THERE has been rising concern among residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, and its environs over the noticeable blanket of black soot across the skyline.’
The development, according to NDV findings, is largely linked to the upsurge in Kpo-fire, an illegal but thriving oil bunkering business in the Niger Delta of which Bayelsa is the epicenter. Kpo-fire is simply a local oil process of heating the crude in a fabricated oven to extract petroleum products while the residual is released into the environment not minding the implication on the ecosystem.
Findings also revealed that the negative practice of setting ablaze crude oil impacted sites in the state by some contractors in the name of cleanup, as well as the burning of seized stolen crude by security operatives, is not environment-friendly.
“Presently, as you walk barefoot in your home, the sole of your foot becomes black, wash your clothes and hang same outside, they are stained with black particles, you wipe your face with a handkerchief and it becomes black,” Oyinkuro Jones noted with concern.
NDV recalled that some residents of the university town of Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of the state and other parts of the state had earlier raised the alarm towards the twilight of the rainy season over what they described as black rain whenever there was downpour but did not take their worry serious until the soot appeared late November as the clouds became a hazy grey. The problem is more pronounced in the morning hours when the thick blanket of black soot covers the landscape.
A disturbed resident, Benjamin Ogbara, recently posted on Facebook, pleading with the security agencies and oil and gas surveillance contractors not to set boats laden with illegally refined petroleum products on fire again.
He said: “About two weeks ago when one of the drivers to one of the oil and gas surveillance contractors told me that they, in the company of security agencies, destroyed nine of such boats and set them on fire, I was worried in my mind although I didn’t show it to him. The effect of such acts coupled with numerous illegally refined points is being experienced today.
“Security agencies should rather seize it and confiscate the boat and the illegal petroleum products. Our environment is our life. Let us all jointly protect it.”
Also, Dr. Inenyo Esinte, Senior Registrar, Department of Public Health, F.M.C Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and Secretary, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, APHPN, Bayelsa State Chapter in a report titled: Hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution in Yenagoa and environs, a looming epidemic, decried the sad turn of events in the once serene environment known for its luxuriant rainforest vegetation that complement the oxygen supply to residents and the global community.
He enumerated respiratory tract irritation, (cough, catarrh, tearing), allergies, irritation of the eyes, irritation of the skin, exacerbation of asthma, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD, and several other chronic lung diseases as some of the health effects, warning that hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution-related illnesses could assume an epidemic proportion and thus overwhelm the state’s health facilities and health manpower resulting in the sudden collapse of the health sector.
“Environmental effects include air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, contamination of plants, fishes, and animals with attendant health consequences following human consumption.
“From the above, it can be deduced that the health, environmental, economic and social effects of hydrocarbon and black soot-related air pollution are far more dangerous to humans and the environment and must be given keen attention and speedy solution in stopping this looming epidemic from exploding and getting out of proportion and control.
“The time to act is now, let’s walk the talk now and save our children, our future and our environment from this man-made disaster. Let’s not roll the ball down the hill to our children, we created it and we must fix it, we cannot afford to fail our children and future generations on this; sustainable development is the way to go and the global best practice.
He said: “A multi-sectorial, multi-disciplinary and collective approach is needed in proffering solution to this evolving epidemic. I enjoin all relevant learned bodies such as the Nigeria Medical Association, Bayelsa State annex, the Nigerian Bar Association, Bayelsa State branch, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Bayelsa State arm, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Bayelsa State branch, and other relevant NGOs and critical stakeholders for continuous advocacy and engagement of relevant state and federal government agencies and ministries on this to proffer urgent solution to this problem.
Time to Act is now
“I also urge the Bayelsa State Government to engage all relevant stakeholders at the state and federal levels to urgently tackle this problem. I call on the Federal Government of Nigeria and relevant federal ministries and agencies to expedite action in proffering solutions to this menace.
“I urge and call on the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to expedite action on the establishment of modular refineries in the Niger-Delta and productively engage and employ the crude oil refining skills of artisan petroleum refiners in clean and environment-friendly modular refining methods, techniques and technology through public-private partnership arrangements.
“Finally, I also use this avenue to call on all lawmakers (Senators and members of House of Representatives) from the Niger Delta to assume their requisite legislative responsibilities and liaise with critical stakeholders in expediting actions for the establishment of modular refineries in the Niger-Delta region. Black soot in Yenagoa is already out of proportion, it is never too late to get it right, the time to act is now.
“Remember, the wind blows from North to South and South to North, black soot, like harmattan, is carried and spread by the wind across lands and borders, hence everyone is affected in varying scales, thus no North-South dichotomy from the effects of hydrocarbon and black soot-related air pollution. Black soot air pollution is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode on all of us soonest, this is the time to face reality.”