President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with the people and government of Rivers State following the death of some workers in a gas pipeline tragedy in the state.
The president, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu in Abuja, last Saturday, also condoled with the families of the victims.
Buhari said he was extremely pained by the loss of lives as a result of the incident.
He, therefore, asked for “a thorough investigation to determine what is responsible for the gas pipeline tragedy in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State in which several fatalities were reported”.
The gas tragedy reportedly occurred at Kom Kom community of Oyigbo Local Government Area, last Saturday, when workers were fixing a faulty section of the pipeline.
Similarly, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus has condoled with the people of Kom Kom in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State over the loss of lives following the gas pipeline explosion which killed dozens of citizens in the area.
In a statement signed by his spokesman, Ike Abonyi, in Abuja, yesterday, Secondus said, “Our hearts are with you at this trying time”.
Secondus lamented the incessant hazard the people of the Niger Delta were facing due to the neglect and insensitivity of the Federal Government to listen to the cries of the people.
He also commiserated with victims of the senseless killings in Zamfara and other states in North-West and North-East zones.
The opposition leader charged the relevant authorities, including the oil and gas companies to show some sensitivity to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta on the hazards they were exposed to as a result of exploration of their God-given natural resources in their area.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 10 persons have reportedly lost their lives in the pipeline explosion that occurred in Rivers State, last Saturday.
The Tide learnt that the oil facility was installed by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and to supply gas feedstock to the Afam Gas Plant and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) facility in Bonny Island.
But, Shell spokesman, Bamidele Odugbesan, told newsmen, last Saturday, that there was no record of any explosion on SPDC facility in Oyigbo.
A resident of the area, Jude Nwanma, said residents of Izuoma, where the incident occurred, woke up to a thunderous explosion from a pipeline that criss-crossed the area.
Nwanma said more than 10 persons might have lost their lives in the explosion.
He said the explosion caused pandemonium in the area just as residents scampered for safety.
“It was later I learned that the explosion occurred in one of the pipelines I suspect to be petrol pipeline, and that more than 10 persons lost their lives in the incident,” he said.
Another eyewitness said, “We were just waking up when we heard a very loud sound. We knew it was an explosion but did not know the kind of explosion. We later traced the tick smoke to the gas pipeline.”
The Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Hon Gerald Oforji, who confirmed the story, said that 10 persons died in the explosion.
Oforji said the bodies of the victims were recovered from the scene when the fire was put off, but added that most of the dead may not be easily identified as their bodies have been burnt beyond recognition.
He also confirmed that no house was destroyed when the explosion occurred.
The Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, also has confirmed the incident.
Omoni claimed that the incident happened when officials of Shell Petroleum Development Company, were carrying out routine maintenance of the facility in Kom Kom.
He could not confirm exact casualty figure, but added that the fire has been put out, and that normalcy has returned to the scene of the incident.
“Shell was carrying out maintenance on the pipeline when the explosion happened. Our findings indicate that some members of the community rushed to the scene to scoop the product when the explosion happened.
“I can’t tell you how many people were burnt but it was not a good sight. Our men are still at the scene,” he added.
But The Tide’s investigation reveals that no hydrocarbon could be scooped from any pipeline when there is a gas leak or explosion, as gas is a highly flammable substance.
Black Tuesday In Yola As Trailer Kills 20 Persons
No fewer than 20 persons were reportedly crushed to death after a trailer loaded with farming produce overran several tricycles popularly known as Keke Napep, yesterday, at Vinikling bridge (Hayin Gada) in Yola, Adamawa State.
Residents told our correspondent that the accident was caused by police officers, who were pursuing the truck driver for refusing to give them money.
A resident of Viniklang, Malam Umar Shehu, who also sent pictures of the accident to newsmen, said he participated in evacuation of corpses to the hospital in Yola.
According to him, the explanation the police gave was that, they were chasing the truck driver for carrying goods suspected to be foreign rice, a situation which led to the unfortunate incident, resulting in the death of many.
“But, there was no foreign rice in the truck, it was farm produce. The driver said they were chasing him for refusing to give them money at a checkpoint the police mounted,” Umar said.
One of the passengers, a student at the Modibo Adama University, who identified himself as Salisu Ibrahim said he narrowly escaped death by whiskers.
“I did not know what happened, but we suddenly saw the truck coming with speed and police van was pursuing it. All of us in our Keke Napep jumped out and fled, the driver lost control and the truck began to hit other Keke Napep and crushing people before our very own eyes. It was horrific,” Ibrahim said.
Our correspondent, however, made several attempts to get Othman Abubakar, the Police Public Relations Officer in Adamawa to speak but his phone was switched off at the time of this report.
Senate’ll Pass 2020 Budget On Nov 28, Lawan Insists
President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has asked the Committee on Appropriations to lay its report on the 2020 budget on November 26, for consideration and passage before the end of the month.
Lawan, who stated this at plenary, yesterday, commended the various committees for rounding off their budget defence sessions on schedule.
He insisted that the resolve of the National Assembly to revert to the January-to-December budget cycle remained sacrosanct.
He said, “All the committees have done their works so well within the defined parameters.
“Therefore, we expect the appropriations committee to galvanise into action.
