Host communities to the ongoing Ibom deep seaport project have been assured of Akwa Ibom state government’s decision to include them in all stages of the project and when it commences.
This assurance was given by the state government through the Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom deep seaport, Mr Akan Okon, when he led officials of his ministry and the technical committee on Ibom deep seaport on a courtesy call on the paramount ruler of Ibeno, HRM Effiong Bassey Archanga, at his palace in Ibeno on Saturday.
Okon said the essence of the visit was to get feedback from stakeholders of host communities concerning the design of the project.
“The reason for this visit is to obtain the feedback and opinion of the stakeholders regarding the design of the project.
“We are here to start on the right note. We want to ensure that at the end of this meeting we have stakeholders’ support for this project and this will not be the last community engagement, it’s going to be a continuous process until the project is completed”.
The commissioner maintained that input from all stakeholders will help in the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA and to assess the social performance of the project, adding that the people-oriented approach was a strategy to ensure seamless execution and operation of the project.
“Investment and capital, that is money, is a coward and will not go to where there is a problem. As such, this project is a public-private partnership model needs to have the backing of the people so that we can have a seamless and peaceful operation.
He further said that the meeting was to brainstorm on the system of consultation and grievances handling mechanism, saying it is important to take into consideration the views of stakeholders at every stage of the project.
While describing Ibeno as the most peaceful oil-producing community in Nigeria, Mr Okon expressed confidence that looking at a cross-section of very enlightened participants at the visit there was the assurance of peaceful resolution of any conflict that may arise during the course of the project.
In his remarks, the paramount ruler of Ibeno, HRM Effiong Bassey Archanga, thanked Governor Udom Emmanuel for taking pragmatic steps to bring the Ibom deep seaport project to reality after many years.
He commended the governor for entrusting the project into the competent hands, saying the courtesy visit was very significant to Ibeno people and the entire Akwa Ibom state.
“The Ibom deep seaport project is very dear to Ibeno people and we ask that the project be handled with efficiency in order to reap its benefits when operational”.
The royal father however noted with regret that Ibeno has been a victim of oil and gas exploration in the past and have learnt hard lessons as such any project in the area should, first of all, have a functional EIA/MoU and an operational MoU with Ibeno people.
He also made a case for adequate compensation for relocation of affected people and property, good community relationship between investors, contractors and the people, implementation of local content law especially on employment, speedy completion of the Eket – Ibeno road as well as renaming of the project to Ibeno Deep seaport, Akwa Ibom state, to reflect the location of the project and honour the contributions of Ibeno people to the project.
He assured the government of the cooperation and support of the traditional stool and entire Ibeno people towards the success of the project.
There was a short presentation by the chairperson of the technical committee on Ibom deep seaport, Mrs Mfon Usoro, explaining the location, design and other technical information about the deep seaport project.
According to her, the project is a blessing to Akwa Ibom as it will create over 300, 000 direct jobs when it commences. She asked for support from Ibeno people saying maximum acceptability will go a long way to ensure the project is more attractive than other similar competing projects across the country.
Also present at the event was the vice-chairman of Ibeno, Sir Sunday Etok Isokobo, wife of the paramount ruler, Akwa Obonganwan Theresa B. Archanga, a cross-section of traditional rulers of Ibeno, members of Ibeno political class, members of the technical committee on Ibom deep seaport including Rear Admiral Francis Akpan, Engr. Umotong and officials of Pricewaters house, women groups, youth groups and others.