The Senate joint Committee investigating the NNPC pipeline explosion that rocked two villages in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State has described the incident as avoidable and vowed to ensure that the culprits were brought to justice.
The joint committee leader, Senator Kabiru Marafa led the members comprised of Petroleum Downstream and Police Affairs to the scene of the incident at Umuimo and Umuaduru and expressed deep regrets that such an incident which led to heavy loss of lives and wanton destruction of properties had happened in such peaceful communities.
He insisted that the committees of Downstream and Police will get to the root of the matter, stressing that the committees were also looking into heavy losses that had affected the economy of the nation.
He commiserated with the traditional rulers of the affected communities, praying for the peaceful repose of the unfortunate citizens that lost their lives to the pipeline explosion.
The committee also interacted with the contractor handling the repair of pipelines from Port Harcourt refinery who disclosed that the contract with corporation was to maintain one of the pipelines and that he had been up and doing.
However he disclosed further that on several occasions he had been surcharged by his employers for leakages that were totally not his fault, adding that the original contract was from Port Harcourt to Abia Depot and that later Abia Depot to Enugu was included.
The contractor explained that the pipeline that exploded was not the one that had a contract on it, explaining further that the distance between the maintained pipeline and the other was less than four feet and that he was instrumental to putting out the inferno.
Also at the NNPC Depot at Osisioma, the committee was received by the former Depot Manager who told the committee that the exploded pipeline had been abandoned for close to 16 years, but that there was a quantity of product left inside the pipeline.
Asked by the committee why the pipeline was not flushed since it had been out of use for a good number of years, he insisted it was standard practice, but his reply drew the ire of the team, who insisted that petroleum product was left there to deliberately snuff life out of innocent citizens.
At this juncture Sen. Marafa asked the NNPC to put all their defense in a single document and ensure that the report gets to them before Tuesday, the same instruction was given to the contractor as well as those that have any information that would enable the committee arrive at a peaceful conclusion.
The committee later paid a courtesy call on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who thanked them for the visit and urged them to do all within their powers to ensure that justice was not only done but seen to have been done, lamenting that the death of his people was very painful.
Sen. Theodore Orji for Abia Central Senatorial District who brought the incident to the floor of the senate expressed joy that the committee had come and seen and heard firsthand the immediate and remote cause of the incident and assured that the communities would remain peaceful.
It would be recalled that a pipeline explosion engulfed the two communities of Umuimo and Umuaduru in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area and claimed the lives of not less than 150 individuals, but the number has gradually increased following the death of some of those receiving treatment at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital and other care centers where they were rushed to.
Members of the downstream committee that made the visit include Sen. Samuel Anyanwu, Sen. Ibrahim Danbaba, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi, Sen. Albert Akpan and Sen. Shuaibu Laa, while those of the Police were Sen. Theodore Orji and Sen. Obinna Ogba.
The senate had through a resolution given the committee two weeks to report back their findings.