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The Lagos oil pipeline tragedy was avoidable
IMMEDIATELY AFTER the devastating oil pipeline explosion on Boxing Day in Lagos, Nigeria, in which 265 mainly poor people were killed, the Democratic Socialist Movement, (DSM - the Socialist Party's counterpart in Nigeria) issued the following press statement.
FOR THE second time in a year in Lagos State and for the umpteenth time in the country as a whole, another fire has resulted from a burst fuel pipeline, claiming the lives and properties of many in the Lagos suburb of Abule-Egba.
What this disastrous incident has shown is how insensitive and uncaring this government is about the feelings and plight of the ordinary people. This is aside from exposing the unfulfilled promises of the government, usually made anytime disaster strikes, that it would put in place necessary mechanisms to stem the tide of pipeline fires.
From reports and eyewitness accounts, the relevant authorities, including the police and local government, were alerted to the fact that fuel was leaking from a damaged portion of this particular pipeline. They were also warned that danger loomed when the actual scooping of fuel began at the pipeline after two tankers (with supposed armed escorts) had loaded from the vandalised point.
While we in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) do not approve of hazardous scooping of fuel under any guise, we wish to state that the high number of casualties from the 26 December fire reflects the desperate situation ordinary Nigerians found themselves in as a result of the recent inexplicable fuel scarcity.
In the busy commercial metropolis of Lagos, where a majority of the population rely on daily paid work, the fuel scarcity meant that many people had become desperate. Petrol remains an essential ingredient for transportation, especially in the absence of a modern mass rail system. Most homes and businesses rely on generators for power in the absence of stable electricity, despite the alleged billions of Naira that have been sunk into the electricity sector.
But this disaster has also exposed the lie of the government that privatising and liberalising the oil sector would lead to improved standards and services. If there is anything it has improved, it is greater profits for the government and its multinational backers. As has been the case in the aviation sector, privatisation has led to falling standards, a compromising of safety and a series of accidents.
Despite the fact that Nigeria remains the seventh largest world oil producer and has earned fabulous income from the international market, mainly as a result of the crisis in the Middle East, it continues to import refined oil for domestic consumption. Its four refineries are comatose [operating around only 40% of capacity or not at all] even though the Obasanjo government claimed to have spent about 700 million dollars on their so-called 'turn around maintenance'.
Again, despite several fire disasters that have resulted from burst pipelines, the government has been incapable of putting in place an effective pipeline monitoring technology that can allow the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to detect faults and repair them promptly.
We demand the following:
- That the full blame for the December 26 tragedy should be put firmly on the doorsteps of the Federal Government and the NNPC
- That there should be free and adequate medical treatment for all the victims of the fire incident to be borne by the governments who have been periodically sharing the profits from crude oil sales.
- That the NNPC should pay full compensation for all the victims of the fire incident especially those whose private residences, offices, shops and property were consumed by the fire.
- The oil sector and other commanding heights of the economy should be nationalised and placed under workers' democratic control and management so that the huge profits could be used for the people's welfare and infrastructure development.
- Finally, we in the DSM urge the working masses to take their destiny in their own hands by building a political platform that is armed with the programme of a system and regime change. This, for example, would mean that they reject the capitalist millionaire political parties in the coming elections and vote for working-class political platforms and candidates.
Segun Sango, general secretary, DSM
In The Socialist 11 January 2007:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Violence against women
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news