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The Danger of Playing Politics with the Soot

By Simeon Nwakaudu
A few days ago, Nigerian Info, Port Harcourt  broadcast on her platform that Port Harcourt was the 4th most polluted city in the world. Upon  this controversial and fake information, the station’s  on-air personalities took turns to sell this false information, opening their telephone lines to justify  this falsehood .
These Nigerian Info on-air personalities did not stop at this falsehood, they went further to mislead the public  that the  Rivers State Government should be blamed for the soot that has been a major environmental challenge  in Rivers State.
They had earlier developed a twitter group where they lampooned the Rivers State Government on the pollution occasioned by the soot. They designed several cartoons, with one that is extreme in which they referred to Port Harcourt as hell fire because of the soot.
For the Nigerian Info, the narrative against the Rivers State Government is a task that must be executed without conscience and respect for basic broadcast rules.
Fundamentally, it must be declared that the soot is an environmental hazard.  A major health challenge that requires all stakeholders  to work in unison to address.
The soot is not a political tool. Attempting to play politics with the soot is tantamount to cutting off the nose to spite the face. The destruction these guys are inflicting on the society  is more disastrous to the environment than the politically inspired activism.
Inquiries were made on the source of the information broadcast by Nigerian  Info.  Officials of the radio station explained that they used an app from www.airvisual.com to reach this false conclusion. 
But several websites, including those linked to the World Health Organisation have lists of countries and cities with high level pollution.  Port Harcourt is not ranked fourth on any of them.
These are links on the list of cities and countries in relation to pollution.  There is no credible environmental website that has Port Harcourt as the fourth most polluted city in the world as a result of the soot:
Though that is the situation, Governor Wike has taken extensive practical measures to address the soot challenge. A State Executive Council Committee chaired by the State Commissioner of Environment with the backing of scientists at the State Ministry of Environment and Health worked with scientists at the Rivers State University to investigate and act on the soot.
The same State Executive Council Committee on the Soot worked with National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA), the Federal Ministry of Environment and Security Agencies  to work  out platforms  for the resolution of the soot environmental challenge.
At the forefront of the fight to end the soot is Governor Wike.  The governor empowered the security agencies to fight fight illegal burning of tyres. On one occasion, Governor Wike halted his convoy to arrest 15 mechanics involved in illegal burning of tyres.
Governor  Wike met with the Nigerian Army 6 Division on the Soot Challenge.  He pleaded with the then General Officer Commanding the 6 Division, General Enobong Udoh  and other security agencies to adopt more refined ways of destroying illegal refineries in the state.
 Governor Wike said that the methods  currently adopted by security agencies in destroying illegal refineries are harmful  to the environment.
 He noted that while it is necessary to stop the  illegal refineries from operating, such actions must not expose  the people to extensive and prolonged  danger.
 According to him, the outcome  of  the  uncontrolled destruction of illegal refineries without  precautionary measures forms part of the  reasons  why the state is suffering from black soot.
 “The present  mode of destroying illegal refineries is negatively affecting our environment.  Everywhere  across the state you see black soot deposited on surfaces of buildings, cars and  other structures.
 “The state government is working  hard to resolve  this environmental challenge, but   we need the cooperation of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies on the manner they destroy illegal refineries “, the governor explained.
 Speaking on Channels Television Flagship Programme, Governor Wike  faulted the approach of security agencies in destroying illegal refineries, noting that the method they apply results in escalating the  soot rain, constituting health hazards and destroying the environment.
The governor who regretted that it is not within the purview of state government to control the security agencies, revealed that state authorities had formally approached the Federal Government to help resolve the challenges, without any assistance from that quarter.
Now this is the fundamental issue on the soot challenge.  The politics of the entire environmental issue.
The main source of the soot  is the way that the Armed Forces destroy illegal refineries in different locations across the Niger Delta. Other sources of pollution, like burning of tyres contribute only a fraction.
Therefore, situating the Government Agencies whose actions are vital to check the  menance is key. The agencies include: Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Petroleum, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA) and Federal Government Security Agencies.
It is no longer a secret that the APC Federal Government and her agencies deliberately work to undermine development in Rivers State.  As a result, they have frustrated all efforts to resolve the soot challenge.
The security services, despite the several pleas of the Rivers State Governor, have refused to seek alternative means of destroying illegal refineries. Instead, they continue to damage the environment by blasting the refineries and releasing the soot into the air.
Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Petroleum, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA)  have permanently  looked the other way, refusing to act, despite the several presentations made to them by the Rivers State Government.  The sad aspect of this unfortunate attitude is the fact that several pro-APC civil society organisations have been contracted to make excuses for the failed failed APC Federal Government.
These civil society organisations have been financed by the immediate past Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to politicise the soot challenge  and blame the Rivers State Government.  They have been sponsored for regular street protests backed by vicious traditional and social media negative campaign. 
As we head towards the electioneering campaign, they will daily buy airtime  on designated PortHarcourt Based Radio Stations to sell their misinformation, concocted data and pro-APC messages.  At the Nigerian Info, two of their pro-APC on-air personalities already dominate this charge.  Even Lie Mohammad will envy them  at the rate they use the soot challenge to promote the failed APC.
It is sad that the APC attempts to hide her undiluted failure in Rivers State by engaging misguided civil society organisations and radio stations to use the soot challenge as a diversionary tactic.
The danger in the politicization of the soot challenge is the loss of a united platform to secure the environment.
Despite the activities of these misguided elements, Governor Wike and officials of the Rivers State Government will continue to work to end the soot challenge.
Rather than play politics with the soot challenge, these pro-APC on-air personalities and civil society organisations can join the Rivers State Government in the struggle to ensure that the APC Federal Government revives the two seaports and complete the international airport .
You never see these politically funded groups raise issues with the complete abandonment of Rivers State and her people by the failed APC Federal Government.  They gloat when there is a security infraction, but raise baseless questions when the State Government takes concrete steps to address such challenges.
The truth is that this propaganda technique of the APC and her affiliates no longer works. Even in 2015, it didn’t work in the Niger Delta, as the people saw through the fraudulent lies churned out by the APC.
Everyone is now wiser with the unmitigated disaster of the APC Federal Government.  The commitment of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to improving the environment and eradicating  the soot is sacrosanct.
AmarSim Associations Development Consultants

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