Over 30 killed at illegal Benin fuel depot

Porto-Novo. — At least 34 people died in Benin on Saturday when a warehouse for smuggled fuel exploded into flames, a government official and residents said.

The blaze erupted in the commune of Sèmè Kpodji near Nigeria’s border. Local media report that the prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation. Benin’s Interior Minister was among the officials who visited the scene.

“As I speak, we have unfortunately recorded thirty-four deaths, including two babies,” minister Alassane Séïdou said.

The cause of the fire was fuel, particularly smuggled fuel. We have also recorded 20 people who’ve sustained injuries of varying seriousness.”

The minister of health detailed the state of the injured: “At the moment, we have been able to stabilise all the burn victims, Benjamin Hounkpatin said.

“12 (injured) are in critical condition and in intensive care. It must be said that, given the intensity of the fire, burn levels can sometimes reach up to one hundred percent of the affected body surface. That’s how serious these cases are.”

The blaze which sent a black cloud of smoke into the sky shocked residents.

For decades, Nigeria’s subsidised fuel was transported illegally by road to neighbouring countries, to be resold on the black market.

When he come to office in May, Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu abandoned the long-standing subsidy meant to keep petrol prices artificially low for Nigerians.

The subsidy cost the government billions of dollars a year and Tinubu made it his first of a series of reforms aimed at revamping Nigeria’s economy and attracting more investment.

That decision caused a tripling in petrol prices in Nigeria, but also impacted the price of black market fuel smuggled over the border into Benin and other countries.

Nigeria’s subsidy decision illustrated Benin’s deep economic dependence on its giant neighbour, with 215 million inhabitants, the continent’s largest economy and status as one of Africa’s top oil producers. — Africa News

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