The Rivers State government appears to have finally removed the wax that blocked its ears to the cries of its citizens over the toxic soot fumes from artisanal crude oil refining sites. It recently showed its strong arm by closing down scores of illegal refining sites for diesel and kerosene, locally known as ‘Kpofire’. Yet, as both the illegal processing of crude oil and dismantling of the illegal sites destroy the swamps, creeks of Rivers state throwing residents into distress and thousands of fisher folk into poverty, a vast ocean of wasted lives and opportunity is all the people have reaped out of a federal system of government in which local people are largely denied legitimate stake in the lucrative oil and gas sector, forcing many to devise a path to benefit. In the mean time, well connected Nigerians from distant states enjoy access and resulting benefits. IbibaDonPedro reports on developments and directs attention to sane solutions long suggested by experts and observers.
While residents of Port Harcourt hesitantly enjoy some respite from the invasive soot which enters nostrils and blackens the lungs, slips through barred doors and windows of Rivers people for years, they wonder if the current methods deployed by the Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike will prove sustainable.
Governor Wike had two weeks ago given orders for the dismantling of the ‘Kpofire pots in the massively damaged forest and swamp locations in which they are located across the state. He had himself led the charged going into locations in Emohua LGA and others. He charged local government chairmen and traditional rulers to monitor, effect the destruction of all sites where artisanal refining takes place. One Divisional Police Officer, DPO has been ordered redeployed from the State. Many traditional rulers find themselves literally torn between obedience to the Governor’s orders and loyalty to the leaders of the powerful violent cult groups which run the artisanal refinery sites with the support of some police officers and soldiers eagerly posted to Rivers State.
Many residents welcome the respite that has come to the beleaguered state in the past two weeks. However some political opponents of the Governor are not in the least impressed by his seeming quixotic foray into the Kpofire issue, an armada of security operatives in tow to the dens of Kpofire shutting down the camps locally known as ‘pot’. A post which went viral on whatsapp platforms last week captures the concerns of many Rivers residents and others who fear that the respite they enjoy today will be brief;