Nigerian Lawmaker Lament Soot Devastation in Niger Delta
By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja
A Nigerian Senator, George Thompson Sekibo, has called the attention of the federal government on the recurring pollution of the atmosphere in many states of the Niger Delta with soot, a dangerous emission caused by bunkering and illegal refinery of crude oil.
Soot is a mass of impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. It is more properly restricted to the product of the gas-phase combustion process but is common. It goes into the atmosphere before falling on surfaces, including human skins .
Experts say black soot can be dangerous and even fatal to some people. Essentially, soot gets into the human body through ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin and eye. When in the body, soot particles can cause coronary heart disease, breathing issues, including asthma, and even cancer.
Speaking during the debate on the lingering November 5, Nembe oil spill, and the consequence on the habitat, Senator Sekibo who represents Rivers East, lamented that many states in the Niger Delta are regularl polluted with soot as a result of the flagrant negligence of oil companies. He called on the federal government to intervene by curbing the excesses of such companies operating in the region.
In his response, the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said that the National Assembly would insist on companies carrying out their corporate-social responsibilities to host communities under the law.
According to him, doing so would also involve penalizing any company that fails to adhere to operational standards set out by the federal government, while regretting that such incapacity is coming from a indigenous oil company.
“I feel very sad, that an indigenous oil company for that matter, would be involved in this kind of incident and yet not able to show any capacity. As a country, we want to promote our local content – indigenous oil companies – to participate in this industry.
“But we are going to insist, whether it is an indigenous company or an international one, that the companies must be responsible to the communities and to us as a nation. This is devastation of lives and ecosystems in that part of the country.
“I believe that this particular case should be made to be an example of what government and its agencies can do, not only to force the alleged culprit to remedy the environment but also to penalize the oil company for devastating the lives of the people of that area (Nembe)”, Lawan said.
The chamber said as a way forward, the relevant agencies should to undertake environmental impact assessment to determine the extent of the pollution with a view to undertake remediation in accordance with internationally accepted principles within 90 days.
The Senate further resolved that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) should, as a matter of urgency, provide relief materials as this ugly incident has taken a negative toll on the health and wellbeing of the people of the host communities which can be declared as a disaster area.