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‘Where We Stand On Constitution Review’

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On behalf of the Government and people of Rivers State, we welcome the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to the South-South Zonal hearing in the famous Garden City of Port Harcourt. The people of Rivers State see this constitution review exercise as a welcome development as it gives us a unique opportunity, to once again, present our views before such an eminent body on issues that are of paramount importance to us. We recognise that several views have been canvassed and will be canvassed here by other state governments, NGO’s, interest groups and individuals. In making our presentation therefore, we will as much as possible concentrate on those issues that will enable our dear country Nigeria to function as a True Federation. By the provision of the 1999 Constitution, Nigeria is a Federal Republic. Nigeria has thus chosen to run a Federal System of Government in which power is shared between the Federal Government and the Federating states. True Federation as defined by Professor Itsay Sagay (SAN) is, “an arrangement whereby powers within a multinational country are shared between a federal or central authority, and a number of regionalised governments in such a way that each unit, including the central authority, exists as a government separately and independently from the others, operating directly on persons and property within its territorial area, with a will of its own and its own apparatus for the conduct of affairs and with an authority in some matters exclusive of all others. In a federation, each government enjoys autonomy, a separate existence and independence of the control of any other government. Each government exists, not as an appendage of another government (e.g the federal or central government) but as an autonomous entity in the sense of being able to exercise its own will in the conduct of its affairs, free from direction by any government. Thus, the Central Government on the one hand and the State Government on the other hand are autonomous in their respective spheres.” (Itsay Sagay, Nigeria : Federalism, Constitution and Resource Control) In practice however, Nigeria’s system of governance is largely “unitary”, as enormous powers are concentrated at the Federal level, to the detriment of the states. We find that this paradox exists, because of the contradictory provisions of the 1999 Constitution, several of which violate the very essence of true Federalism. In this presentation, we shall highlight some of these areas by drawing attention to relevant provisions of the constitution that deal with: (i) Fiscal Federalism (ii) Land use Act (iii) Local Government Reforms (iv) Policing (v) Devolution of powers. Fiscal Federalism: In every true Federation, each federating unit controls its resources and contributes an agreed percentage to the central government by way of tax. The practice by the Federal Government of revenue allocation to states is an anomaly and to make matters worse, the principle of derivation is entrenched in the 1999 Constitution as an integral part of the revenue sharing formula. For us to be able to achieve True Federalism, Rivers State Government urges that Section 44(3) and the proviso to 162(3) to be amended. Section 44(3) provides as follows “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly”. Section 44(3) which divests the states of their ownership and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas on their land should be amended so as to vest all proprietary rights in all natural resources in the states, in which they are found. The states will in turn, pay an agreed percentage as tax to the Federal Government. “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the entire property in and control of all natural resources in, under or upon any land within a state in the Federation of Nigeria, or in, under or upon the territorial waters shall vest in the government in that state. The proviso to Section 162 (2) provides that. “The principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than 13 per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation account directly from any natural resources”. In view of our proposed amendment to Section 44(3), we propose a consequential amendment to Section 162(2) by deleting the proviso to Section 162 (2) herein before quoted. Consequential amendments will have to be made to all provisions of the Constitution relating to revenue derivation, allocation and distribution. Land Use Act We are well aware that the National Assembly is in the process of amending the Land Use Act. We appreciate that; however the Land Use Act, by every standard, is a controversial piece of legislation and may ordinarily require amendment of its provisions from time to time as the need arises. The current provision in the 1999 Constitution, gives the Land Use Act a higher status than that ordinarily enjoyed by other Acts of the National Assembly. Indeed, Section 315(5) of the constitution puts the Land Use Act as well as the other laws mentioned therein, on the same level as the constitution, and they can only be amended in accordance with the provisions of Section 9(2) of the constitution, which is a very tedious process. Section 315 (5) provides thus: ‘“Nothing in this constitution shall invalidate the following enactments. and the provisions of those enactments shall continue to apply and have full effect in accordance with their tenor and to the like extent as any other provisions forming parts of this constitution and shall not be altered or repealed except in accordance with the provisions of Section 9(2) of this constitution”. We, therefore, propose that the saving provisions of Section 315(5) as it relates to the Land Use Act, should be amended by deleting Section 315 (5) (d) Local Government Reforms: Local Government Areas (LGAs) fall within the territory and control of their respective states. The states should therefore have powers to create LGAs as they deem fit without recourse to the National Assembly as is presently provided for in the 1999 Constitution. Accordingly, we