Hundreds of residents in Nembe community of Beyelsa State have fled their homes and business premises as Nigeria’s major oil pipeline, the Nembe Creek Trunk, exploded,
The police authorities and key operators in the oil and gas sector confirmed the incident amidst suspicions of sabotage.
The affected pipeline with capacity of 150,000 barrels per day runs from an oil terminal in Bonny to Bayelsa State. Initial reports indicated that the disaster occurred last Friday, but industry sources said that it was on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
The state police command spokesman, Asinim Butswat, who confirmed the explosion, told journalists that, “we have not been officially briefed on the incident, but it occurred.”
Butswat said that “no lives were lost as a result of the explosion and we can’t confirm if it was an attack by militants or an equipment failure unless the people managing the facility go there to determine the cause.”
However, the management of Aiteo, the handlers of the pipeline, explained that the fire incident occurred on March 2, 2019, when an explosion happened within the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well 7, behind Mile 1 Community in Bayelsa State.
Like the police, Aiteo said that no life was lost in the explosion.
In a statement it issued on the incident, Aiteo said that despite initial challenges, the company’s operations team was able to access the well head area when the fire had completely died down on early hours of Saturday.
Aiteo said that preliminary investigations confirmed that there were no fatalities; human incidents or damage to community property.
It said: “All the wells and facilities in the immediate vicinity have been inspected and secured. This incident did not occur at or involve any part of the NCTL or other pipelines. It is important to note that prior to this incident, all facilities have been shut down since 28th February, 2019, due to NCTL outage.
Accordingly, any account suggesting that this incident arose from or affected any pipelines is wholly inaccurate and misleading.”
Aiteo said that full investigations to determine the cause of the fire and, in particular, to determine whether it may have been caused by third-party infractions, are ongoing, adding that the investigations are being pursued with the utmost urgency and given the highest priority.
“We are continuing to work with all the relevant authorities to restore full functionality to all the relevant installations and affected areas. In the time being, we express our gratitude to all our stakeholders for your continuing support and understanding whilst urging calm and vigilance,” the company said.