Blast at illegal Nigerian oil refinery results in 37 fatalities


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Illegal refining activities in the Niger Delta region lead to tragic incidents

An explosion at an unauthorised oil refinery in southern Nigeria has tragically claimed the lives of 37 people.

Among the casualties were two expectant mothers.

This news was confirmed by both a local security official and a community leader on Tuesday.

The prevalence of illegal refineries in Nigeria

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria, rich in oil, often sees such illegal refining activities. Locals, living in impoverished conditions, frequently tap into pipelines.

Their aim is to produce fuel which they can then sell for a profit. The procedures they use can sometimes be rudimentary, like boiling crude oil in drums to separate fuel.

Tragically, this can lead to deadly consequences.

The most recent episode unfolded during the early hours of Monday in the Ibaa community of Rivers State.

This was disclosed by Rufus Welekem, who oversees security in the region.

A witness from Reuters reported seeing 15 scorched bodies at a location marked by singed palm trees and a damaged motorbike.

Welekem recounted: “Thirty five people were caught in the fire. Two people who were lucky to escape also died this morning in hospital.”

He further mentioned that some of the victims had already been identified by their families and taken for burial.

Oil majors reassess their presence amidst challenges

Persistent challenges like illegal crude oil refineries have plagued Nigeria for years.

Efforts to curtail these have largely been unsuccessful.

Local environmental groups point out that influential politicians and security personnel are often involved, making the clampdown even harder.

Alongside this, issues like crude oil theft, vandalism of pipelines, and legal confrontations over oil spills are compelling oil majors in Nigeria to rethink their strategy.

Many are now considering selling their onshore and shallow water assets, focusing instead on deep-water operations.

IFSJ Comment

The tragic event in Nigeria highlights the grave safety risks associated with illegal oil refining activities.

The crude methods employed, combined with lack of safety standards, not only endanger the environment but also pose severe threats to human life.

This incident underscores the urgent need for governments and stakeholders to address the root causes driving locals towards such perilous endeavours.

Moreover, the potential shift of oil majors from onshore to deep-water operations can have broader implications for the industry and the region’s socio-economic fabric.

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