propose that the constitution should be amended to provide that local government funds should be routed through state governments and only the federal and state governments be entitled to allocation of funds directly from the Federation Account. We further propose that the states should maintain a State/Local Government Joint Account where not less than ¼ of the monies accruing to the states from the Federation Account shall be paid into and utilised for funding the local governments. Our proposition is not an entirely new concept because it is indeed envisaged by the 1999 Constitution, which provides essentially in Section 162(5) that, amounts standing to the credit of local government councils should be paid to the states for the benefit of their local government councils. In the light of the foregoing, we recommend that the following sections of the Constitution be deleted/ amended as follows: Section 3 (6) which provides that, “There shall be seven hundred and sixty-eight local government areas in Nigeria as shown in the second column of Part 1 of the First Schedule to this Constitution and six area councils as shown in Part II of that Schedule,” should be deleted. Section 162 (3) which provides that, “Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the federal and state governments and the local government councils in each State on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly,” Should be amended by deleting “local government councils.” We propose that, in order to guarantee funding of local government councils, a specific provision for this should be enshrined in the Constitution by a proviso to Section 162 (3) as follows, “Provided always that not less than ¼ of the monies accruing to the state from the Federation Account shall be utilised for funding the local government Continue on 24. Continue from 21. We propose that Section 162 (5) which provides that, “The amount standing to the credit of local government councils in the Federation Account shall also be allocated to the states for the benefit of their local government councils on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly,” should be deleted. Furthermore, Section 162 (7) which provides that “Each state shall pay to local government councils in its areas of jurisdiction such proportion of its total revenue on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly,” should be deleted. Section 7 (1) which provides that, “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils,” should be amended by deleting the words “subject to Section 8 of this Constitution.” 1st schedule, part I should be amended by deleting the words, “Local Government” in the second column. Part 2 of the 1st schedule should reflect only the FCT, the word “Council” should be deleted and the column titled, “Headquarters” should also be deleted. Section 7(2) provides that, “The person authorised by law to prescribe the area over which a local government council may execise authority shall: Define such area as clearly as practicable; and ensure to the extent to which it may be reasonably justifiable, that in defining such area regard is paid to- “The common interest of the community in the area, Traditional association of the community, and Administrative convenience.” This section should be amended by including the words “in the State” after the person authorised by Law. Section 162 (6) which provides that, “Each state shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account,” into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the government of the state”, should be amended to read as follows: “Each state shall maintain a special account to be called State Joint Local Government Account into which shall be paid ¼ of all revenue accruing to the state from the Federation Account for the benefit of the local government council on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House Assembly of the respective state. Section 8(5) which provides that, “An Act of the National Assembly passed in accordance with this section shall make consequential provisions with respect to the names and headquarters of states or local government areas as provided in Section 3 of this Constitution and in Parts I and II of the First Schedule to this Constitution”, should be deleted. Section 8 (6) which provides that, “For the purpose of enabling the National Assembly to exercise the powers conferred upon it by subsection (5) of this section, each House of Assembly shall, after the creation of more local government areas pursuant to subsection (3) of this section, make adequate returns to each House of the National Assembly” should be deleted. Accordingly, there should be a consequential amendment to Section 313 of the Constiution, by deleting the words, “between the states and local government councils and among the local government councils in the states.” If the foregoing amendments are effected, It is our view that local government administration will be enhanced and streamlined. More importantly, the desire of many states in Nigeria to create local governments for ease of administration and even spread of development, will finally have been met. Policing: By the provision of the 1999 Constitution, the Police is under the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. However, the size, complexity and challenges of present day Nigeria, have made the present Police structure and operations inadequate. This has led to a situation where the state governments have been compelled to undertake financial responsibilities with respect to the Police without the corresponding authority, due to the limitations imposed on their authority by virtue of the provision of section 215(4) of the 1999 Constitution. Remove items 45 (Police) from exclusive legislative list to concurrent list. Delete proviso to Section 215(4). Amend Section 214 (1) to delete the last line i.e, “no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation in any part thereof.” Devolution of Power (Power Sharing between the Federal and State Governments) In line with other amendments canvassed in this presentation, we recommend that the Legislative lists i.e the exclusive as well as the