The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has refuted the allegation that negligence on its part caused the oil pipeline fire incident Friday last week in Umuaduru and Umuimo communities in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State.
A release by the NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, today in Abuja, affirmed that the incident was triggered off by suspected oil thieves who had hacked into System 2E pipeline network of the corporation with a view to intercepting the flow of petrol from Port Harcourt to Aba.
Ughamadu said the clarification became necessary in view of the recent statement by a legislator indicting NNPC on the fire outbreak which had claimed lives and valuable properties.
The NNPC spokesperson explained that the presence of items such as jerrycans, among others, at the scene of the incident as contained in the preliminary report on the matter indicated that the activities of vandals in the area ignited the flame.
He regretted that incessant vandalism of pipeline facilities along System 2Ex Pipeline Right of Way (PROW) has led to the underutilization of the Enugu Depot, saying that the breaches have prevented the corporation from pumping fuel into it.
He called on relevant government agencies to collaborate with the corporation to appropriately criminalize vandalism of oil facilities across the country, adding that host communities should also partner the NNPC to tame the scourge.
Ughamadu prayed that God reposes the souls of the innocent ones that perished in the incident, even as he warned members of the public against tempering with oil facilities which he described as inflammable.
Meanwhile,frontier human rights activist and a senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana has commended the ongoing medical intervention project by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation designed to provide in-country availability of first-rate healthcare services to stem the tide of medical tourism by Nigerians.
Falana, who was the guest speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in Abuja said the move would not only stem the heavy traffic of sick Nigerians to India for medical solution but would help arrest the high rate of maternal and infant mortality.
The notable human rights advocate implored the NNPC management to use the healthcare intervention project to attract the teeming pool of highly skilled Nigerian healthcare professionals in the diaspora back to the country.
Under the NNPC healthcare initiative, the corporation is deploying its resources for positive intervention in the beleaguered Nigeria’s health sector through the establishment of state-of-the art hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria to achieve domiciliation of world class healthcare delivery system within a five-year time frame.
Proving insight into the project, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru who was the chairman of the occasion, said the corporation is awaiting the final certification of the newly established NNPC Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) to commence full operation of the scheme.
Before now, the erstwhile NNPC Medical Services Division has since transited from a corporate service unit to a full-fledged limited liability company under the trade name of NNPC Medical Services Limited (NMSL) with a Board of Directors and a Managing Director.
On the PENGASSAN 40TH anniversary celebration, the NNPC GMD said the association, for all intents and purposes, met the expectations of its founding fathers, as well as those of its members across the Country, and still continues to wax stronger, noting that rolling out the drums now is a well-deserved indulgence
‘’Through thick and thin, the leadership as well as the 18,000 strong members of the Association have kept faith with its objectives to ensure its growth from strength to strength,’’ he said.
Dr. Baru remarked that till date, PENGASSAN has persevered despite the odds and remained focused in getting senior and middle level management employees in the oil, gas, petrochemical and allied companies unionized.
He said the union has also done well in the area of regulation and maintenance of all forms of labour and industrial relations activities between the various managements and employees while providing a reliable bulwark for its members.
“I have said it times without number that the maturity that is always exhibited by PENGASSAN leadership even during industrial disputes has been very exemplary. With PENGASSAN on the other side of the table, you are always assured of matured discussions that are mutually beneficial to all parties,’’ he said.
The NNPC GMD said the corporation would seek means to support the union in its drive to construct digital library and event resource centre.
Speaking earlier, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who declared the event open on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari commended the union for its invaluable contribution to the development of the Nigerian economy through the years.
Comrade Olabode Johnson, PENGASSAN President, in his welcome address thanked past leaders and members of the association for their efforts in building what he described as a socially-responsive association and a trade union of repute.
The PENGASSAN President used the platform to dispel media report of a planned industrial action cum ultimatum by the association in the days ahead noting that the report was not only wrong but mischievous.
Comrade Johnson affirmed the readiness of the union to work with all other stakeholders in resolving earlier identified issues in the industry.