Soot menace: Rivers, IOCs, others, roll out war plans to fight back air pollution

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* Scientific group traces soot roots

By Codratus Godson & Gladys Nweke

Soot menace has threatened lives in Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State in the past few years and the populace has been asking for definite explanation on the cause. This has made residence to raise alarm wherever smoke spirals into the atmosphere. Now, help seems on the way through a coalition called technical committee set up by the state government made up of international oil corporations (IOCs) and others.

The highlight is plan by a group to purchase 300 animal roasting machines to be installed at slaughters to stop burning of used tyres to roast cows, goats and other animals, at the cost of N10.8m. A committee report said members have agreed to start with 55 sets.

Now, a scientific panel set up by the Rivers State government has submitted a report identifying the soot sources, and this almost captured all the usual suspects: illegal bunkering, gas flaring, illegal refining, and burning of oil-bearing vessels as top soot causes.

Others were mentioned as fertiliser companies, the Port Harcourt Refineries and many more which were identified in the report submitted by government’s scientific committee which was established to investigate the prevalence of soot. According to the report, others include fertilizer companies, tyre burning, meat roasting with used tyres, asphalt plants, and unscrupulous burning of refuse.

To this end, the Rivers State Government has set up a technical committee, which will have amongst others, a representative of each oil multinationals operating in the state, as well as the Port Harcourt Refinery and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited, NLNG, to implement the recommendations of the scientific committee.

Speaking, the Rivers State Commissioner of Environment, the professor, the professor, Roseline Konya, said the State Government arrived at the decision to set up a technical committee to address the sources of soot after a detailed consideration of the report of the scientific committee.

Prof Konya further disclosed that the Rivers State Government has written to the Federal Government to work with the state to tackle aspects that fall within the purview of federal agencies.

Also, the Rivers State Commissioner of Information, Emma Okah, said that the issue of soot in the state was topical and the Governor Wike-led administration was committed to resolving it.

The technical committee is to be chaired by the Honorable Commissioner for Environment and other members are: the professor, Precious Edeh,  Golden Ohana, the Honorable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and Commissioner of Water Resources.

Others are representatives of the international oil companies; one each from Shell, Agip, Total, Indorama, Port Harcourt Refineries, and NLNG.

There will also be a representative of civil society, as well as Juliet Ohunna, while the secretary of the committee will be nominated by the Ministry of Environment.

At the heat of the black soot, the former special adviser to the Governor on Pollution Control, Sir Nwuke Anucha, formed a group comprising the State Ministry of Environment,  IOCs, Indorama, NNPC Group, Military, Road Safety, Nigerian Environmental Society, etc, under the name “PORT HARCOURT AIR QUALITY WORKING GROUP (PHAQWG) to help the State Government in fighting the menace.

The last meeting of the Group on 9th May was presided over by Hon. Christian Ahiakwo, Chairman of the House Committee on Environment at the Rivers State House of Assembly.

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