AKWA IBOM, Nigeria – The people of Ukpenekang in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have raised the alarm over the effects of gas flaring and exploration in their community.
The village head of Ukpenekang, Chief Joseph Eshett, told a Non Governmental Organisation, Policy Alert during an advocacy visit on Wednesday that the vibration from extractive activities has caused severe quakes and cracks to their houses and as a result has threatened the safety of the people.
The monarch complained over the height of gas flaring in the area, noting that it has caused respiratory problems and corrosion of roofs within the community.
According to him, “Environmental pollution has triggered high rate of death within our community. Settlers are facing life threatening challenges. The oil exploration is turning out to be our doom.”
In their respective presentations, members of the community noted that American Oil Giant, Mobil among other oil related companies including Frontier oil, Seven Energy, Seven Uquo Gas limited and Accugas operating in the area have failed to honour the signed memorandum of understanding with the oil producing community adding that their operations have negatively affected them for years.
The women leader of Okposo1, Helen Atito, who spoke on behalf of the women, complained over oil spillage affecting the aquatic environment. She noted that because of the spillage, there are barely fishes to be caught for sales. This she complained has led to high cost of food and by extension caused poverty.
She also complained of the inadequate medical facility which she said has led to maternal deaths during childbirth as expectant mothers are forced to visit local birth attendants during delivery.
On the occasion, the advocacy organization shared to the community simplified data on transactions between the government and oil companies operating in the area while affording members of the community a space to relate their experiences with the companies and government agencies that receive oil revenues.
Iniobong Usen, Lead Data and Extractive Director of Policy Alert educated the community on the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) Audit reports. He offered insight to the fact that Exxon Mobil paid education taxes of $266.5m (81bn) between 2015 and 2016, yet one of Exxon Mobil host communities, Ibeno, has only one Secondary school which he described as forlorn serving twenty-six villages.
On his own, Executive Director, Policy Alert, Tijah Bolton-Akpan informed the people of the Exxon Mobil payment of NDDC levies of $314.8m (96bn) between 2014 and 2016.
He noted that it was a sad narrative that the area still experience abandoned NDDC shoreline protection projects and water schemes in Ibeno.
He emphasized the need to speak up so as to put an end to the ills that have befallen the community, charging them to use the data being shared with them as a tool for making constructive demands from companies and government.
Also, the former Big Brother House Mate, Bitto Bryan, who joined Policy Alert in the #WetinWeGain Campaign, noted his disappointment over the dilapidated state of the local government area after discovering the non-functional Cottage Hospital with just one medical personnel in sight, the overpopulated school and a number of NDDC abandoned projects.
He charged the people to demand for their social rights stressing that citizens are entitled to the basic social amenities considering the fact that the State is allocated with over 90bn derivational fund.