It has been a week now since the news of the explosion of an oil pipeline line in Warri occurred. The explosion happened just behind the 3 Battalion Army Barracks, Effurun- Warri, Delta State and spread to other areas in the locality with three separate thick-smoke producing fires burning for days and the firefighters are not winning. The rumour in town is that the pipeline was “burst open” by militants and is very strong. Once again militants take the blame without any rational or casual consideration of technical failures or negligence being the cause. And there is no talk of urgency concerning the victims of the disaster yet.
There have been reliable reports that in two of the three areas where Warri Fire Disaster occurred, “leaks” and massive stagnant “lakes” of heavily spilt oil had been in existence for several months without any remedial action taken to clean-up the pollution on the part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Privatising the refineries, setting-up Oil and Gas Free Zones and re-allocating oil sector licenses are incomparable more important the Government of Nigeria (GON) but only because they are handsome sinecures for decision-makers who tout the prospects. Bombing barges while ignoring supertankers that carry the oil away is about bribery and extortion.
Now that the conflagration of the “leaks” has occurred in Warri, amnesia of the negligence of NNPC and the GON has taken hold as is so predictably usual. All recent and ancient reports of the poor state of the pipelines and demands for clean-up have also been mostly forgotten. What is leftover and surging is the blame of the incident on militants. Neither the NNPC nor the GON has the sense of responsibility, to tell the truth about the cause of the disaster. Any victims? Sinecures, sinecures, everywhere in Nigeria but no responsibility to take.
Even more interesting is that the explosion happened just beside the already decrepit 3 Battalion Army Barracks in Effurun-Warri. The military barracks looks currently like a shanty town but I remember when it was a place of pride. Were the barracks established to protect the oil pipeline lines in the area or has the encampment evolved, unrecognisably, into a serious strategic military vulnerability? The “war on oil bunkering” has to be seriously questioned. An easy retaliation “hotspot” in the “war on bunkering” appears to have emerged.
We can blame this case on poor strategic long-range planning. Ever since the 1970s foreign and local experts have surveyed and written about the substandard and dilapidated state of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. Action is never taken by the GON on such reports and refurbishing or updating the military facility is far too costly for it to consider. When owning stupendous foreign accounts/assets is more important than people, infrastructure and the military etc. Ohine! The victims, as usual, are always implicated in these disasters as “blame-worthy” or “mere statistics” to be buried in mass graves.
Countless Nigerians take it for granted that the GON can locate oil pipelines wherever they choose even when they run through long-established communities. These communities rapidly become “oil sacrifice zones” because their economic usefulness is indispensable but their livelihoods, protection and safety from the pipelines never thought of. That a military barrack will become an “oil sacrifice zone” in Nigeria is irony in the highest.