Tragedy Strikes Iba Community in Rivers as Explosion Claims Lives

Tragedy Strikes Iba Community in Rivers as Explosion Claims Lives

A devastating explosion rocked the peaceful community of Iba in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State on October 1, 2023, claiming multiple lives and leaving several wounded. The incident has sent shockwaves throughout the region, as the casualty count continues to rise.

 

The paramount ruler of Iba community, Eze Nwaobodo Jonah, expressed his deep sorrow over the tragedy and the ongoing illegal oil bunkering activities that have plagued his community. He lamented the difficulty in ascertaining the exact number of casualties due to the remote location of the explosion, which occurred in a dense forest.

 

Eze Nwaobodo Jonah revealed, “Right now we don’t know the exact number, but you know it happened in the bush, people are still in search of their people, many of them burnt beyond recognition, a lot of people have been declared wanted, they have gone there in search of their people. It is a very big catastrophe, and it is a very sad day in the community, nobody is happy.”

 

Despite repeated warnings and efforts to curb illegal oil activities, the paramount ruler expressed his frustration that these dangerous activities persisted. He said, “After hearing all my warnings and so on, I even sent town criers to the community several times, announced in our gatherings that there should be no more bunkering in Iba. Anybody who goes on doing bunkering, if caught, will have to carry his cross because it is bound. I have been warning, I have been warning, and I have been warning, in fact, I became an enemy to some of them, but I don’t care. Today they have seen the danger, and I think it should be a big warning to all our sons; those that are dead cannot come back again.”

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Residents from neighboring communities, including Obele, Rumunji, and Ndele, were also reported to be involved in these illegal oil refining activities, further exacerbating the issue.

 

The tragedy has left many relatives of the victims in a state of shock and despair. Henry Onatebo, a preacher from Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, recounted the loss of his brother, Eric, who was burnt beyond recognition. Plans were in place for Eric to learn a trade, but now, his family faces the daunting task of dealing with the aftermath of the explosion.

 

Another grieving individual, Mr. Prince, who lost his sister, expressed his anguish, saying, “I never knew she left my community down to Iba. The family has sent a message to the guy, the people that came in the morning they said they can’t identify the body, but we are trying to see if we can identify her body according to the boyfriend that she left and went down to the place where the incident occurred.”

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The illegal oil bunkering activities in the area have also had severe environmental consequences, with residents noting the impact on air quality and rainwater. The black soot produced by these activities has affected the climate and the livelihoods of those dependent on rainwater for their needs.

 

Rufus Obele Weleke, the Chief Security Officer of Iba, expressed concern that previous efforts to stop illegal oil activities in the community had not been successful. He called on the individuals involved to desist from such activities and urged them to engage in more legitimate pursuits like farming.

 

As the community grapples with this tragic event, Mr. Maduka clarified that the number of casualties stands at 15, contrasting with earlier reports of 30 individuals being burnt. He also highlighted the plight of local vigilantes who have not been paid for over a year, emphasizing the need for better support for those combating illegal oil bunkering.

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Indigenous residents of Emohua Local Government Area highlighted the dire consequences of illegal oil refining, calling for an end to these activities. Afam, a local resident, said, “The level of bunkering is not good based on the way people are in the business, the black soot that it produces affects the climate, and for people that use rainwater, it also affects them.”