REVIEWING EXXONMOBIL’S NEGLECT OF HOST COMMUNITIES IN A’IBOM
While one would have expected Ibeno, the community hosting the operations of Mobil Producing Nigeria, operators of the NNPC/MPN Joint Venture to have been transformed into a small London, considering the number of years of uninterrupted crude exploration from the community by the oil giant, the reverse has being the case.
A recent visit to the riverine Ibeno revealed a mischievous neglect of an area which has over the years generated unprecedented financial resources for the company and indeed the entire nation.
In what could be considered an utter disregard to the sensitivity and sensibility of the people, the oil and gas giant has continued to feed members of the host communities with crumbs under their tables while feeding fat on the common wealth of the people. The company which has found organizing quizzes competitions as the cheapest way of being heard has paid deaf ears to the alarming level of poverty inherent in the host communities.
As riverine communities, the people who would have been better off as fishermen even without knowledge of the rich crude deposit in their soil and waters, have lost at both ends as their major source of income (the rivers) have been destroyed and almost rendered barren by the adverse effect oil and gas exploration.
Having destroyed the economic and ecological lives of the people, every right-thinking mind would have expected the oil company to be true to its conscience by sincerely giving life back to the people whose natural existence it disrupted, by not only making the constantly abused environment worth living, but making true, every gesture in times of need.
Sadly, the reverse has been the case as the company has exploited the peaceful nature of the people and the greedy community and political leaders, to constantly bury the people in mud while reaping their God given resources with impunity and negligence.
Having operated within the community for decades now, no one would have expected a single untarred road within the area, to at least serve as a pat on the people’s back for an environment rendered degraded and useless. This would have made easy the already malnourished economic lives of the people.
Regrettably, the only major road leading to the community has remained a terrible eyesore as many years attempt and publicity by the MPN rather added mud than stone-base or asphalt to the only road leading into the operational base of the company.
Apparently disappointed and embarrassed by the situation, the immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen. Godswill Akpabio during the commissioning of one of the temporary structures at Mobil Terminal, QIT, Ibeno, angrily took over the project and pledged to ensure that state government see to it logical conclusion.
Although the state government has since not been able to speed up construction of the road inherited from the immediate past administration, one is however left to imagine if such task must actually rest on the shoulders of the state while the major user is left to continue a benefiting explorer of the common wealth of the people without taking responsibility when necessary.
Some sense of modesty and conscience would indeed have prevented the company from allowing the condition of its major route to deteriorate to the level it is today, after over 30 years of plying same route without any tangible benefit for the people.
Obviously losing sight of the company’s corporate social responsibility to her host communities, the Manager, Media and Communication, EXXONMOBIL, Mr Ogechukwu Udeagha in the company’s usual affinity with free media hype at the NUJ Press Centre, Uyo, reported to have paid the sum of N8b, out the N24b total sum for construction of the road, to the state government, three years ago.
Udeagha in an attempt to justify reasons for neglecting the company’s host communities to stink took time to enumerate what percentage of revenue the company was generating to both state and federal government.
This gesture of ‘generosity’ as the company would want to be applauded for, is a simple way of communicating to the world that the company could not single-handedly construct the only road that leads to its operational base, even as it is the primary beneficiary of such road. This, one must agree, can never happen in any other host community outside Akwa Ibom.
A tour round Mobil Terminal at QIT, Ibeno revealed yet another heartbreaking reality, that the company has no permanent structure within its operational base. What people see as structures are mere caravans as offices. Adding no aesthetic to the community renders it a farm where people plant, reap and walk away, leaving its remains for weeds and wild animals.
Controlled from Lagos, without any functional decision taking office in Akwa Ibom State, Mobil