Perturbed by the menace of soot and activities of illegal refiners in Rivers State, the Senate has urged the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency support the state to overcome this twin-headed debacle.
This development was sequel to a motion entitled:’ Curbing Soot’s Particulates droppings, health Hazards concern and economic sabotage by illegal refining of crude products in Rivers State’, sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo and seven others which include: Senator James Manager,Senator Enyinaya, AbaribeSenator Betty Apiafi, Senator Barry Mpigi, Senator Bassey Gershom,
Senator Bassey Albert, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Senator Sandy Onor.
Senator Sekibo in his submission requested the Senate in his prayers that:
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to note that there is an impending environmental danger that is occurring in Rivers State and its environs orchestrated by miscreants who are engaged in illegal refining as well as looting national crude oil assets.
” To President to audit security agencies who are saddled with the responsibility of securing these assets but are involved in this national sabotage and be sanction appropriately by the laws of the country.
“To advise the President to use his constitutional power to support the Government of Rivers State who have started to combat these criminal activities and fish out these national economic saboteurs.
“Finally to direct the Senate Committees on the Navy, Police Force, Interior and Army to carry out holistic investigation of these illegal activities with a view to ascertaining the involvement of security agencies collaborating and abetting in these bastard acts and report within four weeks.
“To further direct its Committees on Environment, Petroleum Upstream and Primary Health to visit Rivers State and carryout observatory assessment of the level of damage these activities have caused the environment and the health concern the activities have occasioned as well as suggest solution and report within four weeks.
The Senate after the debate carried all the resolutions.
While moving the debate Senator Sekibo who represents, Rivers East Senatorial District noted that “the droppings of unidentifiable sooty particulates in Rivers State, which are suspected to be after-effects of incomplete crude refining process has taken a more dangerous dimension.
He expressed worry that “Oil and Gas exploration and exploitation activities started in Rivers State and its environs since the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Niger Delta region in 1957.
Noted that “the environment; including land, water and air has already been grievously polluted through the activities of the multinational companies.
Aware further that an environmental audit due to the degradation of the environment has never been carried out since the commencement of the exploration and exploitation activities in the area which has lasted for over 60 years, meaning that the contaminated environment remains without the hope of remediation.
The Rivers State Caucus Parliamentary Leader in NASS explained that “the sooty particulate substances dropping in the State is becoming too visible that one cannot stay outdoors without receiving drops of them on his body.
” It has become more worrisome that they are seen on bedspreads in bedrooms, worktops in kitchens, chairs and other materials in houses, meaning that they are entering through every available crevice into inner spaces of buildings as the wind carries them.
Concerned that residents in Rivers State have noticed lots of these sooty particulates settling in their nasal tracts which has occasioned cleaning of their nostril several times in the day.
Sekibo further explained that “the amount of these particulates being inhaled daily by Nigerians resident in the State cannot be estimated just as the after-effects of their inhalation have not been determined.
“The sooty particulates are dropping on water bodies, farmlands and whatever is left open under the sky, which is detrimental to human health, as residents in the area are exposed to consumption of harvests from, both the seas and the lands as well as drinking rainwater and water from streams and rivers.
“These particulates which are suspected to be by-products of hydrocarbons or crude oil that did not go through proper refining processes (incomplete combustion) may contain some chemicals that can pose health hazards to the people.
“And that air pollution has no boundary or limit within which it could be contained as means of containment of air pollution has not been discovered, therefore the possibility of these sooty particulates spreading to other neighbouring States and indeed the entire nation cannot be over emphasised.
“Outbreak of difficulty in breathing caused by congestion of nasal tracts of many residents in Rivers State could be linked to this epidemic and that this may also be the cause of the recent cases (many) of deaths without noticeable ailments in many towns in Rivers State.
“This could soon become a national emergency if not handled appropriately from its root cause, hence the urgent need to curb the causes of their occurrences, avert their likely side effects on human beings and environment, as a stitch in time saves nine.
“We are aware that pockets of illegal crude refiners were recently discovered all over Rivers State, who use all sorts of methods to refine crude for local consumption. These activities have increased pollution in the already polluted environment.
“The crude being used to refine petroleum products in these illegal activities is through crude pilfering causing colossal national waste and economic sabotage.
“Strongly believes that some security agents posted to secure these national assets have turned themselves to partners in this dastardly illegal acts, thus giving the criminals impetus to openly commit this national economic crimes.
“Rivers State Government has taken a bold step to fish out these criminals for prosecution as well as destroying such illegal substandard refineries with a view to stopping these illegal activities and crimes.
“The issue of clean environment is one of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Nigerian State as provided in Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which states inter alia: The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria.
“The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), within the context of its Social Order in Section 17(2)(d) has admonished that exploitation of natural resources to the detriment of the citizens shall be prevented as shown below;
17(2)(d) exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons, other than the good of the community, shall be prevented;
Recall that in order to forestall this type of emergency or occurrence and other hazardous pollution that may occasion due to the Oil and Gas exploitation activities, the Federal Government set up the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in 2006 with the following three cardinal objectives among others as provided in Section 5(a, b and c) in its enabling Act;
5) The objectives of the Agency shall be to co-ordinate and implement the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan for Nigeria (in this Act referred to as “the Plan”) as follows:
a) Safe, timely, effective and appropriate response to major or disastrous oil pollution;
b) Identify high risk area as well as priority areas for protection and clean up;
c) establish the mechanism to monitor and assist or where expedient direct the response, including the capability to mobilise the necessary resources to save lives, protect threatened environment, and clean up to the best practical extent of the impacted site; etc.
“Recall also that as provided in Section 6 of its establishing Act NOSDRA is also saddled with the responsibility of carrying out surveillance, co-ordinating issues on oil spillage and associated pollution as well as implementing such Plans as may be issued by the Federal Government.
“Surprised that NOSDRA with this huge responsibility of preparedness, detection, and response to oil spillages (pollution due to oil refining activities) in the country has not lived up to its mandate of Surveillance and monitoring and has therefore not informed the nation of this occurring national epidemics, while Nigerian citizens are suffocating due to this epidemic.
“Disturbed that undue delay in proffering the necessary solution to eradicate these illegalities is drastically affecting the lives of the residents in Rivers State. This is worse than physical insecurity being combated as the particulate fumes affect every person without creed or colour, ethnicity or religion.
“Demands that the security agents who involve themselves in these acts of national sabotage be given appropriate sanctions and other perpetrators be treated as economic saboteurs