Nigerian pipeline explosion to offer test of limits of law

May 30, 2006 02:00 AM

The other day, pipeline explosion sent over 500 people to a mass grave at Ilado in Lagos State. That unfortunate incident, like previous ones, also caused enormous damage to the environment as the air and the lagoon in the area were polluted.
As the Lagos State Government (LASG) threatens legal action against the Federal Government over the deplorable state of oil facilities, the stage is set for yet another test of the limits of law.

It is worrisome that despite repeated attempts by the Lagos State Government to secure the attention of the Federal Government on the matter, nothing worthwhile has been done to rectify the situation, or so it seems.
Ordinarily, even the tone of the memo written by the Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, to President Olusegun Obasanjo ought to have elicited a positive reply. It read in part: "Your Excellency, apart from bringing this development to your knowledge, a fundamental reason for my letter is to request you to kindly focus on how to eliminate these pipeline ruptures.”

“The Lagos State Government had shown care and responsiveness to its people by promptly communicating to the appropriate quarters about the looming dangers occasioned by the inefficiency of NNPC officials over facilities where they make millions of dollars without taking appropriate steps to maintain them...”
The state government is urgently calling on the management of NNPC/PPMC and the Minister of Environment to immediately carry out a comprehensive survey to determine the integrity of all pipelines in the state and ascertain their present conditions with a view to replacing or repairing them."

Surely, if Abuja had taken action on this request, the Ilado disaster would have been averted. But, for how long will the nation continue in this cycle of avoidable destruction of lives and property?
At the moment, potential waiting tragedies in Lagos State and many other places are there begging to be fixed. Petroleum pipelines in localities like Ilashe, Uwa, Agbado-Oke Ode, Ilaje, Imoru, Ipaja and Baruwa are rusty, visibly vulnerable and tempting to vandals. These cases are said to have already been reported to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by LASG. It is wiser to activate preventive measures now than wait for the and perhaps meagre relief materials.

Only pragmatic methods can truly curb pipeline leakages and vandalisation. Fragile spots on the pipelines should be identified and encased. In situations that are too serious for that kind of treatment, operations should be suspended to effect replacement.
Similarly, circumstances in which human agents directly cause spillage, can be effectively checked through relentless monitoring. Surveillance teams that operate both on land and aerially should constantly be on the watch-out for the criminals whose avidity for quick wealth undermines safety considerations.

The sociological factor of poverty should also be addressed to make oil bunkering unattractive to desperate potentials vandals. Extensive operations of this nature are, no doubt, capital intensive. But the price for non-action far out-weighs the human disaster the negligence could cause. Whatever is being conserved at the expense of preventing human and material losses would ultimately be forfeited -- with serious repercussion.
If all these methods are adopted, going to the court -- with all the attendant drama and delays would be unnecessary. That way, the Lagos State government can be saved the distraction such a case could cause to smooth governance.

Source: This Day
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