Opinion: He who comes to Rivers State must come with a nose mask

By Okenyi Kenechi

It is no longer news that there is a health disaster hovering in the air in Rivers State. What is news, however, is that nothing is being done to solve the problem. If at all anything is being done as the government wants us to believe, it is grossly inadequate relative to the magnitude of the problem.

Those who are in charge does not necessarily see it as a problem in that regard that requires urgent and proactive actions. No. It is viewed, unnecessarily, through the prism of politics and so, the issue of apportioning blames have risen, bi-partisan throwing of political tantrums, especially when the hospitals are unequipped to handle large-scale disease outbreak.

Every bad thing that happens offers the opportunity for the Nigerian politician to mount the stage and deceive instead of act. It is has become a national norm while people wait to die.

The Minister of Environment was in Rivers State last week for the Hyprep health intervention program in Ogoni. Keen observers of government’s response to the soot menace expected the minister to hold robust discussions with the Rivers State Governor or representatives of the state government and issue a reassuring statement that will calm frayed nerves and give the people the assurance that government is doing something but that did not happen.

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No other person but the minister declared that they have identified 11 sources of hydrocarbon soot plaguing Rivers State but maintained that the ministry will not make that discovery public. The question being, what are they doing about it?

It is one thing to identify problems. It another thing altogether to solve the problem. In a country where lives of the citizens mean something to the government, the Minister would have stayed behind in Port Harcourt to monitor government’s actions towards eliminating the sources of the soot but that is not happening. Abuja does not care. This also passes a vote of no confidence in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria with a demand for it to be made more flexible.

Does Brick house care? Your guess is as good as mine. The governor has come out to say that there is nothing he can do about it but the soot issue formed the basis of which the politicians campaigned in 2019.

It is good that residents of Rivers State have taken up the matter by protesting in order to draw government’s attention to the problem. I think that it should be sustained in a way that makes the official government’s silence on the matter difficult.

There should be daily sitting out to draw the government’s attention to the problem. The government should set up local monitoring committees in the areas where bunkering activities are taking place in order to obtain necessary information on how to stop it.

The Federal Government should encourage security agencies to stop burning illegal refineries but find another means which is different from discharging the illegally refined products into water bodies.

Government both at the federal and state levels should create jobs and get the youths engaged in order to curb the menace young people falling back into illegalities such as bunkery and other forms of economic sabotage.

The government owes the people a duty to stop this menace before it is too late or the people will act.

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