From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield Soldiers and workers of the Sterling Global Oil Resources Limited, Operators of the Oil Operating License (OPL) 277, escaped death in Bayelsa State when a barge used to transfer crude oil into a bigger vessel exploded along the coastal area of Agge in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state.
Preliminary investigation indicated that the explosion was triggered by a spark from a power generating set being used to pump the crude oil into the waiting vessel.
Though no life was lost in the incident, some natives of the community suspected that the explosion was as a result of what they called criminal collaboration between some of the oil workers, some natives of Agge community and JTF soldiers.
They stated that prior to the explosion, a gun boat attached to the JTF was stationed and after the incident the gun boat disappeared.
According to them the authorities should order an investigation to get to the root of the incident and circumstances that surrounded the explosion of the barge.
The explosion caused panic in Agge community as thick smoke enveloped the community forcing many to scamper for safety.
Mr Michael Suwa, in a phone call from the community said the fire was still raging at the site of the incident making the people to fear that it was not over.
Reacting, the leadership of the JTF confirmed the incident but denied the involvement of its men in any illegal oil activity.
Media coordinator of the JTF, Lt. Col Onyema Nwachukwu said¬† a barge belonging to Sterling Oil Global used in transloading crude oil at Agge caught fire.
While disclosing that the fire was put under control and no human causality was recorded, Lt Col Onyema stated that the affected barge had been dragged to the mouth of the sea to avoid further damage as it was still emitting smoke.
Nwachukwu advised the public to disregard the insinuation that JTF men were involved in illegal oil activity.