Sunday, June 22, 2003

Today's Africa Story
Pipeline Explosion in Nigeria Kills 105. Accident, some sort of sabotage? Well sort of....
LAGOS, Nigeria - Fuel gushing from a vandalized pipeline exploded in southeastern Nigeria, killing at least 105 villagers as they scavenged gasoline, Red Cross authorities and witnesses said Saturday.

It was not immediately clear what touched off the blast late Thursday on a length of pipe 30 miles north of the city of Umuahia. Nigeria's national ThisDay newspaper cited witnesses as saying it may have been caused by a spark from a motorcycle used by one of the victims.
Ndu Ughamadu, spokesman of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, confirmed the pipeline was ruptured by "vandals," adding it was still unclear how many people were killed.

Witnesses speaking on condition of anonymity said villagers had been scooping fuel from the pipeline for about six weeks since it was first ruptured by saboteurs in early May. They said authorities had continued to pump fuel through the line despite being informed of the breakage.
The pipeline was carrying fuel from a state-owned refinery in the oil city of Port Harcourt to the city of Enugu, 140 miles to the north.

ThisDay cited witnesses as saying police colluded with the vandals by charging villagers 80 cents to scoop up buckets and barrels of fuel for resale. A police officer reached by telephone at the state command in Umuahia declined comment.

Pipeline vandalism, known as "bunkering" or "scooping," is common in Nigeria despite the risk of fire, prosecution or being shot on sight by security forces.

Thousands have been killed in explosions in recent years, including more than 1,000 in a 1998 blast in the Niger River delta town of Jesse.

Since then, the government has tried to educate villagers about the danger of scavenging pipeline fuel. But the practice continues, spurred by poverty and residents' anger at the government and oil industry for allegedly polluting the environment and financially neglecting the oil-rich delta.
I'll ignore the obligatory dubious ecoweenie reference. The operative problem is a torrent of oil money that goes to the Nigerian government and disappears. Funny how that happens!