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The remains of more than 100 workers and traders who died after the explosion of an illegal refinery in southeastern Nigeria were buried in an official ceremony on Tuesday after an incident that shocked the region

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said at least 110 people died in Friday’s blast, although officials believe the death toll could be higher.

“As the days pass, most people who think their siblings have traveled will realize that they may be victims of this (explosion),” said Marcel Amadioha, chairman of the local government area of ​​​​’Ohaji-Egbema where the illegal refinery operated.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil producer and illegal refineries and oil bunkering activities have plagued the continent’s most populous nation for years.

Illegal refineries are “widespread” in the West African country, mainly due to “the breakdown of the system (with) a poor security system and lack of pipeline maintenance”, Nnimo said. Bassey, director of Health of Mother Earth. Nigeria Foundation Environmental Group.

Nigerian security forces are still searching for two suspects authorities have accused of being responsible for the blast. However, local officials, including President Amadioha, have accused security agencies of “sabotage” in the incident, saying they were working with illegal refinery operators.

“They were so loose that the illegal bunkers will come here in droves without any kind of threat, without feeling like the police or the security agencies will come,” the council chairman said of the security agencies. “Some of them are collaborators, sabotaging the efforts of the real ones trying to make sure this illegal bunkering stops.”

The Nigerian police and military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday’s event was a rushed but solemn burial that had been delayed for four days since Friday’s explosion as local authorities scrambled to organize vital equipment such as diggers.

According to Bright Onyenwoke, a youth leader, many of the bodies of victims had been taken away and buried by families and about 50 remained at the refinery site for Tuesday’s mass burial. “My heart is bleeding,” he told The Associated Press.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the country’s security forces to ‘step up the crackdown’ against these illegally operated facilities in many parts of southern Nigeria, but there are fears that this will be a difficult task given the insecurity. in the region and the high rate of poverty. .

In Imo state, many of those working at the refinery site did so “out of frustration”, according to youth leader Onyenwoke, who said communities in the area were being marginalized despite the presence of dozens of oil wells.

“There is no good road, no clean water, no electricity,” he said, “so the means of survival here are difficult,” adding that sometimes participating in illegal businesses becomes preferable.

Oramaru Kwintus, from the Nigerian disaster management agency, said the authorities “will embark on greater awareness among young people of the dangers of these dangerous activities”.

ABC News

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