By John Ikani
More than 100 people have been killed and many wounded in southeast Nigeria in an explosion that rocked an illegal oil refinery on the border of Nigeria’s Rivers and Imo states.
The bunkering site was in the Ohaji-Egbema local government area of Imo state in the Abaezi forest that straddles the border of the two states.
Confirming the incident to newsmen on Saturday, Imo state’s commissioner for petroleum resources, Goodluck Opiah said: “The fire outbreak occurred in Friday night at an illegal bunkering site and it affected more than 100 people who were burned beyond recognition.”
Also confirming the incident, Imo State Commissioner for Information, Declan Emelumba said the immediate cause of the explosion and the extent of the deaths, injuries and damage are being investigated.
What you should know
Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil but it has very few refineries and as a result most gasoline and other fuels are imported.
Unemployment and poverty in the oil-producing Niger Delta have made illegal crude refining an attractive business but with deadly consequences.
Crude oil is tapped from a web of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined into products in makeshift tanks.
The hazardous process has led to many fatal accidents and has polluted a region already blighted by oil spills in farmland, creeks and lagoons.
The practice is so widespread that is it affecting Nigeria’s crude oil production, in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.