By NKECHI Uzonna, Port Harcourt
Thousands of members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) yesterday, staged ‘Stop the soot’ protest in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, seeking an end to the menace that has ravaged the state.
The protesters, who matched to the State Government House, Port Harcourt and the State House of Assembly, demanded a clean air to breath.
Presenting 12 points demand protest letter to the State Government, the leader of Stop-the-soot Campaign, Tunde Bello, urged the government to prioritize the issue of environment.
The protesters called on the Governor Nyesom Wike and the State Government to enforce environmental law in the 23 local government areas in the State, as a way of tackling the problem.
Bello stated: “The concerned citizens of Rivers State under the aegis of Stop-the-Soot Campaign and Civil Society Organisations have few demands about the soot that has ravaged the state.
“We want the state government to conduct an environmental audit of all those communities that have oil and operation going on in their areas.
“We want the governor and the State government to prioritize the environment and seek a supplementary budget for the Ministry of Environment. This is basically because of the rampaging soot in the State.
“We want the governor and the State Government to mandate the local government areas to use their security votes to address environmental issues in their respective areas”, Bello read.
He listed further: “We want Wike and the state government to enforce the local governments to implement sanitation laws in their domains. We want the state government and governor to make the local governments to use their security votes to monitor environmental issues.
“We want the state governor and government to make the Local government and other stakeholders to start a street by street health campaign, and awareness on the health issue.
“We want Wike and the government to lead a bi-partisan campaign on behalf of the state and its citizens, that the state assembly and national assembly to change the rules governing the issue of environment and instigate the part of the Petroleum Industry Bill on environment.
“As a matter of urgency and importance we want the state government to provide daily air quality leanings to the citizens as the oil companies are doing to their staff.
“We want the Rivers State Government to collaborate with the Nigerian Medical Association to compile and make public the health of the citizens and the cause of deaths”, CSOs demanded.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. (Mrs.) Ipalibo Harry Banigo, who received the protest letter on behalf of the government, promised that the letter would be forwarded to the governor for immediate attention.
Banigo said: “I have received your write-up and request directed to His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State. I want to tell you that I will present it to the Governor and assure you that your request will be looked into.
“The environment cannot be politicized. We want to tell you that the agencies that are flaring this obnoxious thing are directly under the control of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The FG owns the refineries that flare gas and the security agencies that have been using uncivilized methods to destroy bunkering.
“For us as a responsible government, we will always collaborate with the federal government to see that matter concerning environment are taking seriously. Let us also advice our people in the creeks to shun illegal refining”, she urged.