Gov Nyesom Wike on Sunday 19 people wanted for operating illegal crude oil refining sites believed to be responsible for the black soot polluting the environment in Rivers State.
The governor has also directed the Rivers State Head of Service to query Mr. Temple Amakiri, a Director in the State Ministry of Energy, for abetting bunkering activities and hand him over to the police for investigation and possible prosecution.
Wike, in a statewide broadcast on Sunday said the government is resolved to pragmatically tackle the soot pollution in the state by destroying and closing down all identified illegal crude oil refining sites and activities in the State.
The Governor stated that following his 2022 New Year Message outlining measures to tackle the black soot menace, the State Taskforce on Illegal Street Trading raided some illegal crude oil refining sites in Port Harcourt and arrested a number of recalcitrant persons.
He added that 19 kingpins of bunkering and illegal crude oil refining activities have also been identified.
Wike therefore asked the kingpins, who he said have been declared wanted to report themselves to the State Police Command where their their details have been submitted.
“We have also identified those behind illegal bunkering activities in Okrika communities, Port Harcourt Township, Rivers South-East and Rivers South-West Senatorial Districts and their names would be soon published and declared wanted, if they fail to voluntarily report to the Police,” the Governor said.
The alleged illegal crude refining kingpins declared wanted by Wike are: Mr. Azubike Amadi, OSPAC Commander, Ogbogoro community and Chairman of Akpor Central OSPAC; Mr. India, of Rumuolumeni community and Chairman of Oil bunkering Association in Akpor kingdom; Mr. Okey who is in charge of Oil bunkering in Rumupareli; Mr. Anderson, who is in charge of oil bunkering activities in Ogbogoro community; Amadi Gift of Ogbogoro community; Azeruowa of Ogbogoro community; and Kingsley Egbula, also of Ogbogoro community.
The others alleged to be in charge of oil bunkering activities in Isiokpo community of Rivers are: Mr. Kemkom Azubike, Mr. Mezu Wabali, Mr. Chigozi Amadi, Mr. Opurum Owhondah, Mr. Bakasi Obodo ,Mr. Opus, Mr. Galaxi Mas, Mr. Chioma, Mr. Ogondah, Mr. Soldier, Mr. Chefo, and Nkasi.
What is soot?
Soot is a common term for a type of particle pollution formed as a result of the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons.
Because of its tiny size, soot can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream easily, hence, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) described it as one of the deadliest forms of air pollution.
In 2018, Governor Wike commissioned a study to investigate the factors causing soot pollution in Rivers and how to tackle it.
The report published in 2019 blamed illegal bunkering and refining of petroleum products as major cause of and gas flaring in the state.
He urged residents of the State to continue to report those involved in illegal crude oil refineries and other damnable activities to the Task Forces already set up at the State and Local Government levels for immediate action.
In the broadcast, Wike also reaffirmed the total ban on the use of motorcycles in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt councils, which was necessitated by the collective threat they posed to the security of lives and property.
“Any person or corporate entity that requires the use of motorcycle for any lawful purposes must, therefore, first apply to the office of the Governor for permit and proper documentation of the operational details and particulars of both the motorcycle and designated rider(s).
“Against this background, we are hereby issuing the final warning to all those operating motorcycles shuttles and or hawking foreign exchange along Birabi Street, Hotel Presidential, GRA junction by Zenith Bank up to Tombia Street to immediately leave or be arrested and prosecuted.”
The governor accused the traditional leadership, including members of Community Development Committees and youth leaders of Rumuola, Rumuogba and Okoro-nu-odo communities of collecting money from vendors and allowing street trading activities around and under the flyovers in these communities.
“Consequently, I hereby direct the traditional leadership of Rumuola, Rumuogba and Okoro-nu-odo communities to immediately stop all street trading activities around, in or under the flyovers in their respective domains or be deposed, arrested and prosecuted.
“Similarly, the traditional leadership of Rumuwoji Mgbuduku, Obiekwe, Nkpolu-Oroworokwo, Abali, Rebisi, Rumukalagbor-Oroworokwo and Ezimgbu communities are hereby directed to enforce the ban and ensure that no form of trading takes place around and under the flyovers located in their communities.”
Governor Wike also placed a total ban on the use of umbrella and table trading stands in the entire old and new GRAs of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City, Eleme councils.
According to him, government has credible evidence that most these purported traders in front of houses are informants who monitor and pass on vital details and information on the daily movement of very important persons to their criminal collaborators.
Governor Wike frowned at the failure of the Rumuokurushe traditional leadership to honour the terms of their undertaking not to allow any form of street trading on the Rumuokurushe market.
“Unfortunately, the Rumuokurushe traditional leadership has apparently failed to comply with or enforce this condition in that market and Government will not hesitate to again shut it down if the ongoing breach continues unabated.”