But for providence, residents of Ejigbo and Idimu areas of Lagos State would have woken up to a catastrophic disaster yesterday after a pipeline in Tunde Alabi crescent off Oboye, Mingles bus-stop, Mafon area of Ejigbo, was broken by unknown hoodlums to scoop fuel into waiting tankers.
After the vandals fled the scene at about 1:00a.m. abandoning some of their digging tools, the broken pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) began to gush with fuel into the surrounding environment, passing through a deep drainage into a nearby canal.
It was gathered that the perpetrators had broken the pipe and were successfully scooping fuel until they could not control the flow forcing them to abscond. According to an eyewitness who pleaded for anonymity, four tankers had been filled and loaded from the spot at the busy junction of the area also known as Silver Estate. He said six of the vandals were armed with guns and wore camouflage fatigues.
After the vandals fled the scene, residents of Oboye immediately alerted the police and Lagos State Fire Service, which quickly dispatched personnel to the area, it was several hours later before officials of the NNPC enginners and pipeline protection squad got to the scene to block the damaged pipeline after the fire service had released foam into the area to dilute the flowing fuel and prevent an explosion. The pipe was blocked at about 12:30p.m, nearly 12 hours after the incident was first reported.
Another source said residents of the area where the fuel was flowing to had to flee their homes as early as 4:00a.m. to avoid being caught by any possible fire outbreak. Others who stayed back were sternly warned not to cook or use generating set, while those at the scene were cautioned from using their mobile phones to prevent any conflagration.
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ejigbo police station, CSP Olabisi Okuwobi, said immediately she was alerted of the incident, she dispatched policemen to cordon off the area before the arrival of the fire service, which came with several trucks at about 4:00a.m.
Following the incident, schools around the environment closed for the day and sent back pupils home. Students who reported to school were asked to go home. One of the schools, Wemby College, also called parents who had children in the boarding house to pick up their wards from school until the situation is under control.
It would be recalled that last December in Abule Egba area of the state, there was a fire explosion that erupted from activities of pipeline vandals that injured several persons and burnt houses and vehicles. Also, NNPC officials had recently embarked on the destruction of illegal structures in the pipeline areas of Ejigbo and Idimu.
According to the chairman of Victory Estate Community Development Association (CDA), Mr. John Akinnubi, said it would have took the vandals days to dug to the pipeline and not in one instant at night. He called on the NNPC to step up its surveillance of their pipelines.
“The last time we experienced this in the area was six years ago at the junction some few metres from here. We called the attention of the NNPC and stakeholders to the danger of their pipelines because at the time, it was discovered that the pipes were rusty and almost all our wells and boreholes had been contaminated with fuel but they only repaired their pipes and did nothing to address the problem of spilled fuel, leakages, water contamination and adequate security of their pipes. We are all living with the hazards of polluted water. We thank God there was no explosion yesterday, it would have been a different story here because the whole community is already soaked with fuel.”
Another resident lamented that the water coming out from their taps are mixed with fuel. “You can easily see it on the top of a bucket of water, while the smell of petrol is so strong in the water. I bathed with that water for one year, couldn’t drink it but when I started having some body rashes, I have since resorted to using sachet water or going long distance away from the area to fill up my jerrycans. This area is dangerous and not safe for habitation,” he said. Officials of the NNPC engineers and pipeline security committee declined commenting on the incident.