PENGASSAN appeals to FG to put an end to illegal refineries in Rivers

Dr Ibe Kachikwu

Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has called on the Federal and Rivers State Government to urgently put an end to illegal refineries causing soot in Port Harcourt,the Rivers State capital.

According to the senior staff trade union, the soot, in the form of thick black smoke which covered the entire Port Harcourt city, could be the root cause of some of the respiratory problems being experienced by inhabitants of the city, saying that the health implications of the endemic black soot in Port Harcourt could be worse than Ebola if evaluated on the long term effect.

In a statement signed by the PENGASSAN’s National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Fortune Obi, this soot was not getting any serious attention because most of the people affected were still performing their daily task while they swim in this soot that had been confirmed by experts to be carcinogenic.

“The black soot settles on everything and finds its way into the corners of living rooms no matter how hard people try to stop it. Food items in Port Harcourt markets are as well not spared from getting mixed with this deadly soot that is ever present everywhere,” he stated.

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Comrade Obi said PENGASSAN in collaboration with other concerned bodies and citizens had severally created awareness to call the attention of the government to act swiftly and put an end to whatever was the source of this killer soot.

“Majority believed that the source of this soot is due to incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing, burning of barges/vessels used for oil bunkering and illegal artisanal refinery operations in some parts of the state.

“There is need for collaboration among all stakeholders to end this environmental hazard. We therefore call on the State and the Federal Governments to put strategic action in place to finally address this black soot and put an end to whatever is the source. This is not the time to play politics with people’s lives,” he said.

He said the Federal and State Governments, security agencies as well as all agencies in charge of environment, including the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its Rivers State counterpart, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSRDA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other agencies handling related issues should tow a defined and safe path in handling illegal oil vessels as well as the criminal act of illegal refining of crude oil that were said to be the key reason of this menace.

“The governments should also involve the locals and possibly constitute them into Environmental councils to monitor their areas for any possible illegal refining of the crude and such other dangerous actsthat are inimical to human existence.”Comrade Obi demanded that the criminals perpetrating these evils should be arrested and prosecuted,” he added.