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Nigerian civil society groups lament over soot in oil-producing communities

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A view of the soot in Owaza community

Nigerian civil society groups under the aegis of the Climate and Sustainable Development (CSDevNet) have decried the current upsurge of soot in some communities in Abia State, South-East Nigeria.

Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, (FENRAD), a pro-democracy and environmental rights group and Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS) a civil rights advocacy group led the call upon sighting black soot particles around communities in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State.

The advocacy groups called on the Abia government to forestall the looming danger as it portends a huge impact on people’s health. In a statement, released after a visit to the communities, by  Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor, FENRAD’s Executive Director, the groups underlined the urgent need for both mitigative and restorative measures to avert what it believes, poses a potential environmental threat.

According to the groups, on-the-spot findings have revealed that the black soot is a result of activities of illegal refineries and oil bunkering groups that are currently operating within the oil communities which have been left unchecked by relevant authorities.

The groups said that such unhealthy activities are currently endangering livelihood in the affected areas of the state. They called on the Abia government, her ministry of environment, other relevant agencies, including the federal government to intervene.

They insisted that a deep black powdery or flaky substance have currently taken over Owaza and other communities in the Abia oil region with video and picture evidence.

“It is regrettable that these illegal industries are being aided in no small measure by security agencies like the military and civil defence operatives, for which clashes between host communities and the security agencies have broken out countless times,” Comrade Nwafor added.

“It is to be understood that, as is the case with Rivers State in the South-south region of Nigeria, many locals and other interest groups are racketeering in the shady deal now becoming a norm in Ukwa West. The outcome of such environmental recklessness, all available records show, has always remained largely unsustainable and insufferable for the most part,” he said.

“In Rivers State and elsewhere, governments there, the groups observed, have begun implementation of stiff penalties and severe punishments against offenders with many of such local refineries burnt down.”

The groups said that with this current trend, the lifespan of the said communities including that of the unborn and pregnant women are already endangered. They said that soot is not a domestic waste particle but suspended impure carbon with high toxicity, dangerous to biodiversity and the entire ecosystem.

“It is shocking that in a world where everyone is moving towards the alternative and clean source of energy with the talk of biodiversity as the plank of state and non-state actors’ commitment towards sustainable development, Abia could be going in a reverse direction in the name of “Kpo Fire” and illegal bunkering. This, the groups says,  “is worrisome.”

The groups, however, called on traditional rulers and village heads of the affected communities and towns to do the needful to end this depletion. We also call on state and federal government to intervene decisively to avert looming danger,” they said.

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