The latest reports by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have confirmed the death of over 100 people in the explosion of an illegal refinery in Imo State, Nigeria. 

Current situation 
The unauthorized refinery is located in Abaeze, a community in Imo State that shares state borders with Rivers State; two states in the southeast region of Nigeria. Reports say the fire explosion burnt over 100 people in the vicinity beyond recognition. 

What’s happening 
As the authorities cannot identify the bodies, the Imo State government is opting to conduct a mass burial for all victims. 

What they are saying 
President Muhammadu Buhari described the incident as “a catastrophe and a national disaster.” He further urged security agencies in the country to intensify their efforts in shutting down illegal refineries in Nigeria. 

Oil bunkering in Nigeria 
Oil bunkering is an illegal crude refining business in Nigeria where crude oil pipelines owned by major oil companies are vandalized and the products refined in makeshift tanks at very high uncontrolled temperatures.

  • This illegal refinery explosion is the second fatal refinery explosion in just six months, as 25 people died at an unauthorized site in River State last October. 
  • The worry for the Nigerian government is the millions the country is losing to oil theft. Data shows in 2021, Nigeria lost 193 million barrels or $3.5 billion to oil theft. This value is 10% of the country’s foreign reserves. 

What this means 
According to the president’s speech, security agencies are to intensify their efforts in shutting down these refineries. The earliest of their efforts sees the destruction of 128 unauthorized in Rivers State at the start of the year.

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