Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, has ordered the shutdown of illegal crude oil refining sites in the state with immediate effect.
The governor gave the directive on Saturday in his new year message released by Kelvin Ebiri, his spokesman.
Wike also asked council chairmen and community leaders to report those behind illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities to his office for prosecution.
According to him, the measure became imperative to contain the menace of soot pollution which has continued to endanger public health in the state.
The governor lamented that despite bringing the issue to the attention of the federal government on numerous occasions, nothing has been done to address the situation.
“Since the federal security agencies have largely refused to stop the illegal crude oil refining activities in the state, we have no option than to take necessary measures to tackle this particular and direct challenge to our collective health and survival by ourselves,” he said.
“Consequently, I have directed the chairman of Port Harcourt city local government council to go after all the illegal crude oil refining sites along Creek road and adjourning areas of the city and shut them down with immediate effect.
“Furthermore, all local government chairmen are directed to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities and report to my office for further action.”
The development comes months after an investigation by TheCable revealed that residents of the state are “dying slowly” due to soot pollution.
To ascertain the effect of soot on residents, TheCable facilitated lung function tests and chest x-ray for 10 people living in areas where the scourge is prevalent.
According to findings, none of the participants had standard lung function activities “due to environment, of which soot (pollution) is a major factor”.
The report also revealed the failure of regulatory agencies and security operatives tasked with addressing the situation.