BusinessDay

Disaster in Egbema: What really happened?

First, let’s understand the locale and terrain of the place where the disaster killed over 110 persons at the weekend, precisely Friday night.

The place is called Egbema. It is one community but it is divided into Imo and Rivers states. Sources from the boundary area and the local council said the incident happened in Abacheke, Egbema in Imo State but also affects the people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local council of Rivers State who are very close neighbours.

According to a medical doctor, Blessing Obisike, who hails from the area, the people are one community living in both states. Some have mothers from across the boundary, some live on one side but have houses on the other side.

The size of tragedy is monumental, getting to the level of the Jesse Town tragedy near Lagos. Eye witnesses said human beings were not just burnt but roasted; men, women, children, young, old. A source said people were roasted like yam left in the oven for a full day. They bodies were charred.

What is known is that there was explosion Friday night. Obisike said there was gushing of oil all of Friday and every person came out to scoop liquid gold. This was said to have gone on till late in the night when an explosion ended the mad rush for gold.

No authority has come up with what really happened. The FG (President Muhammadu Buhari) said illegal refiners that caused the explosion must be arrested and prosecuted. So, the FG knows that illegal refiners caused the explosion.

The Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said it is difficult to extract testimony of what happened because every person who knew what happened is dead. Tragedy!

The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) said the disaster happened on an illegal bunkering site in that area. The agency is investigating the incident with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) now the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).

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So, if account of what truly happened is lost, how would the government and the public know the truth? Investigators seem stuck with every single theory. If it is bunkering site, truth is that no mugu (name for uninitiated) dare come close to a bunkering site. It is highly restricted. So, how would over 100 persons be found in the area that night?

Another theory is that there was pipe burst and gushing of liquid gold. So, what liquid were they scooping? If its bunkering site, who could get close? If its pipe that bust, is the pipe from bunkering site, and to where? Up to this moment, no oil company has reported oil spill or burst.

If its crude oil that was gushing, what would the scoopers do with it that would draw out even children at night? Why did the pipe owner not switch off the line all day and night?

Does crude oil burn like gas to the extent of catching up with a large size of vast farmland? So, what really was gushing out; crude oil, fuel, or gas? If it is fuel, is there any nearby refinery in the whole of that area? Illegally refined product does not travel by lengthy pipeline.

In case NEMA, NOSDRA, NUPRC do not know, these are the questions the public urgently seek answers to.

A more frightening prospect is, can such large-scale activities feely go on in such a place without detection by the secret agencies? Could it be why Don Wanni successfully organised a private army around that area and almost held Nigeria hostage? Is it how easy it can be to create forest camps and unleash things on the public?

Many disturbing questions that may never be answered – soon, another one will happen.

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