Don’t Politicise the Soot Challenge, Wike Urges Campaigners

  • Group presents 24-point demand to govt

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has warned against the politicisation of the soot challenge facing the state, saying that federal government must be prevailed upon to stop the soot.

This came as a group, “Stop the soot Campaign” marched to Government House Port Harcourt yesterday with a 14-point demand for action by the state government to end the soot menace.

Wike said federal government agencies whose activities impact negatively on the environment were at the base of the soot.

Represented by the Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Wike said nobody is immuned to the health hazards created by the soot.

He said: “The environment cannot be politicised. Nobody is immune from the soot. These environmental issues are directly under the federal government.

“The federal government owns the refineries that have been emitting the gases into the atmosphere. The federal government also owns the security agencies that have been using uncivilised methods to stop bunkering and illegal refineries “.

The governor added that the state government would always cooperate with the federal government to see that matters concerning the environment are taken seriously.

He said: “We want to assure you that we are looking into the requests. The government will act on them”.

He advised operators of illegal refineries to desist from the dangerous act which is one of the major pollutants in the state.

Earlier, Leader of the Stop the Soot campaign, Mr. Tunde Bello, said the campaign is a non-political initiative to draw attention to the air pollution caused by soot.

The group placed a 14-point demand on the Rivers State Government where they expect action.

The campaigners amongst other things called on the State Government to prioritise the environment, propose a supplementary budget, and conduct an environmental audit of host and oil producing communities, force local government areas to implement sanitation laws and make local government areas use their security votes to provide local government monitors and whistle blowers.

They also called on the state government to start street health campaign, provide air quality readings and seek legal redress to compel the federal government to fund the Ogoni cleanup.

A human rights activist, Mr. Higher King, who participated in the march, said the federal government is not living up to expectations, hence the prevalence of soot in Port Harcourt.

King said unless more refineries are in place and supplying products round the clock, soot will continue to prevail in the state’s environment because of the existence of illegal refineries.