FG: We Have Not Done Enough to Combat Soot Menace in Rivers

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• Sets up standing committee on Rivers environment

•Illegal oil jetty goes up in flame in Woji community

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The federal government has conceded that it has not done enough to fight the soot menace ravaging Rivers State.
This came as it set up a standing committee to work with relevant environmental stakeholders within and outside the state to bring a permanent solution to the unabated soot in Rivers State.

The Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Jubril, spoke thursday in Port Harcourt, during a one-day stakeholders’ meeting on measures to check the incidence of soot in Rivers State.

Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting attended by the GOC 6 division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Musa Yusuf, heads of all security agencies, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry and some environmental experts and activists, Jubril said it was time for action to check the menace.

His words: “From the discussions we had today, it is clear that everybody knows what is on. We have not done sufficiently enough to move the process on. From now on, we will move the process on. We will get involved with everybody that is involved in this process, whether it is in the oil industry or elsewhere. We are not doing any steering committee, we are setting up a standing committee that will constantly work with those who are here: that is, the state Ministry of Health and Environment.”

He also said he has given the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) two weeks to forward the report of the state environmental status to him for onward transmission to the president for actions.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Professor Roselyn Konya, expressed satisfaction with the involvement of the federal government in the fight to control the soot menace.

She said the state government had always sought the involvement of the federal government to fight the menace.
She said: “The federal government has to come in and that is what the governor has been saying. This pollution is not something that can be handled by the Rivers State government alone. That is why Rivers State took it to the National Council on Environment to discuss and this idea of having an inter-ministerial committee came up at that time.

“I thank God, Rivers State government is very happy that the Rivers State Ministry of Environment and the Federal are now working together. Well, this is only the beginning of discussions and the discussions we had today are no different from what we have been having. What we need is taking actions.”

However the visit of the minister of environment was heralded with a fire out-break at an illegal oil bunkering jetty in Woji community in Port Harcourt metropolis.
The fire, according to eye-witnesses started at about 7.30a.m. and destroyed sea-going vessel and a speed boat used in the illegal trade.

Although there has not been an official statement on the cause of the fire, sources at the jetty said might have started from a generator used to pump petroleum products from the vessel into smaller boats.

Reacting to the incident, the paramount ruler of Woji community, Eze Emeka Ihunwo, called for urgent government action to check the activities of oil thieves in the area.
He said: “About two months ago we raised the alarm over illegal bunkering going on along Woji Creek in which the perpetrators bring petroleum products into the creek and discharge into smaller vessels and containers.

“Unfortunately since then law enforcement agencies seemed to have gone to sleep. This has happened again. This incident has polluted Woji community and its environs. This is an act of sabotage and government should view it with the seriousness it deserves.
“I am calling on the state government to seal up those places and prevail on law enforcement agencies to go after the culprits and bring them to justice for endangering the lives of our people.”