Investigation: How negligence by PPMC, Police led to death 70 persons in KomKom pipeline explosion


Okenyi Kenechi

On 22nd June 2019, residents of Kom Kom community in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State woke up to the smell of Premium Motor Spirit which had enveloped the air from a pipeline which passed through the community.

The pipeline conveyed fuel from Port Harcourt refinery to Aba-Enugu-Markurdi, covering three states.

Two days before, on Thursday the 20th of June 2019, at about 8 am, investigations revealed that the P.P.M.C started pumping of P.M.S (fuel) to Enugu depot, though it was discovered that the last maintenance work on the pipeline at km 15.5 was on the 10th of May, 2018 which was the last access to the spot by U.T.M in offshore, a private surveillance company based in Port Harcourt .

However, on Friday the 21st June 2019, at about 12:00hrs with the peculiar nature of the terrain as a swampy area, which is not easily accessible by foot, with intelligence gathering by men on duty from U.T.M surveillance crew, there was the smell of P.M.S (fuel) within the vicinity

The search started throughout the night by U.T.M surveillance till 3:00 am when the men of Civil Defense (NCDC) came and joined in the search. Without traces to the spot, the maintenance team joined the search by 5 am, a canoe was hired to help access the swamp with about five (5) persons on board.

Later on that same Friday, the spot was discovered with a lot of spills and bubblings. It was pegged without any measure to cordon the area or inform security agencies to help safeguard the place by U.T.M offshore pending when maintenance work will be carried out on the line.

These resulted in the overall spillage of oil (P.M.S) on all the environments and the territorial waters. At about 7 pm in the dark, some unidentified persons were seen around within the swamp who were so aggressive on the U.T.M maintenance team and threatened to attack them if they venture to close the spot. All the teams on the ground ran out of the swamp2″, eyewitnesses said.

But on Saturday 22nd of June 2019, during the early hours of the day, based on the fact that P.M.S (fuel) is an essential commodity, other people were attracted to the product as means of economic survival, scooping the product with jerry cans and foam method.

This attracted the security agencies. A policeman from Afam Police Division by name Precious came with a rifle and had a challenge with one of the scoopers. He fired a shot in the air which ignited the flame, a large sound was heard, which was the explosion.

Investigations showed that 32 bodies were recovered in the morning of the explosion while 8 were recovered later in the day making a total sum of 40.

Two bodies were recovered on Sunday, two on Monday 24/6/2019, Two on Tuesday, another three were recovered on Wednesday and one on Friday.

A total number of 48 corpses were taken by the deceased families and buried while a community register cited during this investigation revealed a total of 37 missing persons.


In a bid to salvage the situation, water was introduced to the pipeline later on Saturday the 22nd of June, 2019 that reduced the flame, but when the pumping of water stopped later in the day, the fire resurfaced in the early hours of Sunday the 23rd of June, 2019.

On Sunday 23rd June 2019, NNPC brought their fire control truck which was of no importance or remedy to the situation due to poor accessibility.

Later in the day, another smaller water pumping machine was introduced with low-performance capability.
Foam compound was introduced by the U.T.M maintenance team that yielded no result.

On Monday the 24th of June 2019, was the shutting down of the Imo River control valve but the fire was still much based on the fact that the pumping of water stopped.

On Tuesday the 25th of June, 2019 was when the fire was put off completely.

Also, on Wednesday the 26th of June, 2019 – The immediate cause of the problem was discovered to a four (4”) inches valve been installed to the line by vandals for oil bunkering activities. A corpse was also recovered when the U.T.M maintenance team was able to access the swamp with a swamp-buggy machine.


Some of the community sources who spoke during the course of this investigation said: “We were in our houses on Friday evening, the 21st of June 2019, when people started coming out with filled jerry cans of fuel which was (P.M.S)

“In the early hours of Saturday 22/6/2019, it was as if it was the gathering of birds with people moving to and fro with gallons of fuel (P.M.S) within the streets of the komkom community.

“In an effort to remedy the situation, the street chairman tried in gathering some of them together by talking to them about the dangers of scooping petroleum products which were adhered by some persons who returned to their respective houses unhurt.

“At about 7 am was when we heard a large sound and smoke started coming out which was later discovered to be the pipeline explosion.”

Silence from PPMC, U.T.M in Offshore

When contacted during the course of this investigation, U.T.M in Offshore, the company responsible for the pipeline security declined to comment on the matter but however deferred every official comment to the PPMC who neither answered calls made to the company or responded to text messages.

