Abuja (Fides Service) – “This is the umpteenth tragedy caused by neglect on the part of those responsible for protecting one of the largest oil installations in Nigeria” Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja tells Fides Service referring to an explosion along an oil pipeline on Thursday 19 June near the village of Onicha Amiyi-Uhu in south east Nigeria. More than 100 people perished in the incident. The Archbishop fears “the number of dead is bound to rise because rescue work is still going on and many of the injured are in serious conditions”.
Since 1998 there have been nine such disasters and hundreds of people have been killed. “The causes of these tragedies are neglect on the part of oil companies, and ignorance and poverty of those who puncture pipelines to steal fuel” says Archbishop Onaiyekan. “Nigeria’s network of pipelines passes through built up areas, villages, cultivated fields. The pipes are on the surface and are therefore easily accessible. Everybody steals a little oil: from farmers who puncture pipelines on their fields and carry oil away by the bucket, to criminal organisations which fill whole trucks. In the latter case the authorities cannot say they are not aware of what is going on. It is no secret, unfortunately our country too suffers from widespread corruption.”
The Archbishop concludes: “The Church tries to prevent similar episodes by persuading people that life is worth much more than the little money earned by stealing oil and that theft is contrary to Christian principles. We also pressure public administration to eliminate corruption and see that the law is kept.” LM (Fides Service 23/6/2003 EM lines 25Words: 287)