In the last 24 months, residents of Port Harcourt the River State Capital have been battling with the emergence of hydrocarbon soot, the by-product of incomplete combustion coming from the many oil and gas industry outlets in the state. The soot which is clearly noticeable as tiny dark particles on surfaces is believed to have emerged as a result of the proliferation of illegal small scale refineries that distil stolen crude oil in the creeks of the Niger Delta, routinely emitting dark smoke that descends into the atmosphere as soot. Also complicit in the problem is the manner security operatives assigned to tackle illegal refineries destroy those installations when they find them. Available evidence indicates that they simply set these facilities ablaze as well as vessels and trucks suspected to be carrying stolen petroleum products. Sometime these facilities burn for several days emitting thick black soot that engulfs the sky for miles and pollutes lands and waters.
We the People and the Health of Mother Earth Foundation on the 11th of September 2018 organized a Climate Summit in Port Harcourt with the theme ‘Rise for Climate: Stop the Soot’ as parts of global efforts calling attention of world leaders to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt.
Medical experts at the event detailed the various health implications of the soot as including respiratory illnesses and cancers, explaining that everyone in the state is exposed to the risk as long as they breath the air in the state and consume food from markets in the state.
Speaking further, Executive Director of We the People, Ken Henshaw expressed concern that for 24 months the leadership of the country has remained silent and passive while its citizens are exposed to life threatening risks. “For 2 years, the over 5 million people in Rivers state have been condemned to slow death by hydrocarbon poisoning. No reasonable government folds its hands and watches that happen to its people, but this is exactly what our government is doing, they are trading blame while people are dying. Our call today is for anyone and everyone that cares to listen, in Nigeria and internationally; people are being poisoned, 5 millions of us’.
The Summit featured speeches by civil society groups, presentations, a rally and signing of petition to relevant and responsible agencies to immediately take action and end the Soot.