From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Residents of Port Harcourt metropolis, you may call it Old Port Harcourt or Township, the heart of Rivers State, are living in fear daily. It is the fear of being unable to speak out against illegal oil dealers.
Places like Bonny Street, Opobo Crescent, Victoria, Niger, Bende, and Ilorin streets have all been converted to garbage dumps. The boys in the illegal oil business in connivance with some “Area Boys” have taken control of that axis of Port Harcourt.
A nursery and primary school is located close to the debris. Lorry drivers and illegal oil dealers have taken over these streets, creating an unhealthy environment in the neighbourhood.
When Daily Sun visited these streets, it was discovered that the gutters (drainages) have become defecated. Odour of urine oozed out profusely, more tense during sunny weather.
There is no functional drainage system, as the illegal oil dealers have used sack bags concealed with diesel to block them. Drivers use their lorries to block the roads impassable by motorists.
A resident of Opobo Crescent, Michael Emmanuel, said no one would complain because of the people involved in the business: “We are living in fear in this area. Nobody can open his or her mouth to complain. If you talk, you will be attacked or beaten up. Even, they are ready to stab you, and tell you that you cannot do anything.”
He alleged that because of much money the “Area Boys” make, it would be difficult to stop them from the sharp business: “These boys collect huge money ranging from N500 to N1,000 for daily parking. Go to these streets, and see how diesel, oil has condemned some sections of the streets. Like the Crescent and Crowther Street, you can’t conveniently pass through them.”
Another resident, Brown, said: “Most times, we are scared coming outside because of the kind of boys involved in the business. The boys, who push the drums of diesel from the waterfronts to uplands are deadly. Their ogas are more deadly. They can easily crush whoever attempts to stop them.
“The illegal oil activities are mostly carried out in the night. Some nights, the noise of their lorries would be till dawn. It is a disturbing situation.
“Look at the gutters. They have all blocked. Whenever it rains, nobody passes these places. We are tired and afraid because we don’t know what to do again.
“We are afraid because, sometimes, the oil boys, trailer drivers and Area Boys engage in heated argument and from our house, you would be hearing their slangs, very rough slangs. We are not safe here.”
Similarly, a female who declined to give her identity for security reasons, said: “On many occasions, police patrol teams had come here. They collect their own shares, sometimes, diesel filled in 25 litres jerry cans. Government should do something.