Saturday, May 13, 2006

Weary Nigerians shrug off deadly pipeline blast

Sat May 13, 2006 6:45am ET

ABUJA (Reuters) - A pipeline blast that killed up to 200 people near Nigeria's biggest city Lagos on Friday caused a ripple of sadness but no great outpouring of emotion among Nigerians who are accustomed to such tragedies.
The pipeline blew up while thieves were drilling into it for fuel, leaving charred, unrecognizable corpses on a sandy beach about a mile from Lagos city center by boat.
"Of course, it's sad. But these things happen all the time. We are used to it," said Ihezue Obi, a newspaper vendor in the capital Abuja, after perusing Saturday's headlines.
Theft of petrol and crude oil from pipelines is common in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and top oil producer where the vast majority of people live in poverty.
Deaths in pipeline blazes caused by thieves are so frequent that they are usually reported in a few paragraphs on back pages of local newspapers, if at all.
One local government official at the scene of Friday's blast said the fact that people were prepared to take such risks was a sign of poverty and desperation, but Femi Fani-Kayode, a presidency spokesman, contested that interpretation.
"These things occur as a result of criminal activity. When people are hell-bent on doing such things, there's very little the government can do," Fani-Kayode said on Saturday.
"Criminal activity cannot be justified on the basis of poverty," he added.

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