Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
Tragedy struck wednesday in Ibadan, Oyo State, when the Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company Limited, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at Apata, Ibadan depot, was gutted by fire, leaving about seven persons injured.
THISDAY learnt that a section of the loading point was completely damaged by fire while three petrol tankers were also burnt.
It was gathered that one of the persons injured, simply identified as Moji, was caught in the raging fire, and sustained severe burns.
Activities at the depot have however been suspended forthwith, as the usual loading of fuel has been shut down.
There was pandemonium when people around the NNPC depot, including the staff, saw billows of fire, causing the people to start scaling the fence and running helter-skelter to avoid being caught by the fire.
The immediate cause of the inferno could not be ascertained, but a source attributed the afternoon fire to an electrical surge which he said sparked off the fire.
A driver of one of the affected tankers, who pleaded anonymity, however, disagreed that the fire was caused by electrical surge, stating that the fire was caused by one of the tanker drivers at the loading point.
According to him, “I was there when one of the tanker drivers was removing his battery and using another truck’s battery to kick-start his truck. It was when he put the battery and was hitting the battery terminal trying to fix it that fire sparked from the battery and resulted in the full-blown fire, which trapped everyone around.”
The fire, which lasted for about two hours, was however, quenched by a team of the Oyo State Fire Services operatives and men of the NNPC fire fighters who struggled to put it out.
Members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), DSS and a team of policemen were also at the scene of the fire to maintain law and order
Meanwhile, the NNPC yesterday stated in a statement that the fire outbreak forced it to shelve loading of petrol from the depot by 48
Signed by its Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, the corporation in the statement said the outbreak was a minor one and involved some fuel trucks at loading bay operated by its downstream subsidiary, Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company (NPSC).
It quoted the Managing Director of NPSC, Mr. Luke Anele, to have said the fire was reported around 12:50 p.m. yesterday, and was immediately brought under control by a team of NPSC fire fighters within the precinct of the facility.
Anele said a team of NPSC experts were on their way to the scene of the incident to ascertain the root cause of the fire and the extent of the damage as at press time.
NNPC also assured the public that based on preliminary indicators, loading of petroleum products would resume in the depot in a few hours.
It stated that the incident would not disrupt steady petroleum products supply in Ibadan and its environs, and enjoined motorists not to engage in panic buying of petroleum products.