of the explosion, the Corporation quickly halted ongoing pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline which was active at the time. At the site of the explosion, over 100 shops located on Omo Onile road were crushed to their foundation with no item left on site.

The shops according to a resident trade in building materials such as cement, iron rods,  and grocery stores. Some of the shop owners who gathered in clusters were seen lamenting their fate and the huge losses that had befallen them. Most of the shops according to residents were built together with houses, which have now been reduced to rubbles.

Also affected are block moulding businesses that  occupied road setbacks in the location.

According to a shop owner dealing in grocery and soft drinks, who identified herself as Oyerinde Florence, the explosion came to her as a huge shock, as goods worth over N300,000  were lost to the accident.

She lamented that she only recently got a loan from Lapo Microfinance Bank to boost her trade. ‘’I am calling on the Lagos State Government to come to my aid to enable me return to business as soon as possible as I am now at cross roads on how to repay the loan. I hope the bank will get to read this in order to know my plight ‘’ she said.

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When Daily Sun visited the scene of the incident, some of the shop owners who were still lucky to salvage some of their wares were seen making frantic effort to pick their life from where the disaster left it.

Another trader who spoke to Daily Sun at the scene of the incident, Mr.Kamal Ibrahim, said the explosion could not have been pipeline related but said he believed it was a bomb explosion. He said he was unable to salvage any of his iron rods as they have been burnt beyond recognition.

He said he only got fresh stock of goods worth over five million naira just last week.

Experts speak

Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer(CEO), Safety Experts Limited,  a firm that specialises in fire safety training and auditing of workplaces, Mrs. Debbie Windele, said the rate of fire  outbreaks in Nigeria lately was becoming worrisome.

‘‘Worse are the explosions the we are experiencing in our petroleum pipelines with attendant social and economic misfortunes that follow in their wake. Lives are lost and houses are destroyed as a result.

Nigerians and the authorities will not want this dismal statistics to go on.

In governance, you cannot see in advance likely challenges but when they do occur, conscious efforts are put in place to address them. These problems are not without solutions. There are fire prevention and fire risk reduction techniques the Nigerian oil and gas industry can avail itself of.

Highly skilled experts like Safety Experts Limited are always to put an end or at least  reduce to the barest minimum this accidental social menace emanating from fire outbreaks in our petroleum industry.’’

Also speaking, former Assistant Director, Health Safety and Environment, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mrs. Dorothy Bassey, said despite the fact that there are HSE standards put in place by the regulator, these unfortunate incidents still occur. She explained that the DPR do have all the guidelines, standards, procedures and also carry out monitoring, inspection and carry out audits, yet the incidents still happen every three to four months.

She admitted that, something was fundamentally wrong, saying it is a different thing to have regulations and another thing for stakeholders to understand the regulations, saying if they do not understand the regulations, how then do they do the right thing at the right time?

Bassey, who is also the President of Nigeria Environmental Society, said despite all that is in place, what is then the missing link?

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She alluded to the lack of understanding of the regulations and the intent by stakeholders and industry players as being a major setback to HSE in the oil and gas sector.

She, however, canvassed regular stakeholder engagement  on the need to constantly remind them of the regulations in place and the dangers inherent in breaching the codes.

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Catalogue of explosions

On Sunday January 19, 2020, dire devil vandals had struck at the Oke-Odo area of Abule-Egba, in the Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos, leaving five people dead, 11 houses burnt, goods and 36 vehicles including 33 trucks worth several millions of Naira destroyed in a night inferno that engulfed the community while siphoning premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol.

Also, on December 5, 2019, part of the System 2B pipeline was vandalised by oil thieves at Baruwa Village in Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State.

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