In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday 09 January, 2007
Fuel Pipeline Fire Disasters Are Preventable Tragedies
The grisly scene of the latest pipeline fire disaster in the suburb of Lagos city on Tuesday December 26, 2006 was a terrible reminder of a national disaster that has plagued our nation and cost many lives.
Incessant vandalism of the nation’s asset, the theft of fuel and the resulting fire disasters are the ultimate expression of greed and graft of a few evil-minded and determined saboteurs combined with general attitude of the public towards personal safety- a phenomenon that has been described as a manifestation of ignorance, indiscipline and grinding poverty of the fuel scavengers. These ills have painfully become central facts of our time.
No one who is well knowledgeable of the history and facts of fuel pipeline vandalism and pipeline fire disasters in Nigeria will accept the Government bodies’ positions (especially NNPC which owns the pipelines and the Nigerian Police Force) on these preventable tragedies. Such finger pointing only takes away responsibility from successive governments that have sat over national affairs to put us in the state we are in today.
The institutions that are in charge of fuel supply management and national security owe specific duties to the communities situated around pipeline locations in particular to closely work with them and regularly educate them on the inherent dangers of tampering with pipelines or vandalized pipelines, in addition to other law enforcement measures to prevent or punish vandalism and fuel scavenging. Special handouts, on the order of the ‘You Should Know’ pamphlet, could be developed with a list of: hazards of living close to high pressure pipelines; past cases of pipeline fire tragedies; relevant laws; as well as police and fire department emergency hotlines specially set up for reporting pipeline vandalism, fuel theft and pipeline explosions. Such a handout would combine with massive nationwide multimedia campaign targeting residents around pipeline locations to partner with the government and to alert ordinary people to their civic responsibilities and constantly remind them of the various dangers posed by vandal activities and risks associated with living in close proximity to pipeline locations.
By its own actions and programme the Federal Government must simply be held to high standard to discharge its constitutional duty to protect lives and properties of the Nigerian citizens. In the short and medium term MPAC urges the Police to investigate this latest incident thoroughly and find the perpetrators so that such appalling incidents do not recur. This is vital to prevent community relations deteriorating further as the vandals were said to have been accompanied by men in police uniform. Our police force, it seems, operates largely as the recruitment and training organization for mercenaries that are contracted by all sorts of saboteurs to hurt the nation and its aching people.
This incident like many similar ones exposes Nigeria as lacking an integrated national policy on disaster management and for this sad fact alone we continue to pay dearly with hundreds of innocent lives in regular national tragedies. We urge our government, in the long term, to review the country’s fuel supply management and show serious interest and commitment in promoting competence in disaster management by building capacities of emergency response personnel, encourage technology transfer and ensure qualitative emergency preparedness. Also, military formations across the country could be designated and equipped as emergency response centers until we can have better and specialized units to respond to and manage emergencies.
MPAC does not believe that the Federal Government is doing everything it can to combat the scourge of pipeline vandalism or pipeline fire disasters and stop the horrific pictures of charred bodies on our TV screens and in the newspapers. Accountability goes beyond government rhetorical expression of regret and sympathy with victims of these preventable tragedies and their families. Nigerians are eager and deserve to see our government, all the tiers of government, and government institutions better equipped and prepared to provide adequate security for lives and properties. If it already has one, the government should include the Nigerian fuel pipeline network in its critical infrastructure protection efforts, and work in collaboration with State and local governments, even the private sector, to reduce the vulnerabilities of these pipelines to malicious attacks. The institutions that are in charge of fuel supply management and national security in Nigeria must simply be held to account for the series of avoidable agonies the nation has experienced due to their ineptitude or corruption. The lawmakers should enact laws that would reauthorize and strengthen the existing laws against pipeline vandalism, fuel theft and fuel scavenging, thus dramatically transforming the penalty system for these crimes. The government will be able to protect its critical infrastructures only by enhancing response capabilities, strengthening emergency compliant status and a comprehensive health management system.
MPAC is calling upon all Muslims to do their part to support those who are severely affected by this devastating disaster. MPAC encourages the community to be involved in and donate as much as we can to any organization that is providing relief to the victims.
Lastly, we pray to Allah (SWT) to have mercy on the injured and the souls of the murdered victims of pipeline fire disasters in our country and to punish all evildoers who perpetuate and profit from the evil act of vandalizing fuel pipelines.
Pipeline disasters and official figures
Dec 2006: At least 260 killed in Lagos
May 2006: At least 150 killed in Lagos
Dec 2004: At least 20 killed in Lagos
Sept 2004: At least 60 killed in Lagos
June 2003: At least 105 killed in Abia State
Jul 2000: At least 300 killed in Warri
Mar 2000: At least 50 killed in Abia State
Oct 1998: At least 1,000 killed in Jesse
Director of Media & Communications
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC