A Chinese, Liu Yangxi, owns ethanol coy in Benue

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By Sunday Ogli

IT appears his traducers are unrelenting; which is why there is a flurry of allegations against him, including the one that tends to foist the ownership of an ethanol firm on him even when the ownership is public knowledge.

That allegation trended when Chief Samuel Ortom was at his second term as governor of Benue State. He told those that cared to listen that he is not the owner, moreso that is nothing him to the company.

In spite of that, the allegation has continued. Is it that his accusers are not aware of his refutation or that there is something they want to make out of it?

Chief Ortom’s media aide, Terver Akase, aware that falsehood could wear the garment of truth if allowed to trend uncontroverted, has dared those who still go to town with the story that his principal own the ethanol company to show proof or apologise to him.

“We challenge those peddling the story that Ortom owns Pure Bio Tech to make public evidence to support their claims or tender apologies to the former Governor,” Akase stated.

He said that Chief Ortom does not hold even a single share in the company and he is not remotely affiliated with it.

He continued: “Though the report in question did not provide evidence to back its allegation that Chief Ortom owns the company, it is important to once again state that the former Governor is not the owner of the enterprise.

“The narrative that Chief Ortom owns Pure Bio-Tech was crafted by persons who wanted to take over government in the state by all means before the 2023 elections.

“Such individuals manufactured blatant lies against Chief Ortom whom they accused of purchasing every available land in the state capital and owning every major private business in the state.

“Sadly, some people believed the campaign of lies and hate against Chief Ortom before and during the last election.”

Akase recalled that Stephen Numbeve who was recently appointed by Governor Hyacinth Alia as the State Project Coordinator, Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP, had served as the Resource Manager of Pure Bio-Tech right from its inception till his appointment in government and had remained silent when the anti Ortom campaign on account of the company and other investments was ongoing before the election, only to he came out after the election to make social media posts to disclose the real owner of the firm.

“The same Numbeve had apologized to Chief Ortom on the 15th of March, 2021 when the Governor paid an unexpected visit to the company shortly after it began operations without following due process.

“Again, in April 2023, the Ortom administration ordered for urgent investigation into activities of the company when it was discovered that its sewage disposal system was emptying waste into River Benue thereby contaminating the water and endangering aquatic life in the river,” Akase said.

The excesses of the company was discovered when viral video trending on social media had exposed a surface drainage allegedly constructed by the firm through which waste from its premises was emptied into the river thereby contaminating the river and threatening its aqualife.

Accordingly, Chief Ortom had dispatched three commissioners, including that of Water Resources to find out the development at the company and report back.

He commended the patriotic disposition of the Benue Hike Tourism group which raised alarm over the matter and assured that his administration will continue to accord priority to the safety of Benue people.

After discovering that Pure Bio-Tech actually disposed factory waste into the river, the National Environmental Standard Regulatory and Enforcement Agency, NESREA, sealed it up.

The Director General of NESREA, Professor Aliyu Jauro, maintained that facilities’ compliance with laid down environmental laws was a must, for any company operating in the country.

The Agency in a statement said the Pure Bio-Tech Company Limited situated along Gboko Road flauted Regulations 2009 S.I No.36 and National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations 2009 S.I No.28.

Section 36 of the National Environmental and Waste Control Regulation 2009 states that: “No person shall carry out an act or acts which directly or indirectly causes, or may cause immediate or subsequent water pollution.

It continues, “No person shall throw or cause to throw into or near a water body any liquid, solid or gaseous substance or deposit any such substance in or near waterbody, as to cause pollution.”

NESREA in a statement signed by an Assistant Director, Press, Amaka Ejiofor, said the Pure Bio-Tech Company Limited in Makurdi flaunted these provisions and empowered the Agency to invoke the relevant sanction.

“For discharging untreated effluent into water bodies thereby endangering human lives and the environment, and also flouting extant environmental laws and standards, NESREA could not help but protect the environment by halting further dangers.

“This production of Ethanol using cassava is a wet process that requires the installation of a functional Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) which would ensure that waste from these processes is well treated before being discharged into the environment.

