Yahaya said the tanker overturned while trying to park in the village of Katugal, some 150km south of the state capital, Kaduna.

 

It has not been made clear if the impact of the accident caused fuel to leak from the tanker or whether the vehicle was vandalised.

 

Fuel fires

 

Theft of fuel from pipelines or vehicles that have been damaged or vandalised is common in Nigeria, where poverty levels are high.

 

Vandalism of pipelines and related installations is extremely common, with an official report published last July registering 2,258 such acts in the previous five years.

 

In 2005 alone, an estimated 650,000 tonnes of crude was lost through such incidents, according to the same report.

 

Last December a fire at a vandalised pipeline in Lagos killed around 260 people who stole fuel from it.

 

Across the country in the past 10 years, thousands of people have died while stealing oil.

 

Little sympathy

 

In the worst such incident, in Jeese village in the southern Delta State in 1998, more than 1,000 suspected fuel thieves died after severe burns following an explosion.

 

The Nigerian authorities habitually show little sympathy for those who die in such explosions, condemning them as greedy.

 

Nigeria is Africa's biggest crude oil producer but nevertheless relies on imports for its refined product requirements as its own refineries are often inoperable.