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Wetin we gain? A’Ibom oil communities ask

IN THE SHADOWS OF OIL AND GAS FLARES:
Images of host communities in the Niger Delta region.

…Oil multinationals pollute our rivers, lands, deny us jobs—Residents
… demand functional medicare, education from govt

By Chioma Onuegbu

OIL communities in Ibeno Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, have grumbled that oil multinationals operating in their areas refused to provide employment for indigenes to improve their living conditions after polluting their waters and farmlands, jeopardising fishing and farming occupations, the major means of livelihood of the people.

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Residents also lamented the absence of schools and health facilities in their localities.

They spoke when PolicyAlert, a non-governmental organisation, NGO, working for social, economic justice in the Niger Delta region, took the WetinweGain campaign to their communities, last weekend.

Our people unemployed —Elder Essiet, village head

Village Head of Upenekang community, Elder James Essiet, who said many qualified graduates were roaming the streets jobless, lamented the untold suffering his people have been passing through, over the decades, despite their status as an oil-producing community.

His words: “People of Ibeno communities are suffering because the oil companies situated here have not contributed to the development of the area. We do not have functional health centre in my community and no unemployment opportunities.

“Even the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is not helping us. They have abandoned many projects, including water project in Ibeno. I am calling on government to come to our rescue. My people are jobless.”

They don’t employ our graduates—Isokobo

A resident  of Iwuokpom village, Ms Veronica Isokobo,  wondered why ExxonMobil, an oil giant operating in the area, failed to employ  qualified  indigenous graduates.

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She said: ”In the past they used to give us the excuse that they cannot employ us because we are not qualified or do not have degrees. So many of us have our degrees today and still they refuse to employ us.

“I have been to other states and I noticed that in those states, graduates are considered, but it is not happening here in Ibeno. It is sad and discouraging. They have polluted our water where we fish; our farmlands are gone: our sources of livelihood. Yet they cannot give us jobs or improve our poor living conditions”

No devt projects in Ibeno — Chief Akpan

Chief Gibson Akpan, who resides Ikot Inwang community bemoaned: “Despite the money coming from the oil activities by multinational oil companies operating here, we are not seeing any development project in Ibeno.

“We do not benefit from the government and Exxon Mobil.

“There are 26 villages in Ibeno Local Government Area and we do not have enough schools to cater for the education need of our people. Education facilities in Ibeno are very poor. We have only one government-approved secondary school in Ibeno.

“And that is why the rate of illiteracy is still very high. There are parents who cannot afford to send their children and wards to private schools. We are saying government should please do something about this situation.”

Use peaceful approach — PolicyAlert ED

In his remarks, the Executive Director of PolicyAlert, Mr. Tijah-Bolton Akpan, urged the communities to, henceforth, take active part in tracking funds allocated for development projects in their area, adding that they should adopt a peaceful approach  in the execution.

Akpan stressed: “Every year, there is a calculation that is done for companies like ExxonMobil, Frontier Oil and others to pay to the government so government can provide basic amenities to the host community.

“Government is expected to provide basic amenities like health care centre, schools, food and so on.

“So it is your right as citizens to approach these companies and ask why they are busy polluting the community without the community benefiting from the oil and gas extraction. You need to find out how much these oil-extracting companies pay to government.

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“You can use data to ask government questions on what development they have brought to your community with the money.

“That is why we are bringing this data to the community to show them so they can know the actual amount government is earning from the oil-extracting companies or how much the companies are paying government to provide basic amenities to their host communities.”

Vanguard

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