Sunday 13 January 2008

Nigeria: Another two oil cremations

Oil fires the people

Anyone following the saga of Nigeria, its oil and its people would read the news gleaned from recent events and conclude that whilst Nigeria is blessed with oil, any contact between its people and the product always leads to an uncontrollable conflagration.

The Nigerian newswires have been quite tardy in reporting what I believe are two incidents in Port Harcourt, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. reports that there was an explosion at a Port Harcourt Nigerian Ports Authority jetty whilst a vessel was discharging petroleum products in a general cargo area – several Filipino personnel died in the incident. (DisDayn) reports that the name of the vessel was MV Golden Lucy and only two people were injured. The petroleum product being discharged was Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) for a Nigerian firm, Segmon Nigeria Limited.

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) carries part of this story and corroborates the view that militants might have been responsible for this mishap by detonating a remote controlled bomb attached to the vessel.

This is worrisome because a militant organisation quite averse to the presence of the Nigerian Military in the territorial remit of the MEND has promised to menace the region with attacks on industrial infrastructure and poison the food and water supplies of the armed forces.

The report from DisDayn suggests the armed forces have been infiltrated by informants and sympathizers of the militant organisation who are providing information to thwart every move to flush out these “terrorists” and hopefully bring a modicum of peace to the region.

Oil tanker overturned in chase

I did not learn of this incident initially, I was trying to find additional sources to the news from the BBC that a tanker had exploded in Port Harcourt on Saturday on a busy road.

The Nigerian references I had, covered only the event of Friday, it was the IHT that made the stories two separate events just when I was about to question if both events were one and the same reported from different perspectives.

So, on Saturday, the police gave chase to a stolen oil tanker through the busy roads close to Port Harcourt, obviously, in the desperate attempt to avoid apprehension by the law, the driver took a manoeuvre that burst a tyre as he turned – this overturned the lorry and spilt petrol on surrounding vehicles as it exploded taking life and property in its wake.

Police car chases

Now, we are well aware that police car chases are not risk-averse but the determination (on the part of the police) over desperation (on the part of the suspect), the public being put at great danger in trying to keep the law.

Smart policing would be to try and determine where the car being chased is going and apprehend it with tyre-bursting stingers further along its course so that the driver is forced to stop.

It takes away most of the pressure of desperation to escape and hopefully the recklessness, whilst the determination to capture the culprit is better thought through.

Charting the course of the culprit however would require scrambling a helicopter to observe the vehicle from above; unfortunately, there were no helicopters to fight the inferno of the day before, also in Port Harcourt – so that puts paid to that idea.

To stop a stolen tanker

But this was a tanker and it is unlikely that it could have disappeared completely from the tracking activities of the police; they could have phoned ahead on a number of possible routes of the tanker and had other police personnel try to intercept the tanker on one of those exit points along the route.

I am not sure of how the police would have been able to chase down the tanker and stop it without a proper boulder road-block, something that would have required some thinking, initiative, intelligence and proper planning – something I cannot ascribe to the police and not in Nigeria.

Public-safety conscious crime-fighting

Much as criminals must be caught, it should not be by putting the public at unmitigated risk – a greater loss has now been incurred beyond a stolen tanker of fuel, these have included lives, cars, stops and livelihoods, all because both the culprit and the police were not thinking.

It was reckless and criminal on both parts, one expects the superintendent of that section or even the region to be reprimanded and if the police survived that episode, they must suffer criminal sanction.

Once again, one has to express condolences to the survivors of hapless victims of Nigeria’s oil wealth and rotten police.

A very sorry affair indeed.

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