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Abaezi explosion: It is act of economic sabotage, says Uzodimma

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri and Matthew Ogune, Abuja
25 April 2022   |   3:58 am
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, has described the weekend explosion, which occurred in an illegal oil refinery at Abaezi Forest, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Council, which claimed over 100 lives,....

Hope Uzodimma

•Urges Orlu people to produce devt plan, embrace peace
•Owner of illegal site declared wanted
•Desist from illegal bunkering or face the law, Farouq warns perpetrators

Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, has described the weekend explosion, which occurred in an illegal oil refinery at Abaezi Forest, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Council, which claimed over 100 lives, as an act of economic sabotage perpetrated by the victims.

The incident happened about 12 am on Saturday as many persons gathered to allegedly transact the business, according to the police. Uzodimma said this, yesterday, in Imo while reacting to the incident, urging people to identify and have legal means of livelihood instead of indulging in illegal and dangerous activities.

He alleged that the illegal site was where many persons who also came from neighbouring states such as Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta gather to indulge in illegal buying of refined crude oil mainly in the midnights.

He, however, commiserated with the families of the deceased persons. Uzodimma, at Orlu Zone Development Forum, convened by Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, and Chaired by Eze Duruiheona (SAN), also advised the people of the 12 Local Councils in Orlu zone to develop an action plan for the development of the zone instead of embarking on acts of security breach. He advised them not to do illegal businesses, adding that peace was critical at the moment.

The Guardian gathered that over 150 persons, who were at the site known as “big night market” to transact the illegal business had various degrees of burns. Others who attempted to escape climbed trees around but were unable to save their lives as their burnt bodies were seen hanging on trees as the fire spread rapidly. Many of the burnt persons were beyond recognition.

Meanwhile, the owner of the illegal refinery, Okenze Onyenwoke, has been declared wanted by the Imo State Government. The Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Chief Goodluck Opiah, who hails from the area, disclosed this while on a visit.

Opiah regretted that the aquatic life of the area had been hampered by the incident, stressing that the people of the area were known for their crop and fish farming activities as means of sustenance.

MEANWHILE, the Imo State Commissioner of Police (CP), Ahmed Barde, has directed detailed investigation on the incident.
The police spokesman, Michael Abattam, disclosed this to The Guardian yesterday.

SIMILARLY, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has warned youths to desist from illegal bunkering of petroleum products or face the full wrath of the law.

The Minister, who gave this warning yesterday, in a statement to sympathise with victims of the explosion that occurred in Lagos and Imo respectively, said, Illegal bunkering of petroleum products is a punishable offence under the law while urging security agencies to bring culprits to book.

Farouq, who lamented that the explosions occurred in less than one week, described the incidences as incessant, disastrous but avoidable.

She advised that caution should be applied while plying the roads with inflammable substances while declaring the illegal bunkering of petrol in certain areas as a suicidal.