By Frank Oshanugor
Two communities (Ekwuoma and Umunede) in Ika North East of Delta State are most likely to suffer severe consequences for hosting illegal gas plants which have been operating for several uninterrupted years.
Our investigations revealed that the Gas Plants located at Idumukeze Ekwuoma quarters and Umunede Express Road opposite Joy Restaurant, Umunede respectively have been operating with no approval from the relevant authorities.
Findings revealed that these plants neither have any approval from the former Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) now Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) nor the Delta State Government for the construction and operations of the plants.
The plants were built along farm roads disguising as farm houses to unsuspecting members of the public but well known to all Gas Truck Drivers who illegally sell stolen Gas products from legitimate cooking gas plant owners. Close sources disclosed that the drivers who engage in this nefarious acts usually do so at nights or Sundays when it is easier for them to divert Trucks loaded with gas products from authorised Gas depots to the illegal gas plants where the products are sold at give away prizes.
The worrisome aspect of the activities of the unauthorized gas plant operators according to findings by our reporter is the constant threats to kill any body who challenges their illegal operations. They claimed to have paid their dues to both government security agencies and the community heads to carry on, with their activities, and therefore nobody could stop them.
It will be recalled that a similar gas outfit; Osadebe Gas Plant operating illegally along New Lagos/Asaba Express Road, Agbor operated in the same manner, exploded about a year ago setting the entire community ablaze.
The inferno recorded several deaths and destroyed properties worth millions of naira. The agony of that explosion is still fresh in the lives of those who lost their beloved ones or property in the incident.
Some concerned residents in the two communities of Ekwuoma and Umunede who spoke to our reporter on the basis of anonymity for fear of being attacked by the illegal gas plant operators, are deeply worried that their communities might be wiped off if any incident of explosion occurs at the plant like what happened at Osedebe Gas Plant incident.
They have therefore called on the Delta State Environmental Protection Agency and security agencies in the state to quickly step into the matter with a view to clamping down on the illegal gas plants operators and identifyinge those who are their sponsors.
The residents’ fear is further accentuated by the fact that the harmattan season is very imminent with Christmas festivities in sight when there may be increase in the patronage of the illegal plants which are selling gas products at cheaper prizes since they do not buy from the authorised Gas depots.
They argued that such peak period of sales could be more vulnerable to explosion or mishandling during dispensing of products