Port Harcourt Dwellers Match out as a Multitude against “Black soot” Polution.
Over six million Rivers people have realised that they are at the risk of cancer following the 24/7 rain of cancerous hydrocarbon air borne particles commonly referred to as black soot on the land mass of Port Harcourt. The exposure to this environmental menace has plagued them for more than a year.
In a remarkable development, April 20 witnessed a protest match by the people of Rivers state backed by other stakeholders like the media and NGOs. They took to the streets in a peaceful protest match which left a trail from Isaac Boro Park, DPR, Rivers State House of Assembly and to the Rivers state government house in Port Harcourt.
Repeated protest in the social media by the people, some of which took the form of cartoon, lampoon both the local and federal government unacceptable level of complacency and disregard of tax payers safety. Government organs and their shepherds were also criticised for their hitherto role of playing the ostrich, as if the air was breathed by the neglected masses only.
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The protest match pioneers said they have cried out to government, to specialists, to anyone who would hear, to help solve this problem without visible action being taken. They made a demand for a healthy environment where their children can breathe clean air freely from hydro carbon poison.
Common headline in the media have been “Port Harcourt Is Slowly Being Taken Over By Black Soot”; Strange black soot’ blankets Port Harcourt – Vanguard News; Nigeria’s Port Harcourt covered in mystery cloud of soot – BBC News; “Wike blames security agencies for black soot, Premium Times Nigeria”;
A protester angrily retorted “there’s nothing quite like breathing in such toxic air, day after day, knowing the damages happening to your system with every inhale. Seeing the evidence on fingers covered in black dust, blowing your child’s nose and staring sadly at the black coated phlegm that comes away is a scary revelation of how far down we have gone”. Panic is the natural outcome in a society so plagued. The people begin to seek a way out and the first person to turn to is their leaders.
The people marched, with noses covered with masks to symbolize what has become their daily struggle, to the gate of the Government House, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State House of Assembly, and the office of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in the city.
Raising high banners and posters that read: “Rivers People Deserve the Right to a Clean, Healthy Environment” “Our Lives Matter” “Stop the Soot” amongst a host of others, the people of Port Harcourt marched down in great numbers in what has to be the most highly attended protest in years.
The Governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, in the meantime, has accused the federal government and its agencies of being responsible for the air pollution in the state.
“The Federal government wants to eliminate a greater percentage of the state (population),” Mr Wike said on Wednesday in Port Harcourt while addressing a visiting delegation from the United Nations.
“The Rivers State Government does not own companies that refine crude. We have made representations to the federal government and her agencies on the issue of soot, to no avail.
“We have called on the security agencies to find more refined ways of destroying the illegal refineries. We have informed the National Council of Environment, the military and all federal regulatory agencies, but they are not interested in intervening,” the governor said.
The Guardian newspaper had on March 13, 2017 reported “the Federal Government has said measures are being taken to tackle the black sooth emission in Rivers State. The National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency, NOSDRA and the Federal Government Technical Committee on Black Sooth, according to the Secretary of the Technical Committee, Kenneth Aroh, would engage air quality experts and climatologists to ascertain the extent of sooth in the atmosphere and also proffered solution to it.
The Committee made up of heads of security outfits, international oil companies IoCs, government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), said that the committee explored short term, medium term and long-term actions in search of solution to the pollution.”
Whatever the circumstance may be, it does appear that Rivers people can no longer wait for the never- coming- action to clean up the environment by respective government agency and are now demanding for action and less of the talk and promise. They pointed out that the issue goes beyond local politics and demanded for immediate action from both the local and federal government.
Photo Credit: Eugene Abels