saying that Rido is now better off with the refinery discharging its corporate social responsibility to it.
“I have been on the throne for 20 years now. When I mounted this throne the village was without electricity, we had no secondary school, no health facility, and no people that work in government. But thank God for the intervention of the KRPC we have all these now.”
However, findings showed little evidence to support the local chief’s assertion. The road leading to his palace is itself in a bad state.
Our correspondents, who visited the community weeks after the refinery restarted operations, saw flames flaring up from the refinery and the thick black smoke emitted from there diffusing into the village.
Refineries everywhere emit gases like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, methane and benzene which, according to research findings, are harmful to humans.
Rido residents prevailingly complain that gases emitted from the refinery have had grave health and environmental effect on them over time.
Pastor Kantoma Musa said, “This smoke is affecting our health because most times when our people go to the hospital they will be told they have liver problem, they will say it is this smoke.”
The villagers alleged that the company in 2012 dumped toxic waste close to a river in the village which led to the death of some children and an adult in the village as well as birds and animals in a nearby poultry farm before.
While residents complained of giving birth to children who talk abnormally allegedly due to the toxic waste dumped by KRPC, the company’s management dismissed such complaints as baseless because they are not backed by clinical evidences.
Some medical experts affirmed that exposure over time to pollutants from especially refineries are deadly.
A Consultant Cardiologist, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr. Dike Ojji said air pollution from refineries has been linked to cardiovascular diseases because it causes inflammation or a reaction on the wall of the vessel that supplies blood to the heart.
“When it does that, it can cause some form of blockage of those arteries so that it can contribute to what we call heart attack whereby there is reduced blood supply to the heart.”
Dr. Best Ordinioha, a Consultant Public Health Physician, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt said exposure to flares from refineries also causes deadly problems to the respiratory system.
“When it affects the heart and the lungs people can die, especially those that are old and those that are sick,” he said.
Dr. Ordinioha also noted the possibility of contacting cancer from refinery’s waste discharges.
“Wastewater discharges are at times supposed to be treated, but in a lot of cases they are not well treated, which means they can contaminate the environment; a lot of these hydrocarbons are known to be carcinogenic. People can get into contact with those cancer-causing chemicals through water and they can get those carcinogens through their food supply; but in most cases it is not usually through the gas flare but through probably the refinery’s effluent discharges,” he said.
The plight of Rido community is stirring concern among environmental experts who are calling for improved legislation on air pollution standards from refineries.
Checks show that many countries have taken bold steps in implementing standards for refinery emissions.
In the US, for instance, new air standards for oil refinery emissions, was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year. The new standards for the first time ever require all refineries in the US to monitor and report releases of cancer-causing air emissions into local neighborhoods.
The new rule directs refineries to install air monitors “on the fence” where pollution leaves the refinery and pours into neighboring communities.
The Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, said Nigeria has similar laws but lacks institutions empowered to enforce them.
“Enforcement has always been the issue; take for instance, do we even have statistics on the gas that has been flared? We don’t have that, and even if we have it, where is it? These are the data that these communities or institutions will use to prosecute or hold companies that are emitting gases to account.”
Lawal said the impact of refineries emissions is a major concern because there have been reported cases over time of high level of cancer and liver failure.
The DPR whose responsibilities it is to enforce environmental and Safety considerations in refineries design and construction as contained in the Petroleum Refining Regulation 1974, require the flare stack of a refinery be located, “at a distance of 60m (200ft) from the unit or storage tanks” and for the flare to conform to the approved limit of atmospheric emission.”
The Managing Director of KRPC, Idi Muktar, said although it is the duty of the government at all levels to provide social amenities to communities, KRPC has been doing a lot to the neighbouring communities, including in Rido, in order to complement governments’ efforts.
He said the company has been investing in the social advancement of the communities, which include Rido, by providing them safe drinking water from boreholes, renovating and establishing primary schools as well as providing books and furniture, medical facilities and youth empowerment and employment.