*Lunches report on soot in Rivers
Port Harcourt — The Environmental Rights Action has threatened to drag the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government to court, for infringing on the people’s rights to life through breathing clean air, as a result of persistent hydrocarbon soot experienced in the state.
Programme Manager, Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Mr. Mike Karikpo, disclosed this in Port Harcourt during the launching of a report on soot by the Young Friends of the Earth.
Karikpo said he was disappointed that there has been no political will from both the Federal and State government to stop the soot and other forms of pollution plaguing every parts of Rivers State.
He explained that the environmental rights group took the Federal Government, NNPC and oil firms to court on gas flaring, which a Federal High Court in Nigeria had ruled that gas flaring is illegal, regretting that the menace is still on despite the court ruling.
He said the disobedience to the rule of law was not just about this government, but successive governments have refused to obey the rule of law as far as gas flaring is concerned.
“We have been talking about the competition between development and health. Government says it wants development; no matter how it comes, let it come, but people are dying in the process. So, how do you strike a balance between getting developed and then protecting the environment and people’s health?
“We will get to that point where we will consider going to court because this is an issue around right to life; the right to breathe in clean air is a fundamental right. As we are doing this, we are escalating and we will get to that point where we will say look, government has not listened after we have gone through the process and what is normally required of us, we have done studies, got stakeholders’ views and we have submitted the report.
“Yet, government has not and therefore, to safeguard our lives, we will take the government to court to do the same thing we did on gas flaring. They may not obey, but it will be part of advocacy strategy.”
On the launching of the report on soot, Karikpo said Eleme and Gokana Local Government Areas in Rivers State have the highest level of soot concentrate in the state.
“Many people have said a lot about the soot report, but nobody has done anything about the soot. So, for the first time, young people in the Niger Delta, who live in this community, have taken it upon themselves to do a scientific study of the impact of the soot.
“They looked at the impact of particulate matter on communities; they measured the level of particulate matter in the atmosphere. They did not just do this in their houses; they went to the swamps, they went close to the refineries, close to the petrochemical plants for 24 hours every day. For every hour, they are collecting ambient air quality samples and testing what the level of pollution is in the atmosphere.”
ERA also said the government as a matter of urgency, implement policies that will see to the reduction of pollution in the country, such as ensuring that the emission level of cars on the road is controlled and also that petrochemical plants in the country are controlled.
“We should be able to tell them that this soot is killing us; what is their strategy to deal with it? We should tell them to get us renewable energy and make sure that there is constant electricity supply. All of those cars that are not good for our roads, especially the emission level of those cars; deal with it. These are things that countries all over the world have taken up.
“There are countries in this world where the emission level is almost zero; they did some critical things to achieve this. This is what we think our government should do. There is no new thing we are saying our government should do apart from what every other responsible government has done all over the world to ensure that people get access to clean, renewable energy.
“Part of what we are doing here is to say look at the soot level; look at the level of pollution of the atmosphere and we are saying that this level of pollution is way more than the standard that is allowed. We are saying the level of pollution is deadly; it kills.”