By Steve Oko
All may not have been heard of the pipeline explosion that occurred last Friday in two Abia communities in Osisioma Local Government as youths from the area, Monday went on rampage.
The youths who were peeved by the high rate of death recorded in the communities and the rising deaths as a result of burns sustained by victims stormed the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC depot at Osisioma.
The irate youths who chanted war songs carried a corpse of one of the victims who died at the early hours of the day to the NNPC depot.
They carried placards with various inscriptions such as “NNPC must tell us what happened to our people; “NNPC has committed genocide in Osisioma Ngwa”; “Enough of these deaths caused by the carelessness from NNPC”; “Our source of blessing should not be a curse”, among others.
The protesters blocked the road leading to the depot with the corpse of the latest victim, thereby causing a heavy traffic jam on the busy road.
The annoyance of the protesting youths with NNPC accordingly to their leaders was that the explosion occurred as a result of negligence of the corporation.
They said NNPC ignored information from the communities that the pipelines that passed through the area were leacking.
The LGA Chairman, Mr. Benjamin Mgbeahuru, had earlier told newsmen that he had personally gone to inform NNPC management at the depot that the pipelines were leacking after the corporation ignored three invitations for a meeting with the council to chart the way forward.
He said NNPC should be held responsible for the explosion which he blamed on their carelessness.
Similarly, Chairman of traditional rulers council in the LGA, HRM Eze Ikechukwu Chiavoyinefu who gave the casualty figure as 150 as at Saturday said NNPC should explain why it ignored the information about leaking pipes.
Umuaduru and Umuiomo communities were the worst hit.
The youths who were peaceful in the protest that lasted for over five hours gave the Aba NNPC Depot Manager, Mr. Joseph Dumaka 24hrs to retract a statement attributed to him where he alleged that the reason for the Friday explosion was an act of vandals from the communities.
They threatened that if the Depot Manager “fails to retract his comments and come open to tell the world what led to the leakage and why they should pump petroleum in a line that hasn’t been in use for eight years, we will open can of worms which the depot manager would not deny having knowledge of.”
According to the youths victims who sustained various degrees of burns are dying on daily basis .
They said 10 persons died Monday morning besides over 100 that had died previously.
The youths said other victims currently receiving treatment at various hospitals and traditional homes in the area need more attention.
But for the intervention of Osisioma Ngwa Youth Congress President, Mr. Emma Nduagu the peaceful protest would have turned violent as the Depot Manager failed to address the protesters.
Senator Theodore Orji who visited the communities over the weekend described the incident as national disaster.