Some highly placed government officials have cried out over an alleged plot to damage Nigeria’s interests by attacking the integrity of certain institutions of government to discredit them for yet unknown reasons, The Whistler has reported.
A recent report by the BBC Africa Eye on the pipeline explosion that occurred in Sabo, a Lagos suburb, on March 15, 2020 appear to fit a pattern of media blackmail of critical government institutions, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the officials said.
The report said the BBC Africa Eye had obtained new evidence which contradicted NNPC’s official explanation on the cause of the explosion which claimed 23 lives.
NNPC had claimed at the time that the explosion occurred as a result of a truck that hit gas cylinders around the petroleum pipeline, where people had turned into a residential and commercial area contrary to regulations and in blatant disregard for the pipelines right of way.
But the media house said its evidence – a five-minute video and three sources (said to be experts in petroleum pipeline safety) – showed that there was a leak of “vaporized liquid” from the point of explosion on the pipeline.
The media house then said the evidence indicated that there was inadequate protection of the pipeline from soil erosion and that the NNPC failed to maintain industry standard.
The BBC Africa Eye, in the tradition of true journalism, sent a questionnaire to the NNPC requesting for the Corporations response to the allegations, including claim that victims of the explosion were not compensated.
Insiders however accused BBC of breaching all rules of balance and objectivity when it published the report of its investigations without reflecting the position of NNPC to all the allegations raised.
Even more curious officials said is the BBC findings have been widely circulated in local media in Nigeria.
Highlights of the BBC report made available to Newsdiaryoline run thus: New evidence obtained by BBC Africa Eye contradicts the official explanation for the cause of an explosion which killed 23 people and destroyed a girls boarding school in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s state-owned oil firm, claimed the explosion occurred as a result of a truck that hit gas cylinders near one of its petroleum pipelines.
But new evidence indicates this official explanation for the cause of the blast, that decimated over 100,000 square metres of Lagos, is incorrect.
The blast occurred in Soba, a residential neighbourhood of Lagos on March 15, 2020 at 8:56am.
New video evidence, filmed at the explosion site, five minutes before the blast, shows a catastrophic leak of vaporised liquid at the exact location where the NNPC high-pressure petroleum pipeline runs beneath the ground through that area.
The BBC found there was no gas processing plant at the explosion’s epicentre.
Moreover, analysis of gas cylinders found at the site after the blast indicated they could not have been at the centre of the explosion when it happened.
Three specialist engineers – experts in LPG gas safety, in petroleum pipeline safety, and in explosions analysis – who have examined video footage all confirm the huge leak of vaporised liquid could not have come from gas cylinders.
Eyewitnesses the BBC heard from corroborate this.
None of them mentioned gas cylinders or saw a collision.
But four of them independently said the leak was coming out of the ground beside the heavily laden truck.
The evidence the BBC has uncovered indicated the heavily laden truck stopped on an eroded, unsurfaced road that had been softened by rainwater.
This could have pressured the pipeline to breaking point, releasing a cloud of vaporised flammable petroleum product that ignited.
But petroleum pipeline safety expert, Dr. Ambisisi Ambituuni, told the BBC the System 2B pipeline network has “been in existence for way over the lifespan of the pipeline”.
Ambituuni asked: “How is it so difficult for the operator to maintain the safety of those pipelines?”
After watching the film, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, Human Rights Activist and senior Lawyer, said: “Incidences of fire disasters have become commonplace for Lagosians.
“It just more or less reiterates the need for the government to be responsive and to hold accountable those who are working in the sector in terms of maintaining global best practice in their operation.”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, Environmental Rights Activist and Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, says: “My first ask is that, for the first time, the government should sit down to watch this documentary and set up an independent panel on pipelines explosions in Nigeria and use this as a case study.
“Lagos State Government too needs to start thinking: how do we protect the people from these serial explosions?”
BBC said NNPC were contacted and denied the pipeline was inadequately protected, reaffirmed their explanation for the explosion’s cause, and said there was no leakage prior to the explosion.
They also said: “NNPC pipelines comply with safety and regulatory guidelines” and that they “worked closely with the Lagos State Government in providing a N2 billion relief fund for the victims of the explosion.”
However, the NNPC response to the BBC Africa Eye questionnaire, dated August 28, obtained by The Whistler, contained details of its own investigations and conclusions which were ignored.
The Corporation responded to all the five allegations put to it in details, insisting on its initial explanation that the explosion was caused when a truck heavily laden with stones hit gas cylinders around the pipeline..
In a detailed response addressed to Marc Perkins, editor of the BBC Africa Eye, the Corporation insisted that a truck, heavily laden with stones, was in the vicinity of the explosion, which clearly “indicated that it was instrumental to the explosion. A close look at the area would show that most of the people carrying out their businesses there were in breach of the Corporation’s Pipeline Right of Way which is 15 meters on either side of the pipeline.”
The NNPC stated further that residents of the area engaged in LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) vending, saw-milling, cement trading, auto repair, cooking, roasting and other activities inimical to a pipeline right of way.
“The eye-witness reports we got indicated that the explosion occurred when the above-mentioned truck hit cylinders at the LPG shop,” the document stated.
On the claim that there was a leakage on the pipeline which released vaporized liquid that caused the explosion, the Corporation stated that there was no leakage of PMS or any other vaporized liquid from its pipeline at the point of the explosion prior to the incident.
Instead, it said, “At about the time of the explosion (0852hrs to 08S7hrs), a pressure drop from 42 to 8 bar was observed during our pumping operations and the pipeline was immediately shutdown. Any leakage prior to the incident would have resulted in a drop in pressure. But that was not the case.
“It must also be noted that both Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) are petroleum products that essentially burn the same way. Since there was an LPG vending shop at the location, it is more likely that the incident was caused by LPG explosion. The incident was typical of gas explosion.”
But curiously, a report on the explosion circulated in the local media by BBC Africa Eye made little or no reference to the official response of the Corporation, but instead repeated claims made by its sources which were at variance with the official explanations it requested from NNPC.
Its only reference to Nigeria’s official explanation was to its third and fifth allegations that the pipelines were not well protected and that the Corporation did not pay compensation to victims of the explosion.
But even the NNPC’s responses to the allegations were largely ignored, and got only a passing mention.
The Corporation had described claims of inadequate protection of the pipeline against erosion as incorrect, and that the pipeline was not exposed at the vicinity of the explosion, but that “the pipeline was excavated to enable repair works after the incidence and the area has since been restored and the pipeline re-commissioned for operations.”
According to the document, the Corporation insisted that its pipelines were designed “operated and maintained in strict compliance with the safely and regulatory guidelines of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and API/ANSI/ASME standards,” maintaining there was no issue of negligence in terms of ensuring the integrity of the pipeline.
In conclusion, the Corporation stressed that despite the fact that the explosion was not caused by any negligence on its part, it still worked “closely with the Lagos State Government in providing a N2billion relief fund for the victims,” contrary to the allegation made by the media house.
With reports culled from The Whistler