Oil workers under the umbrella of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have called on the Federal government to shut down illegal refineries causing soot in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In a statement issued on Sunday by the Public relations officer of the association, Mr. Fortune Obi, the association blamed the soot for the thick black smoke that had covered the entire city and which was responsible for the respiratory problems encountered by the residents.
The statement read: “This soot is not getting any serious attention because most of the people affected are still performing their daily tasks, while they swim in this soot that has been confirmed by experts to be carcinogenic.
“The black soot settles on everything and finds its way into the corners of living rooms no matter how hard people try to stop it.
“Food items in Port Harcourt markets are as well not spared from getting mixed with this deadly soot that is ever-present everywhere,” said the union.
The association further pointed out that it has collaborated with other concerned bodies to severally create awareness and to call the attention of the government to the dangers of the soot and to request that the government act swiftly by putting an end to the whatever was the source of the killer soot.
“Majority believe that the source of this soot is due to incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing, burning of barges used for oil bunkering and illegal artisanal refinery operations in some parts of the state.
“There is need for collaboration among all stake holders to end this environmental hazard.
“We therefore call on the State and the Federal Government to put strategic action in place to finally address this black soot and put an end to whatever is the source.
“This is not the time to play politics with people’s lives.
“The Federal and State Governments, security agencies as well as all agencies in charge of environment and other agencies handling related issues, should toe a defined and safe path in handling illegal oil vessels, PENGASSAN said.
The association advised the federal and state government to constitute local councils into environmental councils to monitor their areas for any possible illegal refining of crude and such other dangerous acts that are inimical to human existence.
It further called for the arrest of and prosecution of criminals perpetrating the illegal acts.