An unidentified militant group in Delta State today blew up pipelines belonging to the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) at Ighwrenene town in Ughelli North local government area. The blown up pipeline caused a severe explosion in the area.
A few residents of the area told SaharaReporters that the militant group blew up the pipelines to protest the Federal Government’s continued refusal to hire its members to provide surveillance services over all the pipelines in the area.A young man in the area, who identified himself as one of the militants who torched the pipeline, warned that the government had seen nothing yet. “This is only the beginning of wahala [trouble],” said the man, who refused to disclose his name.
“This is the second explosion. There will be third one. Then the government will know that, yes, this is not a child's play,” he continued. Then he added: “President Muhammadu Buhari must give the [contract for the] guarding of the pipelines to the youths. If not—well, let me stop there first.”
Our correspondent reported that the explosion, which is the second attack on the same pipeline in recent times, occurred around 1:00 a.m.
Due to the treacherous terrain, a SaharaReporters correspondent who visited the area was unable to gain access to the scene of the explosion. The correspondent encountered some security agents, NPDC officials, and Delta State firefighters who were trying to secure the flooded road. The officials warned the reporter to refrain from taking photos of the area.
Speaking to our correspondent, some residents of Ighwrenene decried the absence of proper vigilance of the pipelines. They urged the state and federal governments to make arrangements for proper surveillance of the pipelines to prevent any future breaches and explosions caused by the activities of militant groups or vandals.
One of the residents, Julius Oghenejovwo, called on both the state and federal governments to consider the recruitment of locals to assist in guarding all the pipelines in the areas.
Speaking with a SaharaReporters correspondence, a staff of the fire department of the NPDC disclosed that a similar explosion also occurred Thursday at Ubeji in Warri South local government area of Bayelsa State.
He revealed that the NPDC was making efforts to switch off the flow of oil through the affected pipelines. “Until we succeed in cutting of oil from the pipeline, we remain helpless in our attempt to gain access to the point of explosion. The road leading to the place is flooded, and that has made the travel impossible,” he said.
As at the time of filing this report, no group or groups had officially claimed responsibility for the explosion. However, an explosion that rocked a flow station three months ago was attributed to a militant group known as the Urhobo Gbagbako.
SaharaReporters learned that the group had threatened to carry out more pipeline explosions if the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration rejected its demand to be awarded a pipeline surveillance contract.
In the dying days of his administration, former President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded lucrative pipeline surveillance contracts to several leaders of militant groups in the Niger Delta and southwest. Mr. Jonathan’s political opponents accused him of setting a dangerous precedent by awarding surveillance contracts to ill-equipped militant groups whose major figures merely saw the contracts as cash cows. The former president reportedly handed the surveillance contracts to the erstwhile militant henchmen in order to secure their political support for his reelection.
It is unclear whether President Buhari would renew the surveillance contracts or accede to pressure by other militant groups to secure such contracts.