By Chioma Onuegbu
UYO—FOUR core oil host communities in Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket and Onna Local Government Areas, Akwa Ibom State, have asked the Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, MPNU, to vacate their lands if it was averse to relocating its administrative headquarters to the state, its operational base, as directed by the Federal Government.
Leaders of the communities, who spoke when the Ad-hoc committee set up by the state House of Assembly, invited them and top management of Mobil for investigative hearing on the controversial N8 billion counterpart fund payment by the company for the construction of Eket-Ibeno road, said the operational license of the multinational oil firm should also be revoked.
The leaders, who strongly complained about the unwillingness of the company to reposition to the state, stressed that the issue of relocation, which is part of the MoU signed with the company, almost 19 years ago, remains one major area of divergence between core communities in the state and the multinational oil giant, over the years.
Communities put in danger— Essien
A former Minister, Chairman of Mobil Core Communities Technical Committee and Ata of Ekid, Eket local government area, Chief Nduese Essien, who presented a position paper by the core oil communities, said the issue which has occupied the front burner in recent times, has further exposed the agonies of Mobil’s host communities have been subjected to since the company started oil exploration in the state in 1969.
He asserted it was unfortunate that the company had consciously and consistently derogated from most of its obligations in the MoU of November, 3, 1998, which also included engagement and employment of more indigenes into the managerial cadre, periodic review of the MoU after every two years, among others.
…faults company’s reasons to remain in Lagos
Essien said: “Having been around here since 1969 and having made billions of petro dollars from our communities, Mobil has defiantly resisted the need to relocate its administrative headquarters from Lagos to where the money is sourced from. Before now, the crux of the company’s argument on this point was the absence of critical supporting infrastructure like an airport, telecommunication facilities and so on in addition to the argument of the need to be close to NNPC at Lagos for easy interface with the corporation.
“Unfortunately and as elaborately canvassed in our write up published in some national dailies recently, the massive infrastructural advancements made in the state in recent times and the relocation of NNPC away from Lagos have rendered the company’s arguments for resisting relocation to Akwa Ibom unsustainable,” he stated.
N8 bn not charitable contribution but palliative
On the controversial N8bn counterpart fund, Essien explained that the money was a palliative made available to the host communities by Mobil after series of meetings between Mobil and the technical committee set up to resolve the protests by the host communities over non-payment of compensation for the November 9, 2012 oil pipeline spill at Idaho platform, which almost paralyzed operations of the company.
Essien, who gave more insight into the circumstance that forced MPNU to pay the N8 billion for Eket-Ibeno road project, listed other projects in the 2012 palliative to include N6 billion for Special Project 11, N3.8billion for Trauma Centre at University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, UUTH, N4.8billion for constructing Faculty of Engineering, Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden, N1billion Ibeno Beach Enhancement project and N5bn for Qua Steel Revamp project.
“It must be put on record that the N8bn for the Eket-Ibeno Road project was never a voluntary contribution of Mobil. It came as a result of the company’s attempt at pacifying the core communities over their insistence on the payment of compensation for the incessant oil spills particularly that of November 2012.
“It was, therefore, nauseating and provocative to see large billboards proclaiming the road project as Mobil’s contribution to the communities, while NLNG is voluntarily contributing N50 billion out of N100 billion to construct Bodo-Bonny road. Apart from the payment for Eket-Ibeno road project and the Special projects 11, the other projects have been forgotten,” he said.
The ex-minister added: “Even there are clear indications that Special projects 11 which took off in 2014 in the core communities and the contiguous communities of Mbo, Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo LGAs have been fraught with frustrating circumstances, including but not limited to unrealistic payment milestones, and non-adherence to stipulated payment timelines.”
Vacate our land – Monarch
On his part, Chairman Akwa Ibom State Traditional Ruler’s Council and paramount ruler of Ibeno, HRM Owong Effiong Achianga, said that the company should vacate the land if it was not prepared to relocate to its operational base. He also advocated that Mobil’s operational license should be revoked if the company continues in its unserious attitude towards the implementation of the terms of the MoU it entered with its host communities in the state as well as compelled to pay compensation for all environmental hazard inflicted on the communities as a result of its exploration activity.
“We will not continue to tolerate such attitude any longer. If they do not want to relocate, they should vacate our lands. The Federal Government may be economical with the truth since the get 60 per cent from the proceeds, but what about the host communities? The royal father lamented.
C’ttee adjourns to June 30
Meanwhile the Ad-hoc committee adjourned the investigative hearing to Friday, June, 30 for the top management of Mobil to make its own presentation as chairman of the committee, Mr. Otobong Jonathan, refused to listen to Mobil’s representative and Head, Media and Communications, insisting that the committee would only listen to the official with the rank of directors, and not those at the lower cadre.