PH ‘Kpo-Fire’ Inferno Landlords May Lose Properties For Covering Up Culprits

The Rivers State Commissioner for Special Duties, Hon. Emeka Anyasodike Onowu has disclosed that landlords whose houses were bordered by the buildings used for suspected illegal bunkering activities, popularly called ‘kpo-fire’ in local parlance, that were engulfed in inferno over the weekend in Port Harcourt, would be invited by his Ministry in course of the investigations.

He warned that those found culpable of concealing knowledge of the existence of illegal bunkering activities by their neighbours, may have their properties sealed up or confiscated.

The Commissioner who stated this when he led journalists to the affected sites at Isiokpo Street, D/Line and at East-West Road, Rumuokoro on Monday, warned that government may take the action if it is shown that the landlords knew about the nocturnal activities and failed to report to the appropriate quarters.

The visits to the affected sites revealed burnt up fuel carriage tanks, drums, trucks and plastic containers, ostensibly used for the ‘kpo-fire’ activities.

He said Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, had mandated his Ministry to get to the root of the incidents, even as another fire disaster was reported at Nembe/Bille Jetty on Monday afternoon, vowing to use these unfortunate infernos, to tell Rivers people that “enough is enough”.

“If you have a property that you are benefitting from and your neighbor is doing an illegal business that could endanger your life and property, the most patriotic action you will take would be to report to the appropriate authorities.  Where you fail to do so, you will be treated as a culprit”, he said, adding that the owners of the land where the fire incidents took place have been given two weeks to report to the Ministry, warning that government would confiscate the lands if they failed to report.

Hon. Onowu further added that the CDC Chairmen and Community Youths Presidents where the conflagration took place would also be invited by the investigating committee to explain why they should allow such illegal activities in their domain.

The Commissioner revealed that a committee has been set up to investigate the fire disaster which, curiously, has raised plausible questions regarding the sequence of the ugly event.

“We want to know where these petroleum products are coming from.  If we know these, we then take it from there.  This committee would work in synergy with the Ministry of Energy and other relevant agencies, and have one week to submit its report”, he said, adding that anyone found culpable would be dealt according to the law, while appealing to members of the general public to come up with useful information that would help the ministry in its investigation.

The commissioner urged the public not to be scared of bringing information as failure to do so would be putting their lives and properties in continued danger.

Onowu expressed disappointment with security agencies whom he said, do not encourage members of the public from divulging useful information about activities of criminal elements in society.

According to him, “It is believed that when people come and give them information, they go round and reveal the source of the information to the same criminal elements, thereby putting their lives at risk.  That’s the reason for the lack of confidence on our security agencies”.

Speaking to journalists after the visits, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Special Duties, Mrs. Kindness Egbelu, said the Ministry had always carried out sensitizations to public places on effective fire management and warning landlords and residents on the dangers of harboring operators of the ‘kpo-fire’ in their neighborhood.

She said the illegal bunkerers had devised a means of hiding behind warehouses and even banks to do their businesses at nights, pointing out the Rumuokoro case where the inferno almost touched Zenith Bank and an event center, but for the quick intervention of men of the state fire service.

Also speaking, the State Director of Fire Service, Mr. John Chukwumati urged residents and landlords to be their brother’s keeper, by opening up to the government where illegal bunkering activities are going on, adding that the losses suffered by those affected by the infernos would have been avoided had their neighbours reported the activities earlier on.

He however expressed appreciation to God that no life was lost, even as he urged citizens to take advantage of the state Fire Service by calling the following numbers in the event of fire outbreak: 07031522199 and 08037744107.


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