The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) on Wednesday dismissed the claim by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), that it was responsible for the explosion that rocked the Port Harcourt Refinery last weekend, and killed at least eight people.
IYC members say the explosion at the Port Harcourt Refinery was sparked-off by the activities of oil thieves.
Eric Omare, spokesman of the youth group said in Yenagoa, that checks conducted by the three man committee set up by the IYC on the incident, had discovered that the explosion was triggered off by a boat engine used by the oil thieves.
"We set up a committee over the explosion, and we found that it was not MEND that was responsible, but those suspected to be involved in oil theft and illegal bunkering activities in the area,” Omare said.
“We discovered that with the dilapidated and uncovered engine used by the suspected oil thieves, explosion was imminent," Omare said with emphasis.
Omare added that the incident underscores the need for the renewal of the oil pipeline surveillance contract in the region, and the involvement of the indigenes of coastal communities in the protection of pipelines.
The pipeline surveillance contracts, as earlier detailed in a SaharaReporters story, was awarded to some ex-militant leaders, who were paid out millions of dollars monthly to the beneficiaries, but had failed to keep the pipelines safe from attacks.
The failure of NNPC to renew the contracts has provoked severe recent attacks on the oil pipeline, as it spews more crude and other pollutants into the devastated Niger Delta environment.
On the recent protests by the Ijaw communities over the proposed Ogidigben Export Processing Zone by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), and the Delta State government, the IYC spokesman said the development has become worrisome, and he called on President Goodluck Jonathan to mediate.
Omare maintained that the Ijaw Communities of Opopo, Sokiblor in Burutu and the Warri South-West area of Delta state, are irked by naming the project "Ogidigben".
The IYC called for a defined Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the percentage of benefits going to local the communities of Itsekiri and Ijaws in the area.
Omare, however, denied that the protest by the Ijaws was influenced by the tribal inclination of the Delta State Governor, Dr.Emmanuel Uduaghan, as an Itsekiri man.
"It is not true that we want to use our tribal relationship with President Jonathan to curry more benefits over the project.
“What we are saying is that the present arrangement on the project is wrong and could spark violent reaction," Omare said.