On Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 the Kiisi Trust Fund hosted the first ever Clean Air Summit in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in partnership with Environmental Rights Action, Centre for Human Rights and Development, Suburbia 180 Foundation, and Citizens Information and Development Initiative, with the aim of creating a template for a systematic, coordinated, result oriented and science-based approach to dealing with the black soot air pollution in Rivers state. Since 2016, residents of Port Harcourt, Eleme and other adjoining towns and villages in Rivers State, Nigeria have observed an increase in the daily blanketing of the atmosphere of an oily soot compound, causing serious source of concern to the 5 million people who reside in the state.
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The Summit brought together state and national governmental agencies on the environment, environmental-focused civil society organizations, and environmental activists, to outline concrete steps forward the city and River State can take towards tackling the black soot challenge. The Summit was also an opportunity to create a platform to share state of the art knowledge on air pollution and how cities around the world have been able to address it in a manner that still supports economic development and promote sustainable cities, including developing a sustainable blueprint for managing the soot issue in Rivers State. A key outcome from the Summit was the consensus on the need to sustain an advocacy-based movement towards the creation of a Clean Air Bill that will be introduced in both the state and national level government levels, and the formulation of an environmental focused platform to champion issues like air pollution and other environmental hazards on a national level.
“Clean air, like safe portable drinking water, is a fundamental human right…and the pollution of our air is an even more deadly crisis than the Boko Haram crisis in the Northeast,” said Honorable Christian Ahiakwo, Chairman of the House Committee on Environment, Rivers State Assembly, who gave the keynote address at the Clean Air Summit.
The Kiisi Trust Fund is a donor-advised-fund managed by TrustAfrica in Nigeria. The Trust Fund, which had its genesis in the environmental rights struggle of the Ogoni peoples in the 1960s, is a grantmaking fund dedicated to the benefit of the Ogoni people in Rivers State, and gives out small grants for education, health, community development, skills development, women’s programs, environment, and other benefits for the Ogoni people and their communities. The vision of the Trust Fund is a prosperous, equitable, and democratic Ogoniland and its work and mission is to support organizations promoting peace, justice and sustainable development in Ogoniland. The Kiisi Trust was established in 2009 in an out-of-court as part settlement in a U.S. federal court against the Royal Dutch Shell Company by family members of men who were summarily executed by the government for their role in protesting the cultural and environmental devastation from Shell’s operations in Ogoniland. At the time of the settlement, the Ogoni plaintiffs stated that the Kiisi Trust “should stand as one legacy of the labors of our heroes’ past.”