Some residents of Osisioma Ngwa community in Abia State have filed a lawsuit against the Nigerian government accusing it of neglect after a pipeline explosion ripped through their homes.
The suit, filed by 80 victims before an Abia State High Court in Osisioma Ngwa, is seeking damages totalling N3.2 billion for the injuries and trauma suffered during the explosion.
Joined in the suit as respondents are the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In October 2018, a system 2E petroleum pipeline belonging to the NNPC caught fire and exploded in Osisioma Ngwa destroying lives and properties. Some of the villages affected include Umuaduru and Umuimo, as well as residents of Uratta, Umuze, and Njiko Umunna autonomous communities.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said at least 60 persons died in the explosion. But the community put the figure to about 200.
In his reaction to the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari blamed the explosion on “vandals who pilloried the pipelines to scoop the products.”
According to the claimants, the fire incident left some of them with “fractured bodies, wounds and scalds.”
They alleged that the NNPC and PPMC were aware that their pipelines in Osisioma Ngwa community were ruptured and spilling out petroleum products into the community and did not shut them down.
They also accused the government of indifference to the “excruciating and blistering hardship” caused them by the explosion.
“In the wake of the tragic pipeline fire explosions and the traumatising and extensive losses suffered by the casualties of the fires, the defendants did virtually nothing to provide emergency or other relief to the claimants and their loved ones who were casualties of the explosions,” the claimants stated.
“Up till this time too, the defendants have not sought to identify or reach members of the affected communities who, against heavy odds, survived the pipeline fire incident, in order to find ways of supporting them through their rehabilitation process.”
Access to Justice, an advocacy group and lawyers to the claimants, said the lawsuit is aimed at holding the federal government and oil corporation to account.
“Access to Justice expects that there will, ultimately, be a day of reckoning for the impunity of both the government and the oil corporations towards the Osisioma Ngwa population,” said Chinelo Chinweze, senior programme officer at Access to Justice.
“And a day of justice for the victims of the pipeline explosions whose lives have been broken so horrendously and disdainfully by government and Nigeria’s state oil corporations.”