By Davies Iheamnachor
PORT HAR-COURT— Concerned residents of Rivers State under the aegis of Stop-the-Soot Campaign and Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, in the state have staged a protest in Port Harcourt, seeking an end to the soot that is ravaging the state.
The protesters, who marched to the Rivers State Government House and the state House of Assembly told the state governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, that residents of the state need clean air to breathe.
Presenting a 12-point protest letter to the state government, the leader of Stop-the-Soot Campaign, Tunde Bello, urged the state government to prioritise the issue of environment cleanliness.
Bello said: “The concerned citizens of Rivers State under the aegis of Stop-the-Soot Campaign and Civil Liberty Organisations have few demands about the soot that has ravaged the state.
“We want His Excellency and the state government to prioritise the environment and draw up a supplementary budget for the Ministry of Environment. This is because of the soot. We want the state government to conduct an environmental audit of communities that have oil and operation going on in their areas.
“We want the Rivers State Government and the governor to act and become the reservoir of environmental data of Rivers State.
“We want Wike and the state government to compel the local governments to implement sanitation laws in their domains. We want the state government and governor to make the local governments to use their security votes to monitor environmental issues.
“We want the state governor and government to make the local governments 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 bi-partisan campaign on behalf of the state and its citizens, the state and National Assemblies to change the rules governing the issue of environment and ensure the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill on environment.
“As a matter of urgency and importance, we want the state government to provide daily air quality readings 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.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Ipilibo Banigo, the Deputy Governor of the state, who received the protest letter on behalf of the state government, promised that the letter would be forwarded to the governor for immediate attention.
Banigo said: “I have received your write up and request directed to Governor Wike. I want to tell you that I will present it to the governor and assure you that your request will be looked into.
“The environment cannot be politicised. We want to tell you that the agencies that are flaring this obnoxious thing are directly under the control of the Federal Government. . The FG owns the refineries that flare gas and the security agencies that have been using uncivilised 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.”