Date Published: 06/09/11
Before the Bubble Bursts
Afigh Iwaad Ekid is the foremost socio-cultural youth organization in Eket Federal Constituency in Akwa Ibom State and its main thrust is the promotion, projection and protection of all the legitimate interests of its communities. On the other hand, Eket Federal Constituency constitutes the core operational communities of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (hereafter referred to as MPNU) as agreed and defined within the context of the Memorandum of Understanding between MPNU and the core communities of Eket, ONNA, Ibeno and Esit-Eket Local Government Areas.
By this write-up, Afigh Iwaad Ekid wishes to bring to the notice of the general public especially the stakeholders in the oil industry in Nigeria the blunt refusal by MPNU to take proactive steps to douse tension in its core operational area.
In the past over ten years, MPNU has adopted a silent policy of systematically reducing our communities’ participation in its operations to the barest minimum in spite of the fact that over 90% (ninety percent) of its crude exploitation takes place in and around our communities.
On the 9th and 10th days of May, 2011, Afigh Iwaad Ekid published an open letter to the Managing Director of MPNU in some National dailies requesting for an opportunity to interface with him alongside other directors of the company on serious and contentious issues that have generated tension in the MPNU/core community relations over a considerable number of years now.
By way of reaction, MPNU on Friday the 13th day of May, 2011 gathered a few low- ranking officers of the company who lack the capacity to enter into binding agreements with the communities with respect to the issues in contention. We unambiguously voiced our reservation over the choice of these persons by MPNU in lieu of those we sought to meet and we found it unnecessary to continue the meeting. We were re-invited for the meeting we sought on Friday, the 3rd day of June, 2011 but to our surprise, MPNU presented the same earlier category of officers for the said meeting and we had no choice but to decline to discuss with them for the same reasons we had earlier stated.
Following from the above and from every surrounding circumstance, we have come to the compelling conclusion that MPNU is either not interested in interfacing with the communities or believes that we are merely crying wolf where there is none. It is however necessary to put on record that we at the leadership of Afigh Iwaad Ekid and other community leaders have almost exhausted our capacity to hold back our people in their push to have the issues in question sorted out with MPNU one way or the other without any further delay.
It might be instructive at this point to notify the whole world that the following issues have been begging for attention from MPNU for over ten years now but the company has opted to pretend that these issues do not exist.
These issues include but are not limited to: (1) the breach (by MPNU) of almost all the stipulations of the Memorandum of Understanding between MPNU and the Core Communities voluntarily entered into since the 3rd day of November 1998 contrary to the provisions of clause 11 (ii) and (iii) of the said document which respectively provide for compliance with and an annual review of the said document.
(2) the breach of the mandatory requirement for companies servicing MPNU to establish their project offices in and draw personnel from MPNU’s catchment area/core communities contrary to sections 25,26,27 and 28 (b) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010 and the provision on “Contact offices” on page 8 of the Community and Labour Relations Principles and Guidelines for MPNU primary and sub-contractors and where there is presently less than one percent(1%) compliance by MPNU’s servicing companies.
(3) the complete exclusion of MPNU’s communities’ contractors in major oil and gas contract areas such as sub-sea construction, marine support, drilling, field maintenance services and allied services contrary to the general intendment of the Local Content Act.
(4) the gradual relocation of vital departments of MPNU like Procurement, Accounts, Human Resources, Projects, Marine etc from our communities (especially Qua Iboe Terminal) where MPNU’s operations are majorly concentrated to other parts of the country where MPNU drills no drop of oil.
(5) the silent but consistent policy of disengaging MPNU’s personnel and contract workers from the core communities and replacing them with persons from outside our communities.
(6) the abandonment of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by MPNU to the core communities manifesting in the stoppage of meaningful core communities development projects since year 2000.
(7) the continued location of MPNU’s head office outside its core operational area in spite of the improved infrastructure in Akwa Ibom State and the high operational expenditure (opex) incurred by MPNU and the negative effect of this scenario on the revenue accruable to Akwa Ibom State as taxes from the activities of MPNU.
(8) the continued refusal by MPNU to pay outstanding compensation and other packages due to individuals and communities arising from several oil spillages from MPNU’s facilities over the years.
(9) the complete refusal by MPNU to take any meaningful step to stop gas flaring from its facilities contrary to the zero-flare deadline by the Federal Government and the need to eliminate the damaging effects of this practice on our ecosystem.
It must be put on record that as a people, we are very ready to discuss the above and several other provocative breaches by MPNU and we have pushed for this peaceful option with MPNU over the years without luck. We are also conscious of the centrality of unhindered oil exploitation to the stability and progress of the Nigerian state coupled with the priority the present government places on peace in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. We do not aspire to be out of sync with the rest of the nation but we are gradually being pushed to the extremes in a situation where the community responsible for the highest crude output in the country is the least developed of all the oil producing communities in the country.
We no longer have the capacity to put up with this unacceptable situation hence this option to take our case to the court of public opinion. To capture it differently, we no longer have much patience left before we begin to expect positive results from MPNU or before the bubble bursts.
OBONGIWAAD (BARR.) BASSEY B. NKANANG
IWAAD (HON.) VICTOR REX