Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led federal government of deliberately planning to eliminate a greater percentage of the stateâ€™s population by its failure to act on the soot and its primary causes.
The governor announced that he had director the stateâ€™s attorney general to sue the federal government and international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the state over the soot.
Addressing a delegation of the United Nations at the Government House Port Harcourt yesterday during a high-profile meeting to tackle the soot, Wike called on the United Nations to prevail on the federal government to act on the soot.
The governor said: â€œThank God that the United Nations has come in view of the issues we have raised. We thank the United Nations for their concern on the Rivers environment as it relates to the soot.
â€œIf we must move on, we must situate the cause of the soot and the fact that the federal government has decided to make sure that a greater percentage of the state dies.
â€œThe federal government wants to eliminate a greater percentage of the state. The problem of soot is not caused by the Rivers State government. It is caused by federal agencies.â€
The governor said the federal government and its agencies were practically damaging the environment by their illegal activities.
â€œThe Rivers State Government does not own companies that refine crude. We have made representations to the federal government and her agencies on the issue of soot, to no avail.
â€œWe have called on the security agencies to find more refined ways of destroying the illegal refineries. We have informed the National Council of Environment, the military and all federal regulatory agencies, but they are not interested in intervening,â€ Wike said.
The governor said the refusal of the federal government to act on all data supplied on the soot is a deliberate ploy to make Rivers people suffer health hazards which will lead to untimely deaths.
â€œWe want the international community to come to our aid and pressure the federal government not to politicise environmental issues. We are ready to work with the international community to address this challenge.
â€œAll the federal government is doing is to chase shadows, organising people to protest. Until they stop politicising very serious issues and focus on governance, we will head nowhere,â€ he said.
He reiterated that the soot is non-discriminatory as it affects everyone irrespective of status and political affiliation.
He said the state government has taken all necessary steps, pointing out that the remaining steps are domiciled with the federal government.
Wike said: â€œThe federal government is using the soot as a political strategy, not knowing that it will fail woefully.
â€œI have directed the Attorney General to brief an environmental lawyer to sue the federal government and the international oil companies over the issue of soot.â€
He wondered why the federal government would withdraw $1billion for security challenge and not withdraw same amount for environmental challenge in the Niger Delta.
He said the $1billion withdrawn by the federal government is mainly for election purposes and not for security.
Leader of the United Nations Delegation to Rivers State, Charles Ekong, appreciated the steps already taken by the Rivers State Government.
He said the mission of the delegation is investigative in nature, so as to determine a lasting solution to the soot challenge in the state.
In his remarks, Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Adebayo Durojaiye, said the United Nations Delegation met with officials of the Rivers State Government on the soot challenge.
He said: â€œWe have met with the Rivers State Commissioner of Environment and Commissioner of Health on the soot challenge. They have briefed us on the efforts of the Rivers State Government to address the soot and to checkmate this menace â€œ.
The United Nations Delegation to Rivers State include: Charles Ekong (Leader, World Health Organisation, Brazaville, Congo), BR Ravishankar (United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, Environmental Expert), Dr Luka Mangreep Ibrahim (World Health Organisation, Nigeria), Pier Mudu (World Health Organisation Headquarters).