Black Soot: Rivers residents cry out to RSG to declare state of emergency


Residents in Rivers State have cried out to Governor Nyesom Wike to proclaim a state of emergency following the continued emission of Black Soot in the state, particularly in Port Harcourt and its environs.

Black Soot: Rivers residents cry out to RSG to declare state of emergency
Black Soot: Rivers residents cry out to RSG to declare state of emergency

The Black Soot, which was first noticed in August 2016, has become more intense and consistent in the past few days, formed in black particles and settled on roof tops, car tops, on human bodies, and in homes had sent panic waves to the people of the state.

Although the actual source of the Soot has been a subject of debate and conjecture in the past weeks, Dr. Nimmo Bassey, a Port Harcourt-based environmentalist and Director of the Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, said the impact of the Black Soot on human beings and the environment could be damaging in the long run.

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Speaking on the source of the Black Soot, Dr. Bassey mentioned the activities of illegal bunkering as well as the operation of illegal refineries, gas flaring, and the activities of some multi-national companies operating in the state.

Many residents spoken to expressed worry at the presence of Black Soot in their homes, offices, shops, markets, schools, and even clinics and hospitals and are considering leaving Port Harcourt.

A Pharmacist who lives at Ogbogoro area of the Port Harcourt, the state capital, who does not want his name in print because of the sensitive nature of the matter, stated that the Black Soot was poisonous.

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“The Black Soot is unlike the smoke from out traditional lanterns that we used in those days. The Black Soot is in particles so you can actually see it. It is very dangerous. I wiped my television set this morning with a white handkerchief and it turned black. I wiped the inner part of my nose and it was there. If this was happening in countries were human lives were valued, a state of health emergency would have been declared and if nothing could be done about it, then, the evacuation of the populace would have commenced in earnest.

“I need money, so I work, but my life is precious. So, I am thinking of re-locating from the state. We may not understand, but the long term effect could be very disastrous. My neighbours’ child was rushed to the hospital three days ago for respiratory tract infection. It is a sad narrative, really,” he said.

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A banker, who simply identified herself as Ifeoma, said the presence of Black Soot at Aboloma where she lives is “frightening”. I leave in Aboloma and the Black Soot is everywhere. A friend who contracted lung cancer some years ago and was treated abroad was recently afflicted with the same ailment.

The diagnosis he had before he was treated some years ago showed he got the ailment from passive smoking from the smokers who thronged his bar. But the latest text showed traces of Black Soot. And what the doctors told him is really scary. The Black Soot has aggravated the lung cancer.”

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She disclosed: “He was informed by the doctors that if the emission of Black Soot continues with the intensity that it currently emits carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, there is great danger ahead that in the next three years an epidemic of skin, lung, and other ancillary cancers would engulf the state. He is scared of coming back to Rivers State. He is thinking of relocating from the state. And I am thinking of relocating, too.”

Ifeoma continued; “I was at Okrika and was shocked by what I saw. Illegal refining of crude oil is rampant. They claim the oil is their God-giving product, so, they have the right to be engaged in what they are doing. According to them: ‘na we get am, and we dey draw am; we go dey cook am; na we get am.’

Residents in other parts of state capital in Rumuodara, Rumuomase, Rumubiakani, Choba, Woji, Rumuolumeni, complained bitterly about the presence of the Black Soot. But residents of Okrika, Ogo-Bolu, and communities and residential areas close to the creeks, or waterways are mostly affected by the presence of the Black Soot.

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They asked the state government to declare a state of emergency.   Meanwhile the Rivers State Government has set up a Task Force to tackle the Black Soot. The Task Force is mandated to investigate and resolve the environmental challenges emanating from the menace.

This was part of the resolutions of the State Executive Council meeting of Wednesday at the Government House, Port Harcourt Executive Council Chambers chaired by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike .

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The Task Force to investigate  the Black Soot has the Commissioner of Environment, Professor Roseline  Konya, Commissioner of Special Duties, Mr Emeka Onowu and the Commissioner of Information, Dr Austin Tam-George as members.

The committee which will be backed by technical experts would liaise  with major stakeholders  to resolve the environmental challenges  posed by the black soot.   Briefing  the media after the Executive Council meeting, Commissioner of Information, Dr Austin Tam-George,  stated that the resolution  was reached after the Commissioner of Environment, Professor Roseline Konya, on the preliminary results of its Ministerial Investigation.

Speaking further on the issue, Dr. Tam-George, stated that Governor Nyesom Wike, at the state executive meeting, Wed set up a 3-man Task Force to liaise with the technical committee set up by the state government, last December to investigate the emergence of the Black Soot.

“Our task force will liaise with the technical committee all other groups that are looking into the matter to find a solution. We need to know the source of the black Soot. The activities of illegal refineries are going on not only in Rivers State. Such activities are also taking place in Bayelsa, Delta and even Akwa Ibom State. And the smoke from these activities is carried far and wide by the air,” he said.


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