concurrent, contained in the second schedule to the constitution should be amended to the following extent: Item 22 on the exclusive list, which reads, “Election to the offices of President and Vice-President or Governor and Deputy Governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under this Constitution, excluding election to a local government council,” should be amended by putting a full stop after the word. “Constitution” and deleting the words following it – “excluding election to a local government council or any office in such Council.” Item 39, which lists mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas, on the exclusive lists should be deleted there from and put on the concurrent lists. Item 45 of the exclusive list, which is on the police and other security services established by law, should be deleted from the exclusive lists and taken to the concurrent list. Item 55 of the exclusive list on railways, should be deleted and taken to the concurrent list. Other Proposed Amendments One important error we observed in the 1999 Constitution is section 162 (9). This Section 162(9) provides that. “Any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Federation Account shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of courts established for the Federation and the states under Section 6 of this Constitution,” is in conflict with Section 162(3).” This section is obviously in conflict with Section 80 which provides for the establishment of the consolidated revenue fund of the federation and Section 84 which provides for payment of salaries of judicial officers by the Federal Government. Our observation is further buttressed by the provisions of Section 162(3) which provides that: “Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments and the local government councils in each state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly”. It is therefore clear that Section 162(9) is clearly contradictory because it is only the Federal, State and Local Governments that are entitled to statutory funds from the Federation Account. We, therefore, propose that Section 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution should be deleted, as it is obviously an error. Interim Action Pending Constitutional Amendment We are not unmindful of the time the constitutional amendments we have proposed will take, especially those that pertain to fiscal federalism. As an interim measure therefore, the Government and people of Rivers State request an immediate upward review to 50 per cent derivation from the 13 per cent as is currently provided for in the 1999 Constitution. Conclusion: The government and people of Rivers State make these proposals for amendments to the 1999 Constitution with a deep sense of responsibility. We wish to observe that the interim action that is being sought for the upward review to 50 per cent derivation, is within the purview of the National Assembly. We are convinced that if our recommendations are accepted and enshrined in the Constitution, they will enthrone peace, justice, fair play, equity and enhance prosperity among the peoples of the federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Being the position of the government and people of Rivers State presented by Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi during the South South zonal hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

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Discovering Your Life’s Purpose

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What is Purpose?
Discovering one’s purpose is discovering what one needs in life. Discovering what you are meant to be in life. Not what you want to be but what God wants you to be in life. You can never discover your purpose without the help of God.
Ask Yourself Some Questions
You can discover your purpose when you start asking yourself some questions and give answers to such as “what do I need in life?” (Your purpose in life) by finding your purpose, you will know what you need in life and life will be easy for you. Sometimes, we want every good thing in life but what really matters is not what you want but what you need in life. People respect you when you discover your purpose and start making serious decisions. God is your creator and what he needs from you is your purpose. Discovering your purpose on time makes you more successful in life, you need to focus on the present, look forward, think big, do what you love, stay positive, be persistent, get the job done, fight for something you believe in. To be a successful being in life, you also need to manage your time effectively.
Sometimes, people find themselves doing or studying what they don’t need. Your potentials determine your purpose in life, don’t feel bad on yourself because, with the right information, your purpose is sure. You will get to a place in life and these things will be very useful to you.
Nothing happens as a mistake; they all have their purpose to fulfill in life. Spend at least one hour or thirty minutes every day to do what you have passion for.
Time Management
Time management has a very big role to play in discovering one’s purpose in life. Why most people suffer a lot in life is because they waste too much of their time doing nothing. We sleep too much; we rest too much; let’s make every moment to be useful. Sleeping too much won’t do us any good. Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. The fact that you are not where you want to be should be enough motivation.
Life without purpose is time without meaning. It is useless to keep ample time if there is no end towards which we are moving. God calls you in this world for you to discover your purpose and work towards it. Your plans cannot change God’s purpose. What God calls for, he provides for.
Sometimes people will say I want to be rich in life. If you said so, fine, then learn how to manage your time and discover your purpose in life. Most times, our parents do destroy our destiny by forcing us to study what we are not meant to just because they had a dream of studying it but were not opportuned to. Parents should ask knowledge from God so as to know what their children need in life.