“In March 2023 the Facility Consultant carried out an Environmental Compliance Monitoring (ECM), and the Report of the Effluent analyzed by the Consultant was submitted to the NESREA Field Office Makurdi on the 16th April, 2023.

“The Report revealed that most of the parameters analyzed from the Effluent were above NESREA Permissible level as provided under the National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations 2009 S.I N0.28. The facility had earlier been issued notices of compliance concerns to halt production until a functional ETP is fully installed but it failed to comply.

“The non-availability of the ETP is in clear violations of the provisions of the National Environmental (Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Soap and Detergent Manufacturing Industries) Regulations 2009 S.I No.36 and National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations 2009 S.I No.28.

“NESREA moved in to avoid further endangering of lives of residents who use water from the river for their basic household needs.

“This is in conformity with the provisions of the NESREA Act 2007 (as Amended), which allows the Agency to carry out such enforcement activity in situations where it becomes expedient and necessary to halt an action posing imminent danger to human life, animal the environment.

“In addition to not having an ETP, the facility was also found to be operating without an Environmental Impact Statement, and did not complete the process of conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before commencement of its operation which contravenes the EIA Act CAP. E12 of LFN, 2004.

“Also, the Facility operates without relevant Environmental Permits contrary to the National Environmental (Permitting and Licensing System) Regulations 2009 S.I N0.29.

“The facility therefore remains sealed while investigations continue. At the conclusion of investigations, the appropriate sanctions will be meted out on the company.”

Few weeks after the seal-off, the management of the Company said it has installed a N7.5billion state-of-the-art functional Effluent Treatment Plant, to ensure that all liquid and solid wastes are pre-treated, recycled and/or re-used.

Mr Stephen Number who was the Corporate Communication and Public Relations Manager of the firm, attributed the disposal of effluent into the river to an unforseen accident and apologised on behalf of the firm.

Numbeve who noted that the firm was a law abiding entity whose value chain benefits over 30,000 Nigerians explained that “in April, 2023, there was an accidental discharge of untreated effluent with sludge from the facility into the Benue River in Bezu Village our host community.

“The sludge from a by-product (bio-gas) was allowed to move into a ‘Saver Pit’ which got filled-up when the engineers had shutdown operations for the day; the sludge then spilled down the drains into the river without pre-treatment.

“It is important to make it clear that the said discharge was not a continuous one as being widely reported. It occurred just that moment while the facility’s ETP then was under a test run. We erred, we were sanctioned according to the environmental laws, our facility was sealed off by NESREA on 17th April for almost two weeks, but most importantly, we have learnt our lessons.”

The Corporate Communication Manager who lamented that the firm lost millions of Naira within the period it was shut said “after complying with stipulated conditions for unsealing in line with NESREA’s enforcement procedures, including conducting independent physicochemical analysis, ascertaining the functionality of ETP, payment of fines, our company was unsealed on 29th April, 2023 and we have resumed operations.

“Pure Bio-Tech has a vision to become a leading environmental friendly company in Benue State and the North Central Nigeria. We are adopting the circular economy approach to waste management. Now, all solid and liquid wastes are converted into biogas, fertilizer, and even the treated wastewater is now being recycled. Nothing is to be discharged into the environment or river, anymore.

“Beside the incident, Pure Biotech is not discharging any effluent into the environment, river or any water body whatsoever. We have installed a state-ofthe-art ETP worth millions of dollars.

“Our ETP is functional and all liquid and solid wastes (sludge) are pre-treated, recycled and/or re-used. Our generators for lightings are being powered by bio-gas from the wastes manufactured at the ETP.

“Our company has completed our Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, processes duly approved and are awaiting EIS certification by the Federal Ministry of Environment. We are also equipping our standard laboratory to ensure that products, effluent and air quality analysis, all meet SON, NESREA and international standards, respectively.”

Numbeve who also clarified that the firm is wholly owned by a Chinese, Mr. Liu Yangxi whose Nigerian name is Jerry Pure debunked rumours that Governor Samuel Ortom has a stake in the firm saying “he does not own any share in the company as many erroneously believed.”