Wednesday 26 December 2007

Nigeria: 34 burnt to death siphoning oil

Pipeline breach deaths again

There is a fundamental issue that does not seem to receive adequate redress in Nigeria. It has become so recurrent that it is both an embarrassment and a tragedy.

News arrives that another pipeline was deliberately breached and in the process of people siphoning highly volatile and flammable fuel from the pipeline it was ignited and at least 34 people have been burnt to death. Exactly a year ago, we had the same thing happen.

The toll would definitely be higher for those who have momentarily survived with serious burns that may not get adequate treatment from our poor triage services.

Fuel for cooking

Evidently, the reason why these pipelines are breached is because fuel is needed for literally everything in urban settings like Lagos, first for cooking, then for lighting and transport.

Cooking most especially makes the most demands, the West African cuisine does not lend itself to cold foods that much, literally everything needs to be cooked and spiced – all for taste and the prevention of food-borne disease or dangerous parasites.

That does not in itself justify the vandalising national infrastructure for personal needs and that is where the government of the people for the people has a serious responsibility that it has failed to wake up to.

The transport angle becomes a harrowing tale of despair and the hopelessness when petrol stations were giving priority to hearses that had to show the presence of cadaver cargo to be served – it makes you weep; though this particular case was in Zimbabwe.

Affordable fuel for the people

Nigeria being an oil-producing nation should have in place the means and infrastructure to ensure that this oil is both available and affordable to the general populace.

We need to invest in refining capacity that means both the needs of our contracts in the international marketplace and the critical needs of our people for the primary aspects of survival and development. It is outrageous that Nigeria as the 7th largest oil-producing nation in the world needs to import refined product to meet its needs.

Again, people cannot continue to countenance that fact that the pipelines in their backyards are the source of such unbelievable sums of money that comes nowhere near affecting their lives positively.

It is this same problem that gives oxygen to the insurgencies in the Niger Delta Region, people seeing their land and water laid to waste by national and international conglomerates; the profits from extraction ending in white elephant projects or corrupt enrichment.

There has to be fairness and equity in the management of our natural resources for the benefit of all people of Nigeria and it takes a government that understands its mandate to govern and service to humanity to take on that hard job.

They perish for need

The folly of people who approach leaking petroleum pipelines going from the many incidents that have happened in recent years is lamentable, but the underlying problem is evident – they cannot afford what is supposed to be a produce of their own land and our attention to protecting national infrastructure through maintenance and security is very poor.

It is a very horrid thing for those whose lives were lost and a sad time for those they left behind, possibly on the premise that they only wanted to feed their families and needed fuel to cook the little food they had to share.

Get doing something

The criminal element needs to be addressed, but the issue is in the causes of this activity, we should not need another panel of experts to write another white paper about the obvious – some sleeves need to be rolled up for this matter and none of getting it bogged down in some task force quango.

There have been probes which are simply a euphemism for appearing to do something but really achieving nothing and learning no lessons, they are a travesty.

May they who have perished in so horrific a mishap rest in peace, one cannot begin to feel the pain of it all – so sad it is.

Other readings

The affordability of refined product in Nigeria – Chippla’s Weblog

Nigeria: They were burnt like tinder to cinder – March 2007

Unnamed, unknown, unsung and undone in Nigeria – May 2006

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