Fire from two petrol tankers has reportedly killed six persons in Eteo, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
It was learnt that the petrol tankers, each laden with 33,000 litres of suspected illegally refined Automotive Gasoline Oil, were set on fire by operatives of the anti-bunkering unit of the Nigerian Police Force.
The blaze which happened on Saturday and razed through late hours of Sunday occured close to the bush near Trailer Park Junction, along the Eteo axis of the East West Road.
The drivers of the two tankers were compelled at gunpoint to drive into the bush, where the security agents set the tankers ablaze.
Sources said the drivers may declined to proffer monetary inducement to the security agents, which led the security operatives to set the trucks ablaze.
“They (security agents) forced the truck owners at gunpoint to drive to the point where this happened. Remember, things like this often happen when the tanker drivers refused to settle them for the amount of money, they demanded from them.
“I saw many residents scooping and transporting it away. As the fire was set on the tankers and they started burning, they exploded, and the products poured out and they could scoop it at distances while also burning apart.”
A source hinted that since AGO does not burn as fast as PMS coupled with the fact that it was also poorly refined by artisanal refiners, it was easier for locals to scoop the products as it oozed out from the truck.
Speaking on the development, the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC said there should be a provision in the Petroleum Industry Act, where security operatives who set ablaze petrol tankers and vessels could be dragged to court.
Executive Director of YEAC, Mr Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, explained that security agents should be dragged to court under the PIA, since host community people who caused pollution can forfeit their 3percent as stipulated in the Act.
Fyneface lamented that setting ablaze oil tankers and stolen petroleum products would only further damage the already degraded Niger Delta environment.
“The burning of two tankers of 33,000 litres each has caused the spilling of 66,000 litres of AGO into the environment. So, if the PIA says communities will be criminalized and penalized with even the withholding of the percent, then we can see how to push this advocacy for security operatives that set ablaze tankers and vessels can also be dragged to court under this Act.
“In fact, like Shylock over the pound of flesh, they can set ablaze tankers, but they should not spill its contents.
“The number one reason for confiscating and impounding the tankers is because they’re allegedly carrying illegal petroleum products. The reason for setting it ablaze is a combination of the fact that it is carrying illegal petroleum products and they also refused to settle them with something substantial, thus wasting their time.”