Six suspected vandals dead in NTL fire as Aiteo announces success against inferno

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By Ignatius Chukwu

Aiteo, the new oil corporation that is fighting sabotage, court cases, and community troubles on its newly acquired Oil Mining License (OML) 29 in Nembe, Bayelsa State, says the latest fire that gulfed its assets in the Right of Way (RoW) has been put off.

This is as the Navy team protecting the RoW has found bodies of six persons in a boathouse believed to be the saboteurs. This is said to be the second fire on the Nembe Trunk Line (NTL) that transports crude from the Bayelsa areas to Bonny for export.

The acquisition of OML 29 and other assets has sparked suits and protests, leading to fires and breaches on NTL. Aiteo in a statement confirmed that the fire reported within its ROW of the NTL on 21 April 2019 has been completely put out. The statement made available to newsmen said a security team conducted further inspections at various times on April 21, 2019, and confirmed this position.

“In line with regulatory requirements, a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) comprising security and regulatory agencies as well as community representatives and Aiteo personnel will be constituted and deployed to the site to attend to the necessary incident formalities.  This team is expected at the incident site imminently.

“The Joint Task Force on Security team has confirmed that sabotage of the pipeline at Awoba was responsible; It has identified some culprits and is set to act as is necessary.

“Aiteo is working on further site preparation and mobilisation of specialised equipment to the swamps for further remedial action to facilitate a quick return to full functionality.  Further information will be made available as soon as these occur,” so said Ndiana Mathew, Aiteo’s spokesman.

Reports however said the fire killed six suspected pipeline vandals. This came to light after a site visit on Tuesday by the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe, Akinjidie Akinrinade, who inspected the area affected by the fire at Awoba, a Kalabari settlement on Kilometer 97 on Nembe-Bonny oil export pipeline.

Akinrinade disclosed that he immediately deployed troops to the area explaining that it was troops on surveillance at a nearby houseboat who confirmed that all the suspected vandals died in the ensuing explosion and fire.

He told newsmen who accompanied him on the visit that he regretted the incident that affected the 150,000 barrels per day Nembe Creek Trunk Line and that though the suspects were dead, the JTF is making efforts to arrest their collaborators.

According to him, criminals who carry out oil theft operate in groups, but assured oil firms operating in the Niger Delta region of safety of their facilities and personnel as his men would redouble efforts to stop crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. He plans to press for arrest of the collaborators.

These troubled add to the suit by the people of Nembe-Bassambiri in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State who have asked the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the state capital, to stop the lease of OML 29 to Aiteo pending the outcome of a substantive suit before the court.

Silver News gathered that the development is the result of plans by the Minister of Petroleum Resources to go ahead with the lease of OML 29 to Aiteo for $82 million without regard to the position of the community in Suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/62/2015.

The plaintiffs are Ikaonaworio Eferebo-Igoma, Iyerite Chiefson Awululu-Atubu, Ayebaesin Edoghotu-Omoh, Markson Amaegbe-Orutari, B. C. Benwari-Yousuo and Doibo Evans representing OML 29 communities.

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