Soot first appeared in the atmosphere in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and it’s environs, in September 2016, causing panic among residents of the state. For over five years, residents of the state have been battling with these black acidic particles, which have health implications.
Soot is made of fine black particles, chiefly composed of carbon, produced by incomplete combustion of coal, oil, wood, or other fuels.
The actual cause of the soot is not yet known by residents. Environmental right activists have however continued to blame activities of oil companies, illegal oil bunkerers and security agencies.
In February 2019, a non-governmental organisation, The Extra Steps Initiative (TESI) dragged the federal government to Federal High Court, seeking for the enforcement of the fundamental right to life and to a general satisfactory environment favourable to our development.
Joined as co-defendants in suit were the Federal Ministry of Environment, the National Environmental Standards, Detection and Regulation Agency
(NESDRA) and the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta.
A public health expert, Dr. Bieye Renner Briggs, reports that there was a rise in infertility in men residing in Port Harcourt, due to high concentration of soot in the atmosphere.
“A research done at the UPTH found that majority of the males in Port Harcourt have structural anomaly in their sperm cells. Of course, sperm is very much indicated in pregnancy.
“It is the sperm that will fertilise the egg in a woman to bring about pregnancy. If they are structurally abnormal, it means they lack the capacity to fertilise an egg. That means they cannot procreate,” he said.
Briggs stated that unborn children now suffer consequences of the soot, and called for an end to the soot pollution.
Tired of waiting for the federal government to act on the soot menace, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, in January this year, declared war on illegal refineries as a way of checking the problem.
So far, over 200 illegal refineries operating in the state as well as facilities used for the storage of illegally refined petroleum products, have been destroyed across the state.
The governor’s effort seems to have yielded fruits as residents have said there was noticeable reduction in the soot pollution in the Rivers State capital and it’s environs.
A resident of Oyigbo, headquarters of Oyigbo local government area of the state, Hon. Innocent Ajaelu told me that he commended Wike for what he has achieved so far.
“Let me commend the efforts of the state governor for knowing that people were gradually dying. I have not seen anything that is poisonous to the health than this. I went to one hospital along Stadium Road in Port Harcourt and I saw children between the ages of one and three, all suffering from soot-related health challenges,” he said, thanking the state government for working towards reducing the soot in the atmosphere.