A federal official and a solider were among the dead in the pipeline mishap at Agip’s field, Sahara Reporters’ investigations have shown. Nigerian government officials, meanwhile, connived with Eni, which operates in Nigeria as Nigerian Aagip Oil Company (NAOC), to shield the level of casualties from the public.
The pipeline explosion occurred on Thursday afternoon at Agip’s oil fields in Azuzuama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.
Eni has reported that 12 maintenance staff of an indigenous oil service company died in the accident, but SaharaReporters sources at the Agip oil fields dismissed the figures. Local resident Lawamal Tari said that some local residents have estimated that more than 25 people were killed.
“It is very worrisome for the government officials to be involved in this sort of cover up when a soldier and an official of the oil spill agency died,” Mr. Tari told SaharaReporters on Saturday. “What are they trying to achieve and whose interest are they protecting?”
The official was part of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency and the soldier was attached to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta.
The Bayela Police Command on Saturday said it has so far recovered the remains of only six victims of Thursday’s crude oil pipeline explosion, fueling fears of a larger casualty number. Six bodies amongst those confirmed dead and the two declared missing remain unaccounted for.
Mr. Tari lamented the government’s lack of a public response to the incident. “The majority of the victims were community residents who are Bayelsa people and yet no concern has been shown for them,” he said. “Rather Bayelsa Government officials are holding clandestine meetings with Agip in Port Harcourt outside the state.”
Tari blamed the accident on the poor safety records of Agip as the firm failed to isolate the flowline before the repair works.
He said that countless number of Nigerians were forced to take avoidable life threatening risks whilst working in oil fields operated by international oil companies who would never allow such practices on their home soils.
Officials of NAOC, representatives of the host community, and the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment were investigating the cause of a recent oil spill in the area when the explosion occurred.
According to a statement issued by an Eni spokesman Mr Filipo Cotalini, the cause of the explosion is being investigated, and that acts of sabotage had previously occured in the area.