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Petition calling for probe into soot pollution, illegal refineries in Rivers gathers 9,095 signatories

By Eniola Daniel
11 January 2022   |   4:11 am
Again, residents of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital have called on governments to investigate and put an end to the deadly black soot caused by activities of illegal refiners and bunkerers.

File Image: In Bolo creek, villagers are illegally taking oil from Shell facilities and refining it to sell it on the black market. Around 30 to 40 illegal refineries can be found all over the creek. (Photo: Veronique de Viguerie via News24)

 
Again, residents of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital have called on governments to investigate and put an end to the deadly black soot caused by activities of illegal refiners and bunkerers.
  
Port Harcourt residents wake up every morning to breathe air polluted by soot emitted from illegal refineries in the state. These artisanal refineries locally referred to as ’kpo-fire’ have been operating with impunity, and their activities are making the city uninhabitable for residents.
 
According to a report, in Rivers, 22,077 people received care for soot related conditions in five years, while many children were hospitalised for difficulties in breathing.

  
Also, cough, catarrh, sore throat, asthma, heart disease, appear to be common among them as well. Though the state Governor, Nyesome Wike has ordered the shutdown of illegal refineries and called for the arrest of those involved in the illegal bunkering, the petitioner claimed the governor’s call is not enough. 
 
Bringing the situation to global attention, Tamunotonye Green Kenneth initiated a petition on the world’s leading platform for petitions, change.org, which gathered 9,095 out of 10,000 set by Kenneth, as at the time of filing this report.  
  
The petition is calling on President Muhammadu Buhari who is overseeing the Petroleum Ministry and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, to investigate the menace in the state.
  
Kenneth said: “Most mornings, Port Harcourt residents endure soot-filled air. It looks like fog, but everywhere becomes covered with tiny black particles after condensing.
  
“In November, my asthmatic dad had an attack. As a result, he had severe difficulty in breathing. We called a doctor friend, who recommended medication to help. Unfortunately, a few minutes after we administered the drug, he threw up, the colour of which surprisingly looked like he ate charcoal.
 
“A similar situation happened when my sister visited with her baby from Lagos. After the first night they spent in Port Harcourt, the seven-month-old baby began to feel uncomfortable. He cried continuously, and we discovered he wasn’t breathing, as he ought to.
 
“We found out that the baby’s nostrils had been clogged with Soot when the white cloth that my sister used to wipe his nose turned black.
 
“Some banks, hotels, fast food outlets in Port Harcourt, to mention a few, buy petroleum products from these illegal refineries instead of the normal channels because they’re cheaper.”
   
He called on the governor to set up a Taskforce to prosecute illegal refinery operators.  On his part, Goodness Dickson, said: “We can’t breathe because of the black soot. It affects our respiratory system and it’s very difficult for us to breathe. The black soot is getting worse and it’s everywhere.

“Thousands of people suffer cancerous and non-cancerous diseases from the soot in the atmosphere. People don’t stay outside to eat anymore because the soot particles drop on food.”