The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been accused of covering up reasons for the explosion that killed 23 people at Soba, Abule Ado on March 15, 2020. NNPC's failure to operate according to its guidelines led to the explosion.
When the explosion occurred seven months ago, NNPC shifted blame from itself as it has done for every pipeline explosions that occurred in Lagos. Before the Soba explosion, three other explosions had occurred on the same pipeline in areas close to Soba.
The pipeline forms part of a 2B system that pumps petrol, diesel, and kerosene from Atlas Cove to Soba and the rest of Nigeria. The same pipeline has killed several people within fourteen months before the Sabo explosion.
Explosions had occurred in Ijegun, Idimu, and Abule Egba on different occasions. The Ijegun explosion occurred on July 4, 2019; in Idimu on December 5, 2019, and Abule Egba's explosion occurred on January 19, 2020. All the explosions were blamed on vandals trying to steal fuel - all the explosions occurred under NNPC Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari.
NNPC's fuel line (pipeline) runs through a densely populated neighbourhood, but the corporation ignored the Department of Petroleum Resources' (DPR) guideline, which states that pipeline right of way in densely populated areas "shall be clearly marked with signs for ease of identification," a document checked by AllNews showed.
Yet, the NNPC blamed small businesses - saw-milling, cement traders, auto repairers, and those in the cooking and roasting business - in the Soba area for the explosion, "If there was any negligence, it was on the part of the business owners in that area who wantonly sited their business close to the pipeline in clear breach of the statutory Pipeline Right of Way which is clearly delineated and mapping out.
The government-run oil corporation, in conjunction with the Lagos State government, paid victims of the Soba explosion NGN2 billion relief fund, but still failed to take responsibility. NNPC said the "explosion was not as a result of negligence on our part."
NNPC's Inaccuracy: The corporation had claimed that there was no leakage prior to the explosion and stated that "any leakage prior to the incident would have resulted in a drop in pressure".
NNPC stated that it only observed pressure drop during the explosion, "At about the time of the explosion (08:52hrs to 08:57hrs), a pressure drop from 42 to 18 bar was observed during our pumping operations and the pipeline was immediately shut down," NNPC told the BBC.
However, minutes before the explosion, the explosion occurred at 8:56 am, video footage showed flammable liquid leaking from the NNPC pipeline - NNPC said it had noticed a pressure drop between 8:52 am and 8:57 am, yet it claimed there was no leakage even though pressure drop is caused by a leakage.
Meanwhile, NNPC had also claimed that the explosion was "as a result of gas (sic) explosion which occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporation's System 2B Pipeline Right of Way."
However, minutes before the explosion, there was no gas processing plant close to the pipeline. Also, the truck had been parked there long before the explosion, so the explosion didn't occur due to a hit from the truck.
In addition, even though the truck is parked across the pipeline, the flammable fluid was leaking some distance beside the truck, not under, behind, or in front, ruling out the "hit" claim.
Kyari's statement inaccuracy: NNPC's GMD, Kyari, said at the night of the explosion that, "It is very obvious that this explosion is caused by excessive gas exposed to this location from gas cylinder handling companies."
According to experts that spoke to the BBC, no gas cylinder can contain enough fuel to sustain the leak at the volume and pressure it was gushing out. So the explosion was not caused by gas cylinder handling companies as several events - which was NNPC's responsibility to prevent from happening - led to the explosion, killing 23 people.
In a quick check by AllNews, DPR's industry regulation requires the NNPC to protect the pipeline from washout, unstable soil, landslides, or other hazards that may cause the pipeline to move or be subjected to abnormal loads.
The maintenance and integrity of the petroleum pipelines is the sole responsibility of Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company Limited (NPSC) which is a subsidiary of NNPC, however, NNPC ignored its industry regulation by failing to prevent certain events that occurred before the explosion.
The NNPC pipeline was laid under unstable soil, leading to a washout of some section of the road whenever it rained, and days before the explosion, some part of the road was soaked, thereby softening the soil, BBC Africa Eye explained.
It was on this same eroded soil that the truck, which weighed 25 tonnes, parked on, leading to the "abnormal load" - this means the NNPC wasn't adequate in its responsibility of preventing the pipeline from unstable soil and protect the pipeline from the heavy load as DPR's guideline directed.
This shows that the NNPC failed to take preemptive measures and conduct adequate maintenance, neither did it take prompt action when the flammable fluid began to leak minutes before the explosion. Rather than take responsibility, the NNPC blamed small businesses for selling in the area.
Note that there have been four explosions that killed 30 people between July 2019 and January 2020 under Kyari; all the reasons for the explosions were placed on the people and 'vandals' living in the communities of the explosions. For years, NNPC has never taken responsibility for an explosion.