The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has strongly condemned the spread of black soot caused by the activities of illegal refineries, and called on the federal and Rivers State Government to urgently put an end to illegal refineries in the state.
According to the union, the soot in the form of thick black smoke has covered the state capital and could be the cause of some of the respiratory problems inhabitants of the city are going through. The union also stated that the environmental hazard could be worse than Ebola, if evaluated on its long term effect on the citizens.
In a statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Fortune Obi, the union noted that the situation is not receiving any serious attention, pointing out that most of the people affected are still performing their daily task, while they swim in this soot that has been confirmed by experts to be carcinogenic.
The statement also noted that the black soot has polluted the environment despite the peopleâ€™s effort to stop it, as food items in city markets are not spared too.
Obi further stated that the union in collaboration with other concerned bodies and citizens have severally called the attention of the government to act swiftly and put an end to whatever is the source of this killer soot.
He stressed that majority of the people believed that the source of this soot was due to incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing, burning of barges/vessels used for oil bunkering and illegal artisanal refinery operations in some parts of the state.
According to the statement, â€œThere is need for collaboration among all stakeholders to end this environmental hazard. We therefore call on the state and the federal government to put measures in place to address this situation and put an end to whatever is the source.
â€œThis is not the time to play politics with people’s lives. The federal and state governments, security agencies as well as all agencies in charge of environment, law enforcement and other related issues should tow a defined and safe path in handling illegal oil vessels as well as the criminal act of illegal refining of crude oil that are said to be the key reason of this menace.
â€œThe governments should also involve the locals and possibly constitute them into environmental councils to monitor their areas for any possible illegal refining of the crude and such other dangerous acts that are inimical to human existence. The criminals perpetrating these evils should be arrested and prosecuted.â€