Thursday, July 10, 2003

Police nab 31 pipeline vandals in Abia

By Ahmed I. Shekarau

Barely three weeks after a fire explosion burnt about 100 people in Arniyi Uhu in Abia State, the police have said that they have arrested 31 suspected pipeline vandals near the area.

A statement issued by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja said the suspected vandals were nabbed by men of the Federal Task Force on the Protection of Petroleum Pipelines in four communities surrounding the pipeline right of way in Isiakwuato Local Government Area in Abia State.

The statement signed by NNPC’s spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu said the arrest of the suspects was confirmed by the Task Force Commander, Port Harcourt Area Operations, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Mahmud Mohammed.

According to the statement, the arrest was carried out at the weekend "near the regularly vandalised points on the pipeline systems ‘2E and 2EX’ which convey products from Port Harcourt to Aba, Enugu, Makurdi and Yola."

CSP Mohammed added that his task force also impounded more than ten vehicles including lorries laden with drums and jerry cans filled with petroleum products belonging to the suspected vandals.

Naming the affected communities as Uturu, Amachara, Acha, and Amiyi Uhu all near Umuahia, the task force commander further disclosed that after a thorough search on them, his men discovered "thousands of litres of petroleum products in basins, buckets, drums and jerry cans" stored in kitchens, toilets and bedrooms.

The statement reported CSP Mohammed as warning that his task force would intensify its operations to eradicate vandalisation, "which in addition to causing health hazards also results in huge economic loss to the nation."

It would be recalled that on the 19th of last month, a pipeline explosion led to the loss of about 100 lives in Amiyi Uhu, near Umuahia, Abia State.

Also in early April this year, vandals allegedly broke NNPC crude oil pipeline with weapons suspected to be explosives, near Escravos.

This was said to have led to the shut down of the Warri and Kaduna refineries as these refineries receive their crude oil supply through the pipeline.