Procrastination can damage you from going far in life. To be successful and fulfill your purpose in life, you need not to postpone what should be done now. Procrastination is a grave in which opportunities are buried. In life, many people have missed their chance of success because of postponement.
All the pain of yesterday can be forgotten tomorrow if we know how to manage our time effectively and discover our purpose in life. For your management of time not to be in vain, you need to concentrate on one thing such as what you love to do, because it is no good to do everything at the same time (he who is everywhere is nowhere).
Everybody wants to go to school, have their certificates, and be a hard worker in life. But is that all there is in life? Imagine if everyone in the universe goes to school, have their good certificates and work in very good places in life, then who will be the cleaner? Who will be the security guard? Who will be the house maid? How you see life is much more than you think. Purpose is only found in the mind of the creator. Only God knows the purpose for your life.
Now you can see why everybody cannot be rich in this life; neither will everyone be poor in life. The term rich would not exist if there are not poor people existing in this world. The terms rich and poor are given because people have and people lack.
You can never change how you have been created and what you have been created for no matter what. You being a cleaner is because there must always be someone dusting up the place. If there is a man to dust, there will always be a man to clean up also. If your purpose is to be a cleaner, be the best cleaner ever. Cleaning is not just ordinary, you can achieve excellence in cleaning. Excellence in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Every product is produced by purpose, for a purpose, and all things begin and end with purpose. Your existence is an evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains.
The reason why you exist in your family is because there is something that has to be done in your family and it’s only you that can do it; no one else. If you are born into a poor family it’s not your fault, but it will only be your fault if you remain there, because you have been born in to a family to make great things happen by managing your time and discovering your purpose in life.
You can start by having a time table in your house such as time to study, time to do what you love, what you have passion for. And in the process of studying, anything you seem not to understand, you do well to ask someone that knows it more than you. Don’t feel shy to ask because no one knows everything but everyone knows something.
You can also help others to discover their purpose by changing your mindset, especially with the way you think and the way you communicate with them. Let people see you as a person that really knows your purpose in life. Let people see your good lifestyle and try to build theirs also.
Always do things at the right time. Or better do something even if it is late than not to do it at all. Conclusively, a man can’t exist without having a purpose in life, your existence is an evidence that God has a purpose in you and this purpose can be discovered with the help of God, and also by management of time. I know we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. We can change the world by fulfilling our purpose in life. Nothing is impossible.

By: Endurance Osadebe
Osadebe wrote in from Eastern Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.

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Re: Wike, Combat And Cant: Negative Criticism Taken Too Far

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Our attention has been drawn to the article published in the “Hardball” column of The Nation Newspaper on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, titled: “Wike, Combat and Cant” and we cannot help but laugh once again at the manic obsessiveness, which the author of this particular ‘Hardball’ segment, has with everything that has to do with Governor Nyesom Wike.
However, what is rather very disturbing in this constant display of professional mercantilism and the unrestrained effort to mislead the people and misinterpret every action and comment of Governor Wike.
One must say, it is rather shameful for a journalist to resort to the penchant of subtle, yet crude and dangerous slander, to attack anybody who dares to challenge the status quo.
Governor Wike’s remarks at the Interdenominational Thanksgiving Service in commemoration of the Nation’s 61st Independence Anniversary, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Diobu, Port Harcourt, on Sunday, September 26, 2021, represents the heart cry of every patriotic Nigerian.
Those who listened to his comments, will also agree that the summary of what Governor Wike said was that enemity, hatred, division have become the definining indices of Nigeria today at 61 years.
He said Nigeria is a dysfunctional nation, where the judiciary has been intimidated, children are not in schools and doctors not in hospitals as a result of endless strikes. According to him, credible elections cannot be conducted and the National Assembly has become a place where anything goes in favour of the government in power, even if it is not in the interest of the people.
Sadly, only Nigerians who are feeding fat from such a country and indeed journalists like the author with his obvious anti-libertarian counter progressive propaganda, which promote and protect the interest of these individuals, will disagree with Governor Wike’s observations and even go ahead to cast puerile aspersion with pedestrian examples on his comments.
Suffice it to say that at a time when majority of Nigerians have been numbed into a development hiatus by the overwhelming suffocation of poverty, censorship, insecurity, nepotism, administrative ineptitude and a certain form of political autocracy which have all been elevated dangerously to statecraft and existential norm, a journalist who should professionally serve as the voice and conscience of the people has become the very instrument to justify these anti-development onslaught on the people.
