Death toll in Rivers illegal refinery fire may rise above 30 - Traditional ruler

Scene of explosion at an illegal oil refining site in Ibaa Community in Emohua LGA Rivers State.

File: Scene of explosion at an illegal oil refining

By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

The death toll from the explosion at an illegal oil refining site at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government area of Rivers State on Sunday, October 1 may rise above 30 as the headcount of victims continues.

The Paramount ruler of Ibaa community, Eze Nwobodo Jonah, made this revelation while giving an update on the aftermath of the inferno at the illegal oil refining site also known as ” Kponfire”.

Nwobodo said “The death toll may rise more than we expect because as we speak, the thing happened inside the bush and some families lost their numbers I know of a family where a man lost his son and he too was also burnt.

He regretted that despite his warnings and even using village town criers to go around the villages warming people to desist from the illegal oil bunkering, the criminal act has persisted.

“I warned them that anybody caught in the fire would carry his own cross because they were toying with disaster. Yet they still went ahead to continue the illegal bunkering. This is so unfortunate.

“Some of them regard me as a very bad person and refused to relate with me. It’s unfortunate that this thing keeps happening. I have been warning and warning. But they refused to listen. I hope this will serve as a deterrent to others,” Eze Nwobodo said.

Speaking on the tragic incident, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, the Chairman of the Emohua local government area, said that it is unfortunate that despite his administration’s advocacy on the dangers of illegal oil bunkering residents of oil-bearing communities continue to engage in the dangerous business.

He called on traditional rulers to speak out about criminal activities going on in their domains.

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“It is unfortunate for people to lose their lives in such a dastardly manner by engaging in illegal oil bunkering activities in areas like Ibaa.

“The world can bear me witness that I have done a lot of advocacy talking about the dangers of illegal oil bunkering in my local government that unfortunately they will not listen.

“Traditional rulers have a role play in this in this kind of situation. It is not enough them them to fight for recognition by the government. They should lead their people well so we can avoid this kind of tragedy.”

He said the government has always advised that when people see illegal activities going on in their environment, they should speak out so that actions will be taken.

Dr Lloyd also identified Obele, Rumuji and Ndele communities as places where illegal refining activities persist and the security agencies have been alerted.

He, however, raised concerns about the role of the Military in Ibaa community.

The local government Chairman said he had raised alarm about illegal Oil refining activities in these communities to security agencies and they are aware of what is going on.

“I always ask this question: How do these people transport this crude without the security agencies intercepting them and arresting them?”, Lloyd said while pointing out that there is an Army formation in Ibaa.

He wondered how the illegal refiners transport their crude without the military people knowing about it.

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