Nnamdi Omoni, the Rivers State Police Command Spokesman said the command is investigating allegations its personnel fired the shot which sparked the explosion.

However, as the time the investigation was being concluded, the police did not come up with any official statement in that regard.

Health Scare From Decomposing Corpses

The National Emergency Management Authority, NEMA, which is saddled with the responsibility of managing such disaster did not visit the community as dead bodies abandoned in the swamps began to smell, leading to a health scare in the community.

The community alerted that the decomposing bodies were posing a great danger to their health as it had polluted the air which they breathe.

They also added that their water bodies have been contaminated by petroleum products as a result of the spill and fire.

The community also cried out that nothing had been done since the explosion occurred as they were yet to hear from the government and NNPC/PPMC weeks after the explosion occured.


    From: Ohafia L.G.A, Abia State
    Age: Youth
    House Address: Aruonwu Quarter
    Phone No: 08069487748

  2. THANKGOD LEDEE and HIS BROTHER From Eleme L.G.A, Rivers State
    Palm Wine Tappers,
    Age: Advanced
    Phone No: 08160702075

  3. MAXWELL IKPEAPUNULO from Orlu Njaba L.G.A, Imo State.
    Age: Youth
    House Address: Umuakpahu
    Phone No: 08062284499

  4. NNEJI KINGSLEY ABUCHI from Mbano L.G.A, Imo State
    Age: Youth
    House Address: Obinikpa, Komkom.
    Phone: 07069020179

  5. GODSPOWER ABRAHAM from Andoni L.G.A, Rivers State
    Age: Youth
    House Address: Obinikpa, Komkom
    Phone No: 07069020179

  6. JEREMIAH EKONG from Uyo L.G.A, Akwa Ibom State
    Palm wine tapper
    Age: Advanced
    House Address: No 2 Kings Close, Izuoma, Oyigbo, Rivers State.
    Phone No: 08132030328

  7. MONDAY UDO from Uyo L.G.A, Akwa Ibom State
    Palm Wine tapper
    Age: Advanced
    House Address: No 2 Kings Close, Izuoma, Oyigbo Rivers State
    Phone No: 07031142859

  8. IFIOK NSEABASI from Uyo L.G.A, Akwa Ibom State
    Palm Wine tapper
    Age: Advanced
    House Address: No 2 Kings Close, Izuoma, Oyigbo, Rivers State
    Phone No: 07031142859

  9. ISAAC JOHN from Uyo L.G.A, Akwa Ibom State
    Palm Wine tapper
    Age: Advanced
    House Address: No 2 Kings Close, Izuoma, Oyigbo, Rivers State.
    Phone No: 08132030328

  10. ANIETIE MICHAEL from Akwa Ibom State
    Age: 28
    Gender: M
    Family: Michael Williamson
    Phone No: 09068528700

  11. ISONGKE FRIDAY from Akwa Ibom State.
    Age: 23
    Gender: M
    Family: Friday Jimmy
    Phone No: 08056613441

  12. FIDELIS OKORO from Imo State
    Age: 45
    Gender: M
    Family: Nicholas Okoro
    Phone No: 07068684430

  13. RICHARD SAMUEL EDETH from Akwa Ibom State
    Age: 36
    Gender: M
    Family: Dr Okon Edeth
    Phone No: 08146610072

  14. DANIEL FRIDAY from Akwa Ibom State
    Age: 25
    Gender: M
    Family: Ebe Daniel Friday
    Phone No: 07035303291

  15. ENDURANCE OGONIKON – Buguma, Asari Toru L.G.A, Rivers State
    Age: 25
    Gender: M
    Family: Wasimeba Ogonikon

    From: Buguma, Asari Toru L.G.A, Rivers State
    Age: 22
    Gender: M
    Family: Wasimeba Ogonikon
    Phone No: 08058161157

    The true nature of the pipeline explosion was linked to the following:

  17. The incapability of the surveillance team to access the swampy areas.
  18. Lack of supervision, regular checks and maintenance by both P.P.M.C and U.T.M off-shore.
  19. Economic sabotage by hoodlums involved in oil bunkering activities.
  20. The compromising attitude of the security officers-in-charge of the area.

In the course of carrying out this investigation, it is duly ascertained that the km 15.5 has been an economic centre and market for both oil bunkering activities with the aid of the security agents posted to the area for about four (4) years before now.