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‘National Disaster’: Buhari Mourns Over 100 Persons Killed in Imo Illegal Refinery Explosion

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday expressed “shock and trauma” about the death of over 100 people in an explosion at an illegal oil refinery in Imo State. In a statement

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday expressed “shock and trauma” about the death of over 100 people in an explosion at an illegal oil refinery in Imo State.

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, Buhari, who described the unfortunate incident that occurred in Ohaji/Egbema of Imo State as a, “catastrophe and a national disaster,” called on the security agencies to intensify their clampdown on oil theft.
Many people were reportedly burnt beyond recognition by the explosion. It was learnt that the police were now looking for the owner of the unlawful refinery.
Dozens of people were thought to have been working at the refining plants when they were caught in the huge fire.

The death toll continued to rise as emergency workers went through the scene. Ifeanyi Nnaji of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told the British media organisation, BBC Igbo, that the number killed now stood at 109.
“We learnt many bodies are in nearby bushes and forests as some illegal operators and their patrons scampered for safety,” Nnaji said.
While offering his condolences to the families of the victims, the president demanded that those responsible for the explosions must be caught and brought to justice.

In the statement, titled, “Imo ‘Refinery’ Deaths, a National Disaster,” Buhari urged community leaders and the security personnel in the area to prevent a reoccurrence of such incidents.
The statement said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the nation’s armed forces, security and intelligence agencies to intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries following the reported deaths of tens of people Friday night after an illegal refinery exploded at Abaezi forest in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
“Reacting to what he described as a catastrophe and a national disaster, Buhari said responsibility for the loss of lives and property must squarely lie with the sponsors of the illegal refinery, who must all be caught and made to face justice.

“In conveying the condolences and the full depth and range of the nation’s shock and trauma to the families of the victims, the Ohaji/Egbema community and the government and people of Imo State, the president urged community leaders, the police, and the secret service to never allow the occurrence of the heart-breaking incident in any part of the country again.”
The damage to fishing and farming in oil-rich communities caused by the oil industry over the decades has led some to find other ways to make money from the oil business. Illegal refining is attractive in some oil-producing communities, as it is seen as somewhat easy to manage, despite efforts to halt the practice.

The authorities have been struggling to curb the proliferation of illegal plants where stolen crude oil is refined. The president ordered security forces to intensify efforts to shut these refineries.
It is not yet clear what caused the explosion that happened overnight into Saturday, but accidents like this have been common in the past at similar dangerous sites where safety measures are not enforced.
There have been concerns over a lack of precautions at such facilities as well as over the environmental pollution they cause. But Nigeria’s official oil refineries do not work to capacity, causing frequent fuel shortages and price increases across the country, and making the unlawful business very lucrative.


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