Dozens of people were reported missing after they fled a gas explosion that rocked Nigeria's Delta state early on Thursday, January 11 (local time). The blast occurred on the Escarvos-Lagos pipeline of the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), located near Ejere community (Warri South local government area) at roughly 04:45 on Thursday; local authorities extinguished the associated fire around 08:00. As of 16:30 on Thursday, an unknown number of people remained missing after fleeing the area at the time of the incident. However, no casualties were immediately reported. The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) stated on Thursday that reduced gas supply from the explosion would be offset by increased distribution from other sources.
It is currently unclear what caused the explosion: local media sources reported that suspected thieves may have caused the explosion, though residents suspected that leakage from the gas pipeline due to poor maintenance was the reason. An associated protest took place in the area following the blast, as residents claimed that the NGC failed to fix the pipeline when the leak was first reported, and then responded slowly after Thursday's explosion to extinguish the associated fire. Additional related protests are possible in the coming hours and days.
The Escarvos-Lagos pipeline provides gas which produces around one-sixth of Nigeria's power, and also supplies gas to the West Africa Gas Pipeline System. Poor infrastructural maintenance, among other factors, has impeded Nigeria's economic growth in recent years.
Meanwhile, a significant number of militant groups are active in the Delta region, frequently attacking oil and gas facilities. The groups primarily demand the redistribution of wealth generated by oil assets in the Niger Delta, as well as environmental protection initiatives to combat the damage caused by oil extraction activities over the past few decades. In 2016, attacks on oil facilities brought Nigeria's oil production to a 30-year low. Nigeria has historically depended on the oil sector for 70 percent of its government revenue and 90 percent of its foreign exchange.
Individuals in the affected area are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all associated protests due to the risk of violence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.