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An explosion at an illegal Nigerian oil refinery has killed more than 100 people

  • The warehouse was on the border of Rivers and Imo
  • Illegal refining in the Niger Delta fueled by poverty
  • The blast followed the recent intervention of the Governor of Rivers State

YENAGAO, Nigeria, April 24 (Reuters) – Burnt bodies remained scattered between burned palm trees, cars and vans on Sunday after a weekend blast that killed more than 100 people in an illegal oil refining depot on the border of Nigerian rivers and Imo.

Flip-flops, bags and clothes belonging to those who died were strewn with ground that was blackened with oil and soot, and despite the night rain, it still smoked in some places.

“There are so many people who have died here. I am asking the government to address this,” Uche Woke, a commercial cyclist, told Reuters at the site of Saturday’s blast.

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The Nigerian Red Cross Society was on Sunday to assess the explosion that destroyed part of the Abaezi Forest, which stretches along the Ohaji-Egbema local government area of ​​Imo State and Rivers State.

Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari said in a statement that after calling it a “disaster” and a “national disaster,” he would step up crackdown on illegal refineries.

Unemployment and poverty in the oil-producing Niger Delta have made illegal refining attractive, but often with fatal consequences. Crude oil is extracted from a network of oil pipelines owned by large oil companies and refined in makeshift tanks.

This process has led to fatalities and polluted a region that has already been hit by oil slicks in farmland, streams and lagoons.

A man stands at the site of an explosion that killed more than 100 people, at an illegal oil production site in the Abaezi Forest, in the Ohaji-Egbema local government area of ​​Imo State, Nigeria, April 24, 2022. REUTERS / Tife Owolabi

The Youth and Environmental Center said several vehicles lined up to buy illegal fuel had been burned.

“The fire broke out on an illegal bunker and affected more than 100 people,” said Goodluck Opiah, the state’s oil commissioner, at the crash.

The border location is a response to Rivers’ recent crackdown on illegal refining in an effort to reduce deteriorating air pollution. Read more

“There have been several raids in the last month or two and some of the participating security agents have been eliminated,” said Ledum Mitee, former president of the Ogoni People’s Survival Movement (MOSOP).

At least 25 people, including some children, were killed in an explosion and fire at another illegal refinery in Rivers State in October. Read more

In February, local authorities said they had launched a crackdown on refining stolen oil, but with little apparent success. Read more

Government officials estimate that Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and exporter, is losing an average of 200,000 barrels of oil per day, more than 10% of production, due to illegal tapping or vandalism on pipelines.

This forced oil companies to regularly declare force majeure to export oil and gas.

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Other reports by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Julia Payne in Lagos, screenplay by Julia Payne and MacDonald Dzirutwe, edited by Raissa Kasolowsky, Ros Russell and Alexander Smith

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