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How ExxonMobil Dirty Politics Left A’Ibom Stinking —By Assam Abia

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Let me tell us a story, a factual story on oath. The story is about the 19.5 Kilometer Eket- Ibeno road leading to Nigeria’s largest crude oil terminal.

The road is now being constructed by the Akwa Ibom State government after Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) have exclusively used the road in a very deplorable condition for 48 years. 

Between 1969 and 1979, there was a Mobil producing Nigeria that loathed politics with passion, even oil politics, not to talk of the slippery conventional politics of Nigeria.

That was when she concentrated deeply on what brought her to Eket, Akwa Ibom State, which is the business of drilling crude oil and despoiling the environment. 

That was when she embarked on direct mitigation of the negative impact of her activities on the people through construction of few internal roads in Akwa Ibom for her workers, majority of who are non-indigenes of the State.

The oil company then even went ahead and embarked on renovation of dilapidated classroom blocks caused by the effect of her oil drilling activities, especially the flagrant flaying of gas.

She built a model primary school in Eket known as Mobil Pegasus School for children of her employees.

Then in 1980 the story changed. The oil giant took a trip to Port Harcourt, River State, for a closed door meeting with her frater from Britain, the Shell Petroleum Company. 

After two days of romantic pollination of Ideas in the said meeting, Mobil returned to Eket very intoxicated and stinking of the odious odor of politics. She started introducing politics into everything she did, including the award of contracts and employment. 

In response, youths of the oil bearing communities began agitating (not militancy) for their right which includes employment and the provision of amenities to cushion the effect of oil exploration in the area.

Instead of seeing reasons with the aggrieved communities, the company took a deep sip from the mucky waters of politics and hired hundreds of security personal including soldiers, Mobil police men, supernary police guard, nick named spy police and plain cloth security detectives.

All this while, the only road leading to the oil tank farm in Ibeno took a bad shape.

The Eket-Ibeno road became so bad that a journey of 15 minutes in a vehicle moving at 80 kilometers per hour took close to an hour from Eket to the tank farm.

The situation on that road became a shame to even the oil company and they resorted to patching of some dangerous portions of the road for the safety of its workers.

Complaints upon complaints from youth groups, community leaders and market women flourished to many quarters for attention to be giving to that road but all efforts fell on deaf ears.

Then in 1995, the Ekid Apex youth body, Afigh iwaad Ekid under the leadership of Obongiwaad Mbong Mbong took over the fight to depoliticize Mobil from its corporate responsibility.

In one of the meetings between the youths of Eket, Onna, Esit Eket and Ibeno under Afigh Iwaad umbrella with Mobil Producing in September 2001, the issue of Eket- Ibeno road became the only agenda. 

In that meeting, management of the company said they were remitting money they would have used in road construction to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as counterpart fund and that there was no way the company can part with extra cash for the road.

The struggle continued while the road was rotting away until in 2012 a major oil spill occurred from the company’s facilities offshore.

The magnitude of the spill was so enormous and destructive that for the first time, the company admitted responsibility without much pressure and agreed to pay compensation to the communities affected by the spillage.

But three months after, when leaders of the affected communities where busy working with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ascertain the real quantity or magnitude of crude oil that spilled and devastated the environment and aquatic life, the company came up with a political gimmick.

In a Statement issued to members of the community in June 2013, the manager of the company in change of government and Public Affairs, Mrs. Regina Udobong said the company has decided to pay but palliative to the community not to individuals who incurred great lose in fishing gears and farmlands. 

The company agreed to pay the community a palliative amount of N26.5 Billion pending when the real compensation will be paid.

To cut a long story short, a committee was set up, comprising community leaders, youth leaders and government representatives to work out modalities on how to disburse the so called palliative. The oil company insisted against the wishes of the committee.

It maintained that the palliative will come in form of projects. Out of the N26.5 Billion, the company said N8 Billion will go to Eket-Ibeno road while only N5 Billion will go for projects in the four core oil communities.

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