As humanity gathers again on this 5th June, 2019, to celebrate the World Environment Day, it is worthy to note that the choice of the theme of this year's celebration, "Air Pollution", is very timely and urgent. There is no other time in human history that our air and atmosphere have been as polluted as we have today.
In our country, Nigeria, air pollution confronts us everywhere as we set about our daily activities: from gas flaring in the Niger Delta to the unregulated vehicular emissions on our roads; from the use of diesel engines to petrol generating sets, particularly the one called ' I pass my neighbour', to light our homes, to the burning of biomass and waste; from the illegal artisanal refining of crude oil, to the burning of tyres. All these, amongst several others, are contributing daily to compromise the integrity and quality of air in our environment and the country at large, thereby causing air pollution.
Air pollution has been reported to be responsible for the death of millions of people every year, amongst whom are children. It is estimated that 90% of the world population breath polluted air, every five seconds, somebody around the world dies prematurely as a result of air pollution.
It is no wonder then that ahead of this year's observance of the world environment day, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Prof. David Boyd, has called on States to take urgent actions to improve air quality in order to fulfill their human rights obligations.
According to the UN Expert, the right to healthy environment is fundamental to human well-being and legally recognized by over 150 Nation- States at the national and general levels. It should be globally reaffirmed to ensure the enjoyment of these rights by everyone everywhere while upholding the human rights principles of universality and non-discrimination.
This, therefore, is a Clarion call on our Governments, particularly, the States and Local Governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens to join forces together in a concerted effort to fight air pollution.
It is time for the Rivers State Government to rise to the challenge and confronts the menace of the three-year-old soot that has ravaged the entire State with the concentration of the tiny invisible airborne particles that are threatening the health of citizens of the State, and polluting the environment.
It is time for the federal government of Nigeria and the multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to stop gas flaring and safe the lives of the peoples of the region from its attendant pollutions.
It is time for the local government and our communities to stand up against illegal artisanal refining of crude oil and also enforce regulations relating to the emissions from our vehicles.
In celebrating this year's international environment day, I urge be all of us, including the federal government, Rivers State Government and the local government Councils, citizens and companies to make a renewed commitment and take series of bold actions to end gas flaring, stop soot and kick out illegal artisanal refining of crude oil, otherwise called ' bunkering'.
I wish you all a happy and committed world Environment Day Celebration, 2019.