The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has refuted the allegation that negligence on its part caused the oil pipeline fire incident on Friday last week in Umuaduru and Umuimo communities in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia State.

A statement by the NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja attributed the incident to suspected oil thieves who had hacked into System 2E pipeline network of the corporation with a view to intercepting the flow of petrol from Port Harcourt to Aba.

Ughamadu stated that the clarification became necessary in view of the recent statement by a legislator indicting the corporation on the fire outbreak which had claimed lives and valuable properties.

The NNPC spokesman explained that the presence of items such as jerrycans, among others, at the scene of the incident as contained in the preliminary report on the matter demonstrated that the activities of vandals in the area ignited the flame.

He lamented that incessant vandalism of pipeline facilities along System 2Ex Pipeline Right of Way (PROW) has led to the underutilization of the Enugu Depot, saying that the breaches have prevented the corporation from pumping fuel into it.

Ughamadu called on relevant government agencies to collaborate with the corporation to appropriately criminalize vandalism of oil facilities across the country, adding that host communities should also partner the NNPC to tame the scourge.

He expressed the management and staff prayers that God reposes the souls of the innocent ones that perished in the incident, even as he warned members of the public against tempering with inflammable oil facilities nationwide.