Niger Delta

Rivers govt finally reacts to cries over soot pollution

By Kote Obe

Rivers State Government has finally responded to cries from citizens and residents of the state over the pollution of the atmosphere by soot emanating from the illegal refining of crude oil in the creeks.

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said on Thursday that the state government was calling for “citizens and security agencies collaboration to end activities of illegal refiners of crude oil, popularly known as kpofire, which has caused incessant fire outbreaks and environmental pollution in the State.”

Nsirim made the call during the presentation of prizes to winners of the Ministry’s #OurStateOurResponsibility Theme Song competition in Port Harcourt. He also urged the media to engage in an aggressive public campaign against illegal petroleum refining activities in Rivers State.

Citizens and residents of Rivers State have been crying over the damage that the soot has been causing to both the health of the people and the ecosystem. But Governor Nyesom Wike had said there was nothing the state government could do to stop it because according to him, security agencies were neck-deep in the illegal refining of petroleum products.

The Information Commissioner expressed concern over the activities of illegal refiners of crude oil that have caused incessant fire outbreaks and pollution of the atmosphere through the emission of soot.

“Hardly any day passes that you will not get reports of incidents of fire outbreak and investigations have revealed that most of this fire incidents are a result of stockpiling of adulterated petroleum products.

“Government cannot stop this trend without the cooperation of the citizens and the law enforcement agencies. We are appealing that we need to do something that as we enter into the new year let us have a collective resolve as a people to ensure that our environment is not polluted any more.

“It should concern everyone. Apart from the fire hazards that we are experiencing, the health implication of what we are seeing in Port Harcourt today is something that should worry anyone living and doing business here in Rivers State,” he said.

Nsirim condemned the activities of some security personnel who collect gratification from operators of the illegal petroleum products businesses and allow them free passage on the roads.

“We cannot be our enemies. We must collectively fight this syndrome. The hazard we are facing is becoming worrisome. If you live and do business here in Rivers State, this kpofire syndrome should concern you and I think the time has come for us to put an end to this menace,” he said.

He said the idea behind the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign is to mobilise the cross-spectrum of the Rivers society to be part of the NEW Rivers vision.

He noted that governance cannot be complete if citizens do not play an active role in the development process hence the advocacy campaign.

“It is a vision that will engineer our collective understanding that Rivers State belongs to all of us, whether you are an indigene or not, as long as you live and do business here, Rivers State belongs to you,” he said.

He said the theme song competition awards ceremony coming after the essay competition was a milestone in the quest to strengthen citizens’ participation in governance in Rivers State.

He congratulated the three persons that emerged first, second and third positions winners of the competition while he announced the first position winner, Mr. Barnabas Baridam, as the ambassador of the Ministry and the face of #OurStateOurResponsibility campaign.

The Commissioner also commended the three-man panel of judges who rendered a diligent service without asking for professional fees.

The first position winner, Mr. Barnabas Baridam, thanked the Commissioner for floating the programme that gave him the platform to showcase his talent. He promised to represent the Ministry and the Government positively as its ambassador.

Cash prizes of N300,000, N150,000 and N100,000 were given to the first, second and third positions winners respectively.

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