…As state government, CLO call for calm
By Chioma Onuegbu
THOUSANDS of youths of Mkpat Enin local government area of Akwa Ibom state Thursday protested the exclusion of the Area from draft report of Environment Impact Assessment, EIA, for Utapate OML13 oil and gas exploration project.
The protesters who blocked the Eket-Ikot Abasi end of the East-West road causing travellers from neighbouring Rivers, and Bayelsa States and other local government areas in the state to be stranded after being held in traffic for more than 9 hours.
It was gathered that barring any intervention from authorities, the area may become a theatre of crisis and conflict as the ultimatum issued by Organized Mkpat Enin Host Communities and youths to Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigerian Limited (SEEPCO) and the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, over what they described as ill-treatment has already expired.
Addressing the aggrieved youths, Comrade Ini Ekanem, Chairman of Mkpat Enin Oil and Gas host communities said that youths of the area and people of Mkpat Enin host communities have vowed to use all legal means including protest to resist attempts by NPDC, SPDC to shortchange them.
Ekanem alleged that the NPDC had promised to Include Mkpat Enin LGA during a meeting it held on the 12th November 2019 at Eden Hotels Eket and another meeting held on 24th February 2020 at Watbridge Hotels Uyo.
He Wondered why his area was shortchanged after the representative had promised the stakeholders that Mkpat Enin LGA was among the Communities considered in their EIA study On OML /OPL-13.
Also the Chairman of National Youth Council, Mkpat Enin chapter, Emem Alex claimed that the company used divide and rule tactics to cause problems in the area, insisting that the firm must carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and respect all their rights.
“Youths and members of host communities have vowed to employ all legal means at their disposal to ensure that, as long as NPDC and their partners make use of Mkpat Enin land, roads and waters for their operations, they must follow due process.
“They must respect Mkpat Enin as a host community in the project, and further accord the area full right accrued to host communities as enshrined in the laws guiding oil and gas operations in the country”, he asserted.
Efforts by the commissioner for works, Prof. Eno Ibanga to calm the protesters yielded no much result as the youths blocked the road the whole day preventing the travellers from passing.
However, Ibanga assured them that the state government will act swiftly to address their grievances.
Similarly, Mr. Thomas Akpan, the Community Liaison Officer representing Mkpat Enin LGA On OML/ OPL -13, appealed to the protesters not to take laws into their hands, and promised, “I will ensure that your demands is taken to appropriate quarters”