FOR over seven years, the nefarious activities of unpatriotic citizens have been producing soot which has been polluting the air around Port Harcourt and its environs, such as Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Oyigbo and the Ogoni areas.
The atmosphere often turns black not from rain clouds but billowing black dust from hydrocarbon pollution which promptly covers all available surfaces and is breathed in by hapless folks.
Soot has made Rivers State the worst air-polluted state in the country. The once clean and green “Garden City” Port Harcourt has become a black dust metropolis.
What had seemed a mystery to most people was later identified by the Rivers State Government in 2017 as soot coming mainly from activities of the Port Harcourt Refining Company, PHRC, illegal cottage refineries of stolen or bunkered crude oil and the primitive method of destroying such facilities by Federal Government agencies.
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These include the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR; National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA; National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; and the military, police and security agencies.
These agencies had, on separate occasions, been indicted by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as well as the South-South Zone of the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, for exacerbating the ugly situation which they were established to eradicate.
What is the rationale behind the burning of confiscated crude oil and illegal refineries? Is that how it is done in other oil-producing countries? Why are Nigeria’s regulatory agencies ignorant of the best practices in handling refining (whether legal or not) and the law enforcement tied to it?
The most annoying and shameful part of it is that some of the officials involved in these primitive regulatory activities have been identified as owners of illegal refineries, perhaps using their privileged positions to destroy the facilities belonging to their rivals.
At the bottom of it all is the age-old practice of regarding federal posting to the oil-rich Niger Delta as a juicy opportunity for self-enrichment by the staff of federal institutions: military, police and security agencies.
People are known to bribe their way to get posted to the Niger Delta. Officials sent to help maintain law and order in the petroleum and maritime sectors turn around to join the lawlessness or protect lawbreakers for selfish gain.
The Rivers State Government appears helpless before these federal agencies and their criminal lackeys who are making the lives of residents of the state a living nightmare.
Our constant calls for the devolution of federal powers is for the subnational governments to be able to control such issues as the menace facing Rivers State. Governors are better positioned than federal agencies to regulate and maintain law and order in their domains.
The soot menace of Rivers State must be eliminated.
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