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‘Why government may not end Port Harcourt soot’

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Lawrence Chidi Anukam<br />


We have resolved to tackle it, says Environment Minister

Scientists have advanced reasons for Federal Government’s failure to identify the source of Port Harcourt ‘black soot’ in order to end the environmental and health hazards it poses to the people of Rivers State.

They noted that government has failed to look into the immediate and remote causes of the dangerous substance for over three years after it was discovered in Port Harcourt and its environs.

An environmentalist, Efegbidiki Okobia, told The Guardian that government has not made any attempt to monitor the development to ascertain where the black soot was emanating from.He said the soot, made up of carbon monoxide emission, was as high as 200 ppm in no fewer than 80 locations, adding that Port Harcourt residents are complaining that particles were entering their homes.

Okobia lamented that experts were not being carried along in determining the cause of carbon emission, otherwise referred to as Total Suspended Particular Matter (TSPM), saying they should be invited to discuss the way forward.

“The issue is that people have failed to raise alarm or talk about it as it constitutes health and environmental hazards. There should be field analysis to ascertain the source,” he said.He, however, pointed out that the soot was emanating from activities of illegal refineries dotting the entire state, adding that government should install air quality models in Port Harcourt and other cities to curb the menace.

But Minister of State for the Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, at a Town Hall meeting, assured that government has resolved to end the black particles, which led to setting up a committee.He said the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) will soon begin to ascertain the cause of the soot, adding that it would be a long-term plan aimed at eliminating air pollution in Port Harcourt and the Niger Delta region.

Also speaking, Director General of National Environmental Standards Regulatory and Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Dr. Lawrence Anukam, urged active participation of stakeholders in finding solution to the threat.Responding, Head, Public Affairs of NOSDRA, Austin Udeh, attributed the soot to burning of tyres at abattoirs in most parts of Port Harcourt.

“This apart, burning of illegal crude oil; waste products from multinational oil companies may also have caused the black soot in the region. Presently, government has no political will to end it,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST), Dr. Gloria Chinwe Ujor, maintained that there was no mitigation process, as far as the Port Harcourt soot was concerned, saying setting up committees by government does not translate to execution.Expressing anger over the pollutant, a resident of Pot Harcourt, Patrick Harris, told The Guardian that there is no hope that government will resolve the issue, considering the slow pace of Ogoni cleanup exercise.


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