Several Children Reported Missing as NNPC Pipeline Explodes in A’Ibom

Many children were reported missing monday while trying to escape from a Sunday night explosion at a gas pipeline operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Obotim Nsit, Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.

Confirming the pipeline blast, the Akwa Ibom Police Command monday said that there was an explosion at the gas pipeline in the community, but dismissed reports that the incident was caused by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which claimed responsibility for the explosion. It was also silent on reports that several children were missing as a result of the blast.

However, the village head of the community, Chief Akponidung Akpan Ukpong, raised the alarm yesterday, stating that several children could not be found after residents were forced to flee from the explosion that occurred late Sunday.

The community head said when he came out of his house due to the pandemonium that had ensued, he encountered very heavy flames and people running for safety.

“So many children are missing and we are still looking for them; we have not traced them and many people have been taken to the hospital,” he declared.

Besides the missing children, the village head said the explosion damaged the farmlands in the community.

But while the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Murtala Mani, said that the explosion was not caused by an attack on the pipeline by militants, the Transition Committee Chairman in the area, Mr. Victor Umondak, disagreed, saying militant activities could not be ruled out.

Mani, who spoke in Uyo, the state capital on the explosion, attributed it to a technical fault.

“It is confirmed that there was an explosion in Obotim Nsit in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of the state.

“People around the pipeline confirmed that the pipelines are old and overdue for servicing, there were technical problems with the gas pipeline.

“This is no militancy attack, our men are on the ground and the fire service have put out the fire,” the police commissioner stressed.

Although the incident happened at night, he said there were no casualties and no house was razed, adding that the site of the explosion had been condoned off.

“Our men are putting finishing touches, our people are completely on the ground and the place is well condoned off and secured.

“We are waiting for the experts to give us their report, so that we can write our report too on the incident,” he added.

However, Umondak gave another account of what might have transpired on Sunday night, claiming that militants connected a wire from the gas pipeline to the road before exploding the pipeline.

According to him, he got a call that his local government area had been bombed by militants in Obotim Ikot Ekong and he drove to the scene of the incident at 1.30 a.m. on Monday.

“I received a call that my local government was burning, and I wasn’t really sure of what had happened and another person called me to say they had blown a pipeline at Obotim Ikot Ekong.

“I drove down but nobody could get close to the place, so we stood about 200 meters away from the burning pipeline because it was like hell fire,” he said.

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Umondak’s assertion aligned with that of the Avengers, which claimed responsibility for the latest incident on Sunday night.

It said yesterday in a statement that the attack was executed at 11.30 p.m. on Sunday.

According to its spokesman, Mudoch Agbinibo, “At 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, the NDA blow up the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) gas pipeline at Nsit-Ibom LGA, Akwa Ibom State. NNPC should check their pipeline if it’s a system anomaly.”

Further checks by THISDAY within security circles, however, revealed that several factors were responsible for the attack on the facility by members of the Avengers.

A highly placed security source disclosed that the attack might have been in response to President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance not to dialogue with criminals, but genuine agitators in finding a solution to the renewed crisis in the region.

He also said that another factor was the series of arrests of members of the Avengers which have slowly but gradually tilted towards apprehending the brains behind the group.

“You will observe that we have recorded successes in arresting some of their commanders who have been helping in apprehending more of their so called operatives, so we don’t expect their leaders to fold their arms.

“That might also be responsible for the Akwa Ibom blast on Sunday night,” he said.

THISDAY learnt that security has been beefed up in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, following the attack on ExxonMobil’s facility in Akwa Ibom by the militant group.

Although the two states are not under the Joint Task Force (JTF), code named Operation Delta Safe, security sources disclosed that military formations in the area were being drafted into the mandate of the special security outfit, following incursions into the area by the militants.

The Joint Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt-Colonel Laolu Mercellius, could not be reached for confirmation, as his mobile phone was switched off, but an aide said he was attending a meeting.

Source: www.thisdaylive.com

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