Tragic Illegal Refinery Explosion Claims Lives in Southern Nigeria’s Rivers State

A devastating incident unfolded in southern Nigeria’s Rivers State, as an illegal oil refinery erupted in flames, resulting in the loss of lives, including that of a pregnant woman. According to reports from both residents and a security official, at least 18 people perished in the tragic blaze.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday in the Emohua district, when a makeshift refinery ignited a nearby oil reservoir, leading to severe burns and casualties among the victims. The local Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps revealed that 18 individuals were tragically burned beyond recognition, while 25 injured persons were rescued.

Among the victims were primarily young individuals, including a pregnant woman and a young lady who was preparing for her upcoming wedding ceremony next month, further highlighting the heart-wrenching impact of the incident.

In a separate report, a local community leader from Ibaa shared with Reuters that the death toll could be as high as 37 individuals. The leader, Rufus Welekem, stated that 35 people were caught in the fire, and two individuals who had managed to escape the initial incident sadly succumbed to their injuries in the hospital on Tuesday.

Illegal oil refining has become a common practice in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region, where impoverished locals tap into pipelines to extract fuel for sale, often using rudimentary methods such as boiling crude oil in drums. However, these operations are fraught with danger and have resulted in numerous fatalities.

Despite Nigeria’s efforts to crack down on illegal crude refineries, the issue persists, with the involvement of influential politicians and security officials, according to local environmental groups. This ongoing challenge, coupled with crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism, and legal disputes over oil spills, has prompted oil majors operating in Nigeria to divest from onshore and shallow water assets and focus on deepwater operations instead.

The tragic explosion serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with illegal refining activities and the need for sustained efforts to address the underlying issues and ensure the safety of the local communities in Nigeria’s petroleum-rich regions.

WTO Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Predicts Africa’s Economy Could Reach the Scale of China and India

In a compelling interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), passionately advocates for Africa’s integration into the global economy. With a population of 1.4 billion people, the African continent currently relies heavily on imports, sourcing more than 90% of its medicines and vaccines externally. However, Okonjo-Iweala believes that the time has come to change this narrative by embracing globalisation and attracting investments to African countries.

Okonjo-Iweala emphasizes the need to decentralise and diversify global trade, creating opportunities for new markets and enabling countries from the Global South to play a more prominent role in the world economy. By reducing reliance on any single country for crucial goods and services, Africa can pave the way for sustainable growth and development.

Although Africa has yet to fully embrace globalization, Okonjo-Iweala envisions a future where the continent becomes an integral part of the global economy. With the potential to establish a domestic market of over a billion people, comparable in scale to China and India, Africa can become a significant player in the international trade arena.

“Africa currently accounts for approximately 3% of world trade, and that’s far too small,” Okonjo-Iweala asserts. “However, when, not if, the experiment of better integration and trade within Africa becomes a reality, it will automatically become an attractive trade partner for the world.”

By positioning Africa as a thriving hub of commerce and fostering intra-African trade, the continent can unlock its immense potential, drive economic growth, and contribute to global trade in meaningful ways. Okonjo-Iweala’s vision for a globally connected and empowered Africa serves as a catalyst for change, encouraging stakeholders to embrace the possibilities that lie within the continent’s untapped potential.

Fire Ravages Marina in Antigua and Barbuda Amidst Tropical Storm from Philippe

Antigua and Barbuda woke up to a sombre morning as a fire engulfed the Yacht Club Marina in English Harbour, along with several businesses in Falmouth Harbour. This unfortunate incident occurred simultaneously with heavy rains, lightning, and widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Philippe.

According to ABS television/radio, the fire affected establishments including Skull Duggery café, Yacht Club Marina Gym, Cloggy’s, Dock Master Office, and Dockside Liquor. Prime Minister Gaston Browne took to social media to express his gratitude that no serious injuries were reported and to offer words of encouragement: “Giving thanks that no one got seriously hurt. We have been spared the worst. As a resilient people, we soldier on.”

