The groups, in a stakeholders’ meeting themed ‘Rise for Climate, Stop the Soot’, noted that there have not been proactive steps taken by government to end the soot menace.
Tony John, Port Harcourt
Over 20 non-governmental and professional groups have expressed concern about air pollution by soot experienced in Rivers State and neighbouring states, appealing to international community for urgent intervention.
The groups, in a stakeholders’ meeting themed ‘Rise for Climate, Stop the Soot’ held in Port Harcourt yesterday, noted that there have not been proactive steps taken by government to end the soot menace.
One of the stakeholders at the summit, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said soot should be holistically addressed by both federal and state governments to protect the health and safety of residents of Rivers and neighbouring states.
According to Dr. Omosive Maduka, who represented the chairman of NMA Rivers State Chapter, Dr. Datonye Alasia, the lives of people living in the state and Niger Delta region have seriously been threatened due to soot pollution.
Dr. Maduka noted that soot, which kills “in slow motion”, has not received prompt attention by governments, unlike the way the Ebola outbreak was tackled headlong.
She stated: “We are saying that both Federal and State governments, as well as policy makers and regulators, should stop artisinal refinery. They should come up with a policy to stop this illegal refining of petroleum products”.
Also at the summit, the director of the ecological think tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, berated multinational oil companies and politicians, who he accused of benefiting from sixty years of gas flaring in the Niger Delta region.
Bassey stated: “The soot is the manifestation of insidious atrocities that have gone on unchallenged in our environment. It is one that cannot be swept under the carpet.
“Our creeks are have been dastardly polluted, indeed, coated by crude oil and we have silently continued to drink the polluted water. Our lands have been heavily contaminated, our crops have been wilted, rotted, and we have gone home emptyhanded at harvest time. Yet, we eat our rotted tubers and continue to fall into the grip of disease.
“Sixty years of gas flaring has secured huge profits for oil companies and limitless revenue for politicians to fight over; but, for poor communities, these have meant cancers, bronchitis, asthmas, skin diseases, birth defects and acid rain, to name a few,” Bassey noted.