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How Police Corporal was burnt by oil pipeline fire and abandoned by his employers

*Graphic PHOTO included, viewer discretion is advised

By VINCENT UJUMADU, Awka

WHEN, on May 20, 2010, Police Corporal Oshogbo Onyeisi attached to the 29 Police Mobile Force, PMF, Awka, received a directive to report at Asaba, Delta State along with 13 other policemen for a special duty at the highly volatile oil rich area of Niger Delta to protect the oil pipelines against vandals, little did he know that the national assignment would lead to his permanent disability.

Though his heart must have skipped a bit because of daring activities of the pipeline vandals over the years who are always ready to terminate the life of anybody that stood on their way against feeding illegally on the nation’s oil resources and disrupting oil installations, Onyeisi, who hails from Agbor in Ika North East local government area of Delta State, had no choice than to obey his superior police officers who assigned the duty to him and his colleagues.

Today, Onyeisi, a father of four whose ages range from 12 to five years, is on the streets begging for assistance to enable him treat himself, having been virtually abandoned by both the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, after pipeline vandals set fire on his team during which he suffered first degree burns that had incapacitated him. Though he managed to survive after being admitted in hospital for seven months following severe burns in the hands of the vandals who attacked them while on duty, the police corporal is presently a shadow of himself.

Narrating his pathetic story to Saturday Vanguard in company of his wife, Joy, Onyeisi said: “I was nominated for the special duty against oil pipeline anti vandalism in Warri along with my colleagues. On September 2nd, 2010, following the consistent tampering and bursting of the pipelines by the vandals, we launched a heavy attack on them at Oghara. In the process, the vandals set us ablaze in our vehicle and though some of my colleagues died, I survived, but burnt beyond recognition.

“I was first rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, in Benin City by officials of NNPC where I was on admission for six months and another one month at the NNPC Clinic in Benin City, after which I was discharged and asked to go to Police Clinic.

“After a long search, I could not find any Police Clinic and since then, I have been left to cater for myself as the police and NNPC appear to have gotten tired of me.
Following several letters written to the NNPC by a lawyer who has volunteered to assist me, the area manager of Pipeline Products Marketing Company, an arm of NNPC, which we worked for, invited us for a meeting during which I was told that NNPC would pay me N250,000 which was the allowance that accrued to me for the period I was on the special duty before the incident.

“Since my discharge from hospital, I have been facing serious problems. I can hardly sleep due to the effect of the burns and I can hardly see now because the fire affected my two eyes. To save my life, I have had to sell almost all my property, including my family’s land and my wife had also sold the provision store business she was managing before my accident, just to raise money for me to continue the treatment.”

On Onyeisi’s discharge from UBTH, the consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. F.O Ijekeye who treated him confirmed that the police officer could no longer handle gun. In a letter dated 1st June, 2011 which which he gave to Onyeisi, Ijekeye wrote: “The above –named person was treated in this hospital under the plastic and reconstructive surgery unit for major burns following a pipeline explosion at Oghara on 2nd September, 2010.

“He underwent several surgical procedures and was successfully discharged from hospital on the 26th February, 2011 with residual deformities of both hands which hinder functions, such as operating a gun.

*Corporal Oshogbo Onyeisi...before the burn and after the burn

“You may wish to consider reassigning him to more sedentary duties while arrangements are being made for further reconstructive surgeries.”

However, rather than arrange for Onyeisi’s further treatment, the police decided to transfer him from Anambra to Ondo State in his present condition.

Though he had appealed against the transfer, pleading that he be allowed to remain in Anambra in view of his condition, his employers appear not to be favourably disposed to consider his request. In the appeal letter he addressed to the Inspector General of Police dated July 9, 2011, through the Commissioner of Police in charge of welfare at the Force Headquarters, Onyeisi said he preferred to remain in Anambra so as to be close to his family since it would be difficult for him to fend himself. Rather than consider his request, the Commissioner of Police in Ondo State merely granted him sick leave.

Onyeisi’s wife, Joy, in a passionate appeal, urged the police and the NNPC not to allow her husband die. Amidst tears, she told Saturday Vanguard that the burden of going from place to place to look for money to save her husband was affecting her physically and mentally. She said: “I want them to assist my husband.

He needs to be treated abroad so that he can still use his hands. For now, I bath and feed him. He is feeling so much pains and we are always having sleepless nights because I have to be dabbing his body with water every 30 minutes to reduce the heat on him. He can’t even stand for more than 30 minutes. All the money we have is finished and our house rent is already due for payment.”

Meantime, Onyeisi is demanding a compensation of N20 million as damages and to enable him treat himself properly. His lawyer, Mr. Samuel Nwosu from the Chambers of Igu, Ogbuka and Associates, Awka has already written the NNPC on the matter.

In the letter, Nwosu said his client was worried at the manner his case was being handled by the corporation he was working for before the incident, adding that the case needed to be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserved. He threatened a court action if NNPC did not give the matter the attention it deserved.

Though the litigation, arbitration and property law department of NNPC had replied to the letter, saying it had requested the PPMC to provide it with the full background facts on the issue to enable it respond, Onyeisi said he was taken aback when officials of PPMC told him that no further financial commitment would be made outside the N250,000 allowance he was paid.


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