Nigeria has suffered a spate of explosions at oil-pipelines, resulting in the deaths of more than 2000 people in separate incidents. In an explosion at a suburb in Lagos, the cause was determined to be that people had been scooping-up oil which poured from a puncture-hole made by thieves to get at the oil, rather the way people are known to tap-off gas supplies with hosepipes, often with similarly calamitous consequences. At the Lagos site, it took the emergency services many hours to extinguish the flames from burning oil, with the result that many of the victims' bodies were so severely burnt, they could not be identified. Despite its position as the main African oil and gas producer, Nigerian people frequently suffer shortages of fuel, a matter which is attributed to corruption, bad management and problems with the basic supply infrastructure.
The country's leader, President Obasanjo blamed this particular tragedy on vandals deliberately damaging the pipeline, and is reported as saying that he was sad that such acts of vandalism continued in spite of his warnings that it was not only illegal but a dangerous pursuit. United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said the UN was prepared to provide immediate assistance, and also to help assess gaps in disaster response in Nigeria. He further called for "a review of the country's fuel supply management, as well as a thorough regional review of risks that could lead to environmental or technological disasters in West Africa". Arguably this is not entirely intended in the mode of altruism but to secure precious supplies of exportable fuel for the U.S.
The post-mortem to the Lagos incident concluded that thieves penetrated a pipeline passing through the Abule Egba area of Lagos intending to syphon-off substantial quantities of fuel - clearly with no foresight as to the consequences. Once word had got around, hundreds of people descended on the scene carrying jerry cans and plastic buckets, and then a massive explosion shook the neighbourhood. According to the Nigerian Red Cross, at least 260 were killed with dozens more injured in the blast. Some of those casualties are thought to have gone into hiding to avoid arrest, while others, lacking money for hospital treatment, have gone without medical attention too.
A Lagos journalist, Adeyinka Adewunmi, was present to witness the aftermath of the explosion. "The pipelines are in a popular neighbourhood, very close to the express road, which I normally use for my journey to work," he said. "I could see fire, state ambulances, Red Cross ambulances, firefighters and government officials. There were scores of dead bodies on the ground and injured people being carried into ambulances."
The list of pipeline disasters in Nigeria reads:
2006: 400 killed in Lagos.
2004: 80 killed in Lagos.
2003: 105 killed in Abia State.
2000: 350 killed in Warri and Abia State.
1998: at least 1000 killed in Jesse.
In is a case of desperate measures, as the gulf between those who have become wealthy from oil and gas resources widens from the rest, on the margins of that society; or of the broadening gap between those that have ample access to fuel and those that don't. I percieve it as a microcosm of the people of the World struggling for oil, and in this regard these events signify a desperation beyond comprehension from my Western viewpoint (as yet).