The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria has called on the federal and Rivers State governments to urgently put an end to illegal refineries, which are causing soot in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The senior staff trade union said the soot, in the form of thick black smoke covering the city, could be the root cause of some of the respiratory problems being experienced by residents of Port Harcourt.
It noted that the health implications of the soot in Port Harcourt could be worse than Ebola if evaluated on the long-term effect.
In a statement signed by its National Public Relations Officer, Mr. Fortune Obi, PENGASSAN stated that the development was not getting any serious attention because most of the people affected seemed unperturbed, noting that the soot 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,” Obi stated.
He added that PENGASSAN, in collaboration with other concerned bodies and citizens, had continued to call the attention of the government to the development as well as creating awareness with the residents.
Obi stated, “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 a 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. The federal and state governments, security agencies as well as all agencies in charge of environment, including the National Emergency Management Agency and its Rivers State counterpart, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Department of Petroleum Resources 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 are said to be the key reason of this menace.”
Obi added that the criminals perpetrating these acts should be arrested and prosecuted.