What is even more worrisome is the realization that the author, rather than raise alarm over the deliberate polarization of the country along all the major incendiary fault lines of ethnicity, religion, partisan seclusion, intimidation and persecution, selective inquisitions and all the divisive tendencies which have sadly reversed all the gains made over 61 years, has now embraced the fifth column business of hounding those who speak up against these ills.
To even describe Governor Wike’s comments during that interdenominational church service, as “combat and cant’ as the writer did with misplaced elitist authority, is so unfortunate that it shamelessly exposed the real hypocrisy of a journalist and his sponsors, who are not only living in regrettable, unpardonable denial, but are the very dangerous ilk who are constantly and deliberately subverting national consciousness and turning the glaring truth of what Nigeria has become, on its head.
It is indeed a crying shame that we have in the last six years, transformed quite pathetically, into a nation where for example, state Governors, whose voices ought to be resonating loudly against the impunity that undermines our democratic federalism, have been brow-beaten into a complicit silence, as we watch in helpless horror, the systematic regression and overhaul of a nation’s development garnered painstakingly over 61 years.
Nigeria has never been more divided at any time in its 61 years history than it is today. The country is presently in a dangerous connundrum of identity crises stoked and fuelled by the continued endorsement and justification of leadership impunity and docility by the likes of the writer. Is it any wonder therefore that Governor Wike’s voice is the only one resonating loudly, clearly and independently against these manifestation, as we celebrate the auspicious occasion of our independence as a country that is 61 years old?
Ironically, even many of the leaders who have chosen to couch these desperate times in hopeful platitudes, celebrate the reversal of national essence with choice phrases and pretend with motivational innuendos that a nation which totters precariously on the brink of self implosion and immolation, is making progress, know deep down in their hearts that they are lying to their people.
Governor Wike has proven time and again that he is a courageous, bold, focused and determined leader, who will say a thing like it is and not address it by any other name, just to sound politically correct and please some people.
By the way, at the end of his exhortation, Governor Wike called on the congregation, with the permission of the Church, to join him and the choir to sing the first and last stanzas of the Hymn, SSS 577: “I need Thee Every Hour”. This was indeed quite apt and poignant, to capture the mood and state of affairs in our country today.
There’s definitely no doubt whatsoever that Nigeria needs help at this time in our nation’s evolution, as we celebrate 61 years of Independence.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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Soot: Can N’Delta Escape Doomsday?

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A popular saying in Nigeria’s ‘Pidgin’ English states: ‘Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. It simply means that while the monkey (which is usually smaller in size than the baboon) is working very hard to eke out a living for itself, the baboon uses its larger figure to intimidate the monkey and survive from the proceeds of the monkey’s efforts. This, in a nutshell, explains the plight of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The import of this popular saying in the context of this discourse is that while the Niger Delta Region produces the crude oil, which has been the mainstay of the country for over sixty years, and also bears the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation activities, the northern part of the country, which views leadership of the country as its birthright, enjoys more from the proceeds of crude oil.
Much have been said and written by different people, including scholars, about the plight of the people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, such that at some point, one may easily feel saturated, and possibly irritated, out of a feeling of over-information that now sounds hackneyed.
But the truth is that, from the point at which crude oil was first found in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, in present-day Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, till today, the life of the people in the Niger Delta region has never been the same. Rather than be a source of development to the people in all spheres as it is with the advanced climes, some of which do not have the quality of crude oil the region has, it has been a source of clear dehumanisation of the people.
The apparent euphoria that greeted the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country in anticipation of its implication in terms of what the people stand to benefit as host communities, at inception, soon gave way to nostalgic chronic acrimonious feelings as the days turned to weeks, months, years and now decades.
Perhaps what would amount to an inkling of what is now the fate of the people of the region today was the February 23, 1966 declaration of the Niger Delta Republic in what has become known as The Twelve-Day Revolution’ by the late Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, nicknamed Boro.
Boro’s grouse was the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefited mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and, at the time, the Eastern Region with capital in Enugu, while nothing was given to the Niger Delta people. He believed that the people of the Niger Delta deserved a larger share of proceeds from the oil wealth.
