A fire has killed more than 100 people at the booming site of illegal crude oil refining in Abaezi forest in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Nigeria’s south east Imo State.
The fire, which erupted on Friday night, also injured more than 150 people who are currently being treated in various hospitals in the state.
A number of cars and other valuable were also burnt in the inferno.
The Imo State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources Goodluck Opiah, who visited the scene of the fire on Saturday, said the operator of the site had been declared wanted by the state government.
He said that many young men who died could not been easily identified because they were burnt beyond recognition.
“Early this morning we received a message of a fire from the oil companies here. This is a tragedy and a betrayal of the economy,” he said.
He reported that the Imo state Governor Hope Uzodimma had ordered the arrest of the owner of the illegal oil rig.
“The Imo State government is deeply concerned about the families of those killed in the blaze. I can’t say how many people have died in it,” Mr Opiah added.
Before the fire, the federal government on March 23, 2022 vowed to stop the economic devastation caused by the activities of illegal refiners, pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.
The Minister of State Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that the illegal activities must stop and had called for an assessment of the devastation occasioned by the activities of the criminals.
Addressing officers of the 146 Battalion, Mr Sylva said: “You are here on a mission and I commend you for all the good work you have done for our nation.”
He reported that there had been a lot of insecurity around oil facilities and pipelines.
"This can no longer be condoned,” he said.
“You are here as gallant officers to protect these facilities. Henceforth, we will be working closely with you to ensure that there is zero loss to our production,” the minister said.