Okparaolu Chioma Chris, a Nigerian lawyer, has sued the Nigerian Government over the black soot epidemic in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, and its devastating effects on the health and wellbeing of residents of the state.
Chris in a suit filed at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, is asking the court to compel the Nigerian Government to pay N500million as damages for gross violation of the applicant’s fundamental human rights.
The suit also wants a court to mandate the government to take “bold and reasonable steps to stop or minimise to the barest minimum the emission of black soot in Rivers State and to begin the process of cleaning the air space and environment of the state”.
In the court documents obtained by SaharaReporters on Saturday, the applicant is praying the court for the following reliefs, “A declaration that the applicant and indeed other indigenes of Rivers State, Nigerians and all human beings living and resident in Port Harcourt and in Rivers State and its environs are entitled to the best attainable state of physical and mental health and a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development as guaranteed by Articles 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ratification and enforcement) Act laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004.
“A declaration that the act of the respondents in neglecting several pleas and petitions form the government of Rivers State and her citizens, alike to urgently intervene, stop and remedy the hazardous atmospheric condition of Port Harcourt and other neighbouring areas and local governments of Rivers State affected by the dangerous airborne particulate commonly known as black soot amounts to a gross violation of the applicant’s right and indeed that of other indigenes of Rivers State, Nigerians and all human beings living and resident in Port Harcourt and its environs to enjoy physical and mental health.
“An order of this honourable court mandating to pay to the applicant sum of N500million only as damages for gross violation of the applicant’s fundamental human rights as guaranteed under Articles 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ratification and enforcement) Act laws of the federation of Nigeria 2004.
“An order of this honourable court directing the respondent to immediately take bold and reasonable steps to stop or minimise to the barest minimum the emission of black soot in Rivers State and to begin the process of cleaning the air space and environment of Rivers State. And for such order to orders that this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case.”
In the affidavit in support of the application, the applicant explained that, “Sometime in the month of April 2016, many Nigerians including myself living in Port Harcourt, began noticing the presence of an airborne particulate now commonly called “black soot” within the city of Port Harcourt and its environs.
“Black soot then was visible on white clothes spread outside and on the body of cars parked outside and it even increasingly began to affect the paint especially white colour used in the painting of houses in Port Harcourt.
“When the emission of the black spot continued unabated, and began to be seen in peoples’ living homes and that of myself, I and other residents of Port Harcourt began raising the alarm to both the government of Rivers State and the respondents on the dangerous effects of black soot.
“It has been widely reported that top government functionaries, politicians and general persons of influence have started using the M95 nose mask that filters the air. This mask is very expensive and it is far from my reach and those of ordinary Rivers people and Nigerians living and doing business in Rivers State.”