The luxury yacht Alfa Nero had been relocated before the storm hit, avoiding any damage. However, Prime Minister Browne noted that the Yacht Club Marina, where the Alfa Nero was docked, was completely devastated by the fire. The destruction of several businesses has resulted in at least 100 job losses, adding to the sadness and economic impact suffered by the community.

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda faced the aftermath of Tropical Storm Philippe, with the National Office of Disaster Service (NODS) reporting over 30 requests for search and rescue operations due to widespread flooding across the islands. Emergency 911 informed the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) about stranded residents in Bathlodge and on the Airport Road who had to be rescued, many of whom were travelling late at night.

Numerous homes in areas such as Piggotts, Cassada Gardens, and the vicinity of the Potworks Dam experienced flooding, and emergency personnel provided assistance to affected residents. In one incident, a bus became trapped in floodwaters in the Golden Grove extension area.

District Disaster Coordinators volunteering on behalf of NODS reported flooding in several other areas, including Upper Fort Road, Grays Farm/Green Bay, and various communities. Some individuals have sought refuge in shelters located in different districts.

While emergency responders continue their rescue efforts and firefighters battle a major fire at the Yacht Club Marina in English Harbour, they face the challenge of strong wind gusts hindering their progress.

Authorities are urging residents to remain indoors until given the all-clear signal, as there is a high number of people driving on the roads despite the hazardous conditions. With floodwaters and debris posing risks to individuals’ safety, it is vital for everyone to take necessary precautions and await official instructions to ensure their well-being.

Antigua and Barbuda now face the task of recovery and rebuilding in the aftermath of both the devastating fire at the Yacht Club Marina and the impact of Tropical Storm Philippe. The resilience and unity of the community will be essential in overcoming these challenges and restoring normalcy to the beautiful Caribbean islands.

Uganda’s Refugee Population Faces Dire Circumstances as Humanitarian Aid Cuts Hit Hard

Uganda’s refugee population is in a desperate struggle for survival as humanitarian aid cuts have severely impacted their access to food, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The agency, facing a funding shortfall of over 60% for its global needs, was compelled to reduce food rations in Uganda from 70 to 30 percent in July of this year, focusing on providing for the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, further cuts are anticipated, intensifying the daily battle for refugees to put food on the table.

Uganda is home to the largest refugee population in Africa, hosting approximately 1.5 million refugees and 32,000 asylum seekers in 2022. The ongoing influx of refugees, particularly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, has stretched resources thin. The reduced food rations have become life-threatening for these vulnerable individuals and families.

In their struggle to survive, many refugees have turned to petty trade, selling their belongings, or engaging in criminal activities. Santo Asiimwe, a WFP staff member at the Nakivale settlement near the Tanzanian border, stated, “We are seeing some of them resorting to selling their household assets. They have a goat or a cup or even a radio or a phone, and they sell that.” This desperate situation is especially challenging for the approximately 70% of refugees in Nakivale who are mothers, desperately seeking ways to care for their children.

The consequences of reduced food aid are evident in rising malnutrition rates among children, with 7% of young children in Nakivale suffering from acute malnutrition. Additionally, host communities are becoming increasingly hostile towards refugees, with some accusing them of theft. Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Hillary Onek recently acknowledged that “hunger is forcing [refugees] into criminality” and emphasized that the situation is unsustainable. Uganda has appealed to the global community for support.

The WFP is urgently calling for immediate intervention to prevent further deterioration of the situation. Santo Asiimwe stated, “If donor support is not mobilised within the shortest possible time, we are yet to see another human catastrophe. So, what is the level of human need that we are talking about? We are talking about 78-79 million U.S. dollars by 2024, February.”

In 2022, less than half of the required funding for Uganda’s refugee response was received, as reported by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Despite the international community’s recognition of Uganda’s “progressive refugee response” that emphasises self-reliance and integration, the current lack of funding raises concerns that the Ugandan government may have no choice but to scale down support for refugees.

The plight of Uganda’s refugee population underscores the urgent need for increased global support and funding to ensure the basic needs, safety, and well-being of those seeking refuge in the country. Immediate action is vital to prevent a deepening humanitarian crisis and to provide a lifeline for those most vulnerable among Uganda’s refugee population.


Source: Africa News