Sylvester Idowu in Warri
A pipeline belonging to Heritage Oil Company last Tuesday night exploded at Diebiri-Batan commumity in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
THISDAY gathered that the incident occurred at about8p.m., throwing the community into panic.
Although the cause of the explosion was not immediately ascertained, a security source said it could be due to equipment failure on the part of Heritage Oil, operator of Oil Mining Lease 30.
The explosion took place barely a few hours after a visit by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Oil and Gas to the community.
It also occurred a few weeks after Heritage Oil terminated its contract with its contractor, Salvic Petroluem, which led to protests by indigenes in the area.
The National Assembly Joint Committee had on Tuesdayvisited Diebiri-Batan, Oporoza and Ugborodo communities on â€œthe-spot-assessmentâ€ to ascertain the pains of impoverished and under-development communities before the completion of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Security sources told THISDAY that military operatives moved into the community shortly after the explosion and on Wednesday night arrested and whisked away some youths in the area.
It was learnt that among those arrested was one Sir Fidelis Atutu, an indigene of Diebiri-Batan Community.
No reason was however given for Atutuâ€™s arrest, but he was said to be the contractor overseeing the security of pipelines (spy surveillance) in the community.
The Diebiri-Batan community, however, insisted that the Heritage facility was not sabotaged, maintaining that it was â€œsystem failureâ€on the part of the company.
A leader of Diebiri-Batan community who identified himself as Esegha M, confirmed the explosion but condemned the arrest of members of the community over the incident.
The community leader described the arrested Diebiri-Batan youths as â€œthe most peace loving people in the community.â€
Esegha said the arrested youths were innocent, stressing: â€œWe donâ€™t have criminals in our community, the government should do the necessary by releasing our youths for us.
â€œI am calling on the military apparatus to free those youths of the Diebiri clan because they are innocent.â€
Spokesman of the Joint Task Force (JTF) code-named Operation Delta Safe, Major Ibrahim Abdullai, could not be reached for comment.
Officials of Heritage Oil could not be reached also last night.