Consequently, he formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on that day and fought with Federal forces for twelve days before being defeated. Boro and his comrades were jailed for treason.
They were, however, granted amnesty by the Federal regime of General Yakubu Gowon on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in May 1967 on the condition that they fight for the Federal Government against the Biafrans. Boro, and some of his comrades, most prominently Owunaro, his second in command in the NDVF, subsequently enlisted in the Nigerian Army.
Boro was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian Army. He fought on the side of the Federal Government, but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (Okrika) in Rivers State.
But the struggle Boro started has taken different dimensions in the Niger Delta ever since, with seemingly less impact as far as the Federal Government’s response to the demands of the region is concerned. It’s such that after over sixty years of oil exploration and exploitation in the region, all the people have to show is what amounts to deliberate and planned, but gradual destruction of their sources of livelihood, leading to a life of penury, underdevelopment, and currently a possible end to their lives through endemic illnesses such as cancer and like ailments warranted by their exposure to the ravaging soot in the region.
Soot is a mixture of very fine black or brown particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. It is different from charcoal and other by-products of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles.
Beyond artisanal refining, possible causes of the soot also include emissions from asphalt factories, indiscriminate burning of mixed waste, burning of tyres and vehicular emissions, according to a Report by a technical team set up by the Rivers State Government in 2019, to generate preliminary air quality data in Port Harcourt. However, none of these has so infested the region’s cloud with soot as illegal oil bunkering.
Experts say that the small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets, because it can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs, which is why repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Soot is, therefore, more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home or environment.
In 2017, a reporter, Yomi Kazeem, wrote, “Across Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger-Delta region, environmental pollution has long been a part of daily lives. But while residents have become used to multiple oil spills which have damaged livelihoods and farmlands, they currently face a new kind of danger: rising black soot particles in the air. Since November, residents of oil industry hub city, Port Harcourt, are complaining about increased soot residue on surfaces in and out of their homes”.
Back then, Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment declared an air pollution emergency in the affected areas. The Ministry claimed that preliminary test samples of the soot indicated it was caused by incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing and illegal artisanal refinery operations.
In a bid to curb the pollution, Kazeem stated, the Ministry shut down an asphalt processing plant operating in the area. The State Government has also sealed off a Chinese company in the city for what it tagged ‘aggravated air pollution, and breach of environmental laws’.
On their part, residents petitioned the United Nations Environment Programme to intervene by investigating the problem while they subtly protested the increased pollution on social media, through the “#StopTheSoothashtag”.
Since then, the best that has been heard about addressing the issue of soot in the Niger Delta had been what can be easily dismissed as subtle complaints on social media by few concerned individuals and organisations involved in environmental health pursuits. Thus, the quantity of particles forming soot that is emitted into the air on a daily basis has increased almost unabated.
For the Federal and State Governments, their efforts so far had been at best mere media hypes in a make-belief establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, which the Federal Government also wants established in the north that does not produce oil, like it did in building refinery in Kaduna State, an act widely viewed as misplacement of priority as far as establishment of modular refineries as a solution to soot is concerned.
In 2013, scientists found out that dirty air caused more premature deaths than unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, and malnutrition in Africa. The obvious implication is that if the Niger Delta is increasingly infested with soot and genuine necessary steps are not taken to check it, the region will most likely go extinct in years to come. The form this will take, and how soon it will manifest are the questions that currently prop up in critical analyses.
During one of such analyses, an environmental toxicologist with the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Dr. Emmanuel Oriakpona, hinted that the most likely consequence of unchecked increase in soot infestation in the Niger Delta is loss of the region’s ecosystem and human health.
“We shall experience loss of our ecosystem and loss of our health. This is the summary of what will happen to us: major loss in our ecosystem. If you go to the mangroves and see the devastation by crude oil, and you also go and see what the people actually carrying out the refining process are going through, you’ll appreciate this better,” he said.
According to Dr. Oriakpona, the situation is worsened by the fact that there is an obvious collaboration between those involved in artisanal refining of crude oil and authorities vested with the responsibility of stopping it. The reason is that such authorities are rewarded with huge financial benefits accruable from the business. This is further buttressed by some key players in the illegal oil refining business whose locally made boats and products were at some points burnt by security agents who felt that their exploitation of the people involved in the illegal trade was challenged.

By: Soibi Max-Alalibo

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