“They (members of the appropriations committee) should produce the report to be laid here on the 26th November, which is the next two weeks, before the Senate.
“I believe this will be the same thing in our sister chamber, the House of Representatives, so that we would be able to pass the 2020 Appropriation Bill on the 28th of November”, he added.
Also, the Senate, yesterday, appealed to the Federal Government to ban importation of textiles in the country for a period of five years to allow for the production of local textile materials.
This followed the debate on a motion sponsored by Sen. Kabir Barkiya (APC-Katsina Central) during plenary on “Urgent need to revamp the nation’s comatose textile industry”.
The upper chamber also appealed to the Federal Government to provide the necessary infrastructural facilities especially power supply to local textile manufacturing companies to revamp the industry.
It also called on the government to encourage local textile manufacturing companies by providing them with soft loans and easy access to credit facilities through the Bank of Industry.
Debating the motion, Barkiya noted that the textile industry in the country played a significant role in the manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy with a record of over 140 companies in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The textile industry recorded an annual growth of 67 per cent and as at 1991, employed above 25 per cent of the workers in the manufacturing sector.
“The textile industry was then the highest employer of labour apart from the civil service.”
He noted that the industry had witnessed massive decline in the last two decades with many textile companies such as Kaduna Textile, Kano Textile and Aba Textile, among others, closing shops and throwing their workers into the job market.
The lawmaker further said that government policies like increase in taxation, high cost of production, trade liberalisation resulting in massive importation of textile materials had negatively affected the production of local textile materials.
Barkiya said that the resuscitation of the industry would provide additional revenue and assist government to diversify the nation’s economy.
Contributing, Deputy Senate Leader, Sen. Robert Boroffice (APC-Ondo North) said that the importation of textile materials was as a result of the comatose level of the textile industry.
“The closure of our borders is an eye opener. China closed its borders for 40 years for its industrialisation and development.
“I believe that the closure our borders should be extended to allow us put our house in order.”
Boroffice said that the extension of the closure of the borders would serve as an opportunity to resuscitate the textile industry, among other industries that had been characterised by smuggling.
But Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia South), who disagreed with Boroffice on the fact that the closure of the borders would help revamp the industry, said that “closing the borders and doing nothing will not lead to increase in production of textiles.
“The real problems have been indicated; first, is the fact that we are unable to produce the cotton that we need.
“But far more important is the fact of power. Power was the key problem that made most of the textile mills closed.
“Once it became very difficult after 1982 for industries to be supplied with power and they needed to switch over to now produce their own power in order to do production, it became a lose, lose situation for most of the industrialists.”
Abaribe called on the Federal Government to do the fundamental, power, to ensure that the smuggling of textile products was done away with.
Similarly, Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP-Benue North-East) said that without power, no meaningful profit would be realised in any manufacturing industry in the country.
Suswam, who called on the government to address the issue in the power sector, said that if this was done, the manufacturers would be able to make profit.
“If we take concrete actions on these issues, our economy will be enhanced, the welfare of the people will be enhanced, insecurity and by extension, criminality, will be reduced,” he said.
In his remark, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan said that as Nigeria had signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, “we have to be prepared for the repercussions.
“We cannot stop trading easily with other people. We have to up our game; we need to be competitive,” Lawan said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Customs Service to lift the ban on the sales of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) within 20km to the country’s borders.
It would be recalled that last Thursday, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had directed that no petroleum products should be supplied to any filling station within 20 kilometres to the borders.
A member, Hon Sada Soli, moved a motion of urgent national importance at the plenary, yesterday, asking that the order by the NCS should be vacated.
According to him, the order by the customs boss contravenes the provisions of the Customs and Excise Act.
Soli argued that the filling stations asked not to sell petrol close to the borders were situated and constructed in compliance with relevant laws.
“This is not acceptable! Review this directive with a human face,” he stated.
Several lawmakers, who seconded the motion, criticised the policy while lamenting the hardships being faced by people living in border communities.
RSHA Passes 2010 Medium Term Expenditure Framework
The Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, passed the 2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework Document.
This follows a letter sent to it by the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike and read by the Speaker, Rt Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani during plenary.
He explained that the request was to pave way for the Executive to plan the 2020 fiscal year budget.
Presenting the documents to the House, Leader of the House and member representing ObioAkpor 1, Hon Martins Amaewhule appealed to members to grant the governor’s request to enable the Executive present the 2020 budget.
His appeal was supported by the Chief Whip, Hon. Evans Bipi.
Ruling on the matter, the speaker divided the House for vote, and 22 members supported the request.
Meanwhile, the House Ad-hoc Committee on serial killings in the state chaired by member representing Omuma State Constituency, Hon. Kelechi Wogu has presented its report.
Wogu, who read the recommendations on the floor, charged security agencies to ensure that the lead suspect to the crime, one Gracious David-West was prosecuted.
But the speaker while receiving the report said it was subjudice to further debate on the matter, since the matter was in the court.
Consequently, the Health Protection Programme Bill has passed first reading.
The Executive bill was presented by Amaewhule, who explained that it seeks to improve on the activities of government in the healthcare sector.
The House leader appealed to his colleagues to pass the bill considering its numerous benefits, but the speaker stressed the need for the bill to be fully studied for proper inputs by the legislators in the next sitting.
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