Abia Explosion: Nigerian officials give conflicting casualty figures

There is a confusion over the number of persons killed in Friday’s explosion at a pipeline of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Umuaduru and Umuimo villages in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State.

Officials, including of the state government, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and a senator are offering widely conflicting figures, less than a week after the disaster.

Initial reports stated that at least 24 persons were confirmed dead from the incident.

But this figure was on Wednesday dismissed as grossly inaccurate by a former governor of the state, Theodore Orji, who is now a senator.

Speaking at the Senate chamber, Orji said the death toll had reached 150.

Even after Orji spoke, NEMA and the Abia State Government were still insisting on vastly different figures, demonstrating an alarming shoddiness in disaster management in Nigeria.

Asked to confirm the claim of the senator, Abia State NEMA head of operations in Imo and Abia, Evans Ugho, said the records of the agency showed 60 persons died.

He said the figure was obtained when officials of the agency visited the scene the day after the incident.

He confirmed there are many conflicting reports concerning the number of the dead.

Asked if NEMA was in touch with victims that survived the blast, Ugho said no.

However, the Chief Press Secretary to the Abia State Governor, Enyinnaya Apollos, he insisted the total number of death is 28.

Apollos further disputed that NEMA officials had been to the scene, five days after the incident.

The Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Chikwendu Kalu, has said the state government would institute an investigative panel to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the explosion.

Hours after the Friday incident, the NNPC had suggested in a public statement that the fire was caused by pipeline vandals.

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