20 April 2018, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – Thousand of residents of Rivers State on Thursday took to the streets of Port Harcourt in protest against the hydrocarbon soot ravaging the state.
The protesters, made up of six different Civil Society Organizations, marched from Isaac Boro park with banners and placards, to the Rivers State House of Assembly and the State Government House, demanding for a fresher and clean air to breath.
Leader of Stop-the-soot Campaign, Mr. Tunde Bello, while presenting the protest letter to the state government, charged the state governor, Mr.Governor Nyesom Wike, to prioritise the issue of air pollution in the state.
The protesters called on the state government to enforce environmental law in the 23 local government areas in the state, as a way of tackling the problem.
According to him, “The concerned citizens of Rivers State under the aegis of Stop-the-Soot Campaign and Civil Society Organisations demands that the state government should conduct an environmental audit of all those communities that have oil and gas operation going on in their areas.
“We want the governor and the state government to prioritize the environment and seek a supplementary budget for the Ministry of Environment. This is basically because of the rampaging soot in the state.
“We want the governor and the state government to mandate the local government areas to use their security votes to address environmental issues in their respective areas.
“We want the state governor and government to make the Local government and other stakeholders to start a street by street health campaign, and awareness on the health issue.
“We want Wike and the government to lead a non partisan campaign on behalf of the state and its citizens, that the state assembly and National Assembly to change the rules governing the issue of environment and instigate the part of the Petroleum Industry Bill on environment.
“As a matter of urgency and importance we want the state government to provide daily air quality leanings to the citizens as the oil companies are doing to their staff.
“We want the Rivers State Government to collaborate with the Nigerian Medical Association to compile and make public the health of the citizens and the cause of deaths,” the CSOs demanded.
On her part, the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, who received the protest letter on behalf of the state government, urged the protesters not to politicised the environmental challenge facing the state.
According to her, “The environment cannot be politicized. We want to tell you that the agencies that are flaring this obnoxious thing are directly under the control of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The FG owns the refineries that flare gas and the security agencies that have been using uncivilized methods to destroy bunkering.
“For us as a responsible government, we will always collaborate with the federal government to see that matter concerning environment are taking seriously. Let us also advice our people in the creeks to shun illegal refining of petroleum products,” the Deputy Governor said.