Rivers State residents under the umbrella of #StopTheSoot; which includes concerned citizens, members of professional groups, civil society and labour organisations, have called on the state and federal governments to come to the aid of Rivers people by stopping the dangerous soot that has engulfed the whole state for a months.
The protest march began from Isaac Boro Park and proceeded to the Rivers State Government House where the protesters laid their complaints to the state government. They then proceeded to the Department of Petroleum Resources and also the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex.
The Director of operations #StopTheSoot Campaign, TUNDE BELLO while addressing the Deputy Governor at the government House read their demands as follows.
“Our demands as #StopTheSoot Campaigners on the Rivers State Government are:
1. Prioritise the Environment and seek for a supplementary budget for the Ministry.
2. Conduct an Environmental Audit of host and oil producing Communities
3.Become a reservoir of Environmental data in Rivers State
4.Force the local Governments to implement sanitation laws in their domain
5.Make the local Governments to use their security votes to provide local government monitors and whistle blowers.
6.Start a street by street health Public health campaign and awareness.
7. Lead a bi-partisan campaign on behalf of the state to the Rivers State Assembly and the National Assembly to change the rules governing the protection of the environment and instigate the part of the Petroleum Industry Bill ON Environment
8. Provide daily Air Quality Readings as the oil Companies are doing for their staff
9. Support the effort to seek legal redress to compel the FGN to fund the Ogoni Cleanup
10.Become the Chief Advocate for the Rivers State Environment
11. Look at the big picture that oil business has gone offshore and if we don’t fight this now, Rivers People will be left with the short end of the stick
12.Collaborate with Nigeria medical Association and compile and make public data on the prevailing health status of Rivers People and even cause of death, if a trend is noticed.
“Our demands on the Rivers State House of Assembly amongst other necessary mitigating actions are:
1. Persuade Representatives in the National and State Assemblies to move a motion to compel the Federal Government and it’s relevant agencies to declare an Environmental Emergency in the State,
2. That the aforesaid National and State Assembly representatives should urgently move a motion calling for the immediate funding of the Ogoni Clean up in accordance with the recommendations of the UNEP Report,
3. Provide a supplementary Budget for Ministry of Environment to embark on an immediate Environmental Audit of Rivers State and publish the findings,
4. Direct the Ministry of Health to embark on a street to street public health campaign
5. Order the Ministry to collaborate with the Rivers State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association to collate the average state of health of residents of Rivers State and the identity a trend if any on the cause of death of persons in the last one year.
6.Make findings the outcomes of its Committees on Health and Environment in exercise of its oversight functions for the past 2 years public,
7. Insist that the Local Government Chairmen ensure the protection of their environment in collaboration with security agencies.
“Our demands on the Local Government Chairmen in Rivers State:
1. Own your community and chase out polluters
2. Order your Committee secretary on Environment to act
3. Enjoin the Constituent Assembly in the Council to pass a resolution condemning the activities of Kpo-fire
4. Order your sanitation department to descend on those polluting your local government and charge them to your Sanitation Courts
5.Dedicate a portion of your security vote to fight kpo-fire in your local government
6. Create Pollution Monitors and whistle blowers and pay them from the security votes
7. Report to the Governor the polluters you can’t handle
“Our Demands on the Federal Government of Nigeria:
(a) Account for EFCC performance to date on prosecution of oil thieves
(b) Purge of the security agencies and involvement and change in strategy in securing our Crude oil
(c) Provision of a bonded and dedicated Tank farm to store hydro carbon exhibits seized from oil thieves.
(d) Creation of a task force to include RVSG and Auditor General & Attorney General for the decommissioning of seized assets used for artisanal Refining
(e)A review of DPR and equipping them with a functional modern laboratory and staff with clear directives to meet current realities
(f) Supply of Ago and kerosene to Rivers State and particularly the rural/floating stations to kill demand
(g) Clamp down with against trucks at waterfronts without fuel depots
(h) Stop the sharing of fines from gas flaring and injecting same into stopping gas flaring in host communities
(i) Fund an update of the Unep report as it is outdated and fund the clean up as a sign of good faith
(b) Petition the NASS to review the environmental laws and
sanctions for pollution
(c) Review and update the laws on the Regulators
(d) A public hearing on the Regulators and the IOCs in line with Oversight
(E) A declaration of an Environmental Emergency in Rivers State
The Deputy Governor of Rivers state, IPALIBO BANIGO while addressing the group said the Rivers State government has heard their demands adding that the agencies in charge of their demands is directly under the control of the federal government thereby calling on youth to stop illegal bunkering.
“I have received your write up and your request directed to his Excellency, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike and I will present it to the governor and your request will be looked into.
“I want to thank you for coming out to defend our environment and to tell you that the environment is a concern to all of us that is in need of breathing well. Environment matters can not be politicized.
“We want to tell you that the agencies flaring this obnoxious things are directly under the control of the federal government of Nigeria. The federal government owns the refineries that are flaring gas. The federal government owns the security agencies that have been using uncivilized methods to deter iilegal bunkering and such activities.
“And to us as a State government, we will also collaborate with the federal government to see that matters concerning environment are taken seriously.
“Please, also advise our people in our creeks, our youngsters not to get themselves involved in illegal bunkering, not to add pollution to the air through things that they called ‘kpo fire’, it is dangerous not only to their own health but to people around.
“The soot must stop. We will not allow the people of Rivers State, our lives to be decimated and so we will do all we can”
The Converner of #StopTheSoot, EUGENE ABELS in an interview with newsmen said, “People need to take your bath twice, if you are selling food cover it, even if you are drinking let your cup be covered. Keep your windows clean, if you have an air conditioner every 3 days remove the filter and wash it”.
An estimated 2,000 residents of Port Harcourt participated.