By Michael Eboh
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, yesterday, denies culpability in the pipeline fire incident that occurred last week in Umuaduru and Umuimo communities in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State.
The NNPC, in a statement by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, said the incident was not as a result of negligence on its part, but was triggered by suspected oil thieves who had hacked into its System 2E pipeline network with a view to intercepting the flow of petrol from Port Harcourt to Aba.
According to him, the clarification became necessary in view of the recent statement by a legislator indicting NNPC on the fire outbreak which had claimed lives and valuable properties.
Ughamadu explained that the presence of items such as jerrycans, among others, at the scene of the incident as contained in the preliminary report on the matter, indicated that the activities of vandals in the area ignited the flame.
He regretted that incessant vandalism of pipeline facilities along System 2E Pipeline Right of Way, PROW, which has led to the underutilization of the Enugu Depot, saying that the breaches have prevented the corporation from pumping fuel into it.
He called on relevant government agencies to collaborate with the corporation to appropriately criminalize vandalism of oil facilities across the country, adding that host communities should also partner the NNPC to tame the scourge.
Ughamadu prayed that God reposes the souls of the innocent ones that perished in the incident, even as he warned members of the public against tempering with oil facilities which he described as inflammable.