With the recent actions taken by the Rivers State Government in addressing the soot menace in the state which have largely been successful so far, and appreciated by citizens of the state, a couple of persons have thrown up a narrative in a bid to play down on the efforts of the State Government in the fight against artisanal crude oil refining also known as Kpo Fire as a way of curbing the soot menace.
These persons have thrown up questions such as “why is the Rivers State Government choosing to act now, and chose not to do anything all this while?”
While we know that some of these questions come from a genuine place of concern, some persons have ridden on it to sell false narratives against the government and Its campaign against the kpo fire activities in the state.
However for the sake of those that have a genuine concern, and the many unsuspecting public, I’ve decided to do this piece.
The Soot menace became noticeable around late 2016 and early 2017, as time progressed, the concerns grew amongst citizens in the state. At that point, people could only speculate on the cause
On the 8th of February 2017, the Rivers State Government Set up a task force to look into the Soot issue. The Task Force was mandated to investigate and resolve the environmental challenge.
On the 11th of February 2017, the task force sealed up some companies that were suspected to have contributed to the soot menace. Below we’re the affected companies:
1. Chinese Govt Company (CGC) Aluu.
2, H$H Engineering Company Aluu.
3 . AUC Asphalt Company. Aluu
Also, a memo was sent to all companies who engaged in activities that pollute the air, warning them to desist, or face prosecution.
As time progressed, the soot reduced a bit, however, with the open destruction of petroleum products by men of the security forces, the soot returned.
On March 10th, 2017 Governor Wike engaged men of the Nigerian Military, cautioning them against their mode of destruction of these petroleum products and the adverse effects on the environment.
In the second quarter of 2018, the soot was back in full force. On the 19th of March of that same year, volunteers held the #StopTheSoot campaign that walked up to the Government House where the Governor addressed them through the Deputy Governor. The Governor talked about the efforts the state Government had put in in the fight, and called out the federal government for the gas flaring and also the federal government-controlled security forces on their compromising role in the illegally refined petroleum products.
Just immediately after the second inauguration on May 29, 2019, Governor Nyesom Wike then again on the 3rd of June 2019 Inaugurated a TECHNICAL COMMITTEE On the Implementation of the Rivers State Report on Soot which was carried out by the Investigative committee I had referred to earlier on.
Below were the words of Governor Wike on the day of the Inauguration;
“As a Government, we owe our people the duty to tackle soot in Rivers State “.
The Governor said that contrary to the claims by some members of the society, his administration has been working on modalities to tackle soot.
He said that the investigative committee worked for five months to discover the causes of the prevalence of soot.
“So many people have complained that the State Government is not doing something to reduce the soot. This is not true.”
On many occasions, the governor has called on the Federal Government to prevail on its security agencies to arrest the illegality going on around the illegal refining of crude oil, noting that he has very minimal influence over the Nations’s Security apparatus. In fact at some point, Gov. Wike accused the Federal Government’ Silence on the whole issue as a systematic ploy to eliminate Rivers Indigenes.
Also, note that the statutory responsibility of fighting this menace lies with the Federal Government.
Governor Wike in a special interview with Channels TV made the following statement:
“We should separate politics from governance. This issue of the environmental challenge posed by the black soot requires the direct intervention of the Federal Government.
“We are working with all major stakeholders to address this challenge. We are working with international oil companies to provide needed solutions. The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency intervene because the solution is within her purview “.
The Governor also shared same sentiments when he met with the Delegation from the United Nations that came to ascertain the impacts of the Soot.
In the last 5 years of this menace, the State Government have Set up an investigation committee, imposed sanctions on some companies, investigated the root cause of the soot, engaged and confronted the Nigerian Military on its approach, met with international organizations to raise awareness, gone on national television to call out the Federal Government’s ignorance on the Soot menace, set up a technical committee on implementation, while still calling on the Federal Government to live up to its responsibility.
The recent declaration and actions of Governor Wike were the last in line amongst many other aspects of engagement.
It had become certain that the Federal Government was leaving us to our fate hence, the Governor resorted to using his executive in a whole new different approach.
Since the Police and Army won’t go to these places to restore normalcy, Governor Wike Led from the front.
And while they will have you thinking that the Government only began to act now, I’ve dropped a timeline of activities with specific dates and other verifiable details here.
However, it is good to note that at the end of the day, regardless of the state government’s efforts, the fight against soot will still need the federal government to be fully successful, even in the face of allegations that some men of the security agencies are involved.
Ugochukwu Oputa writes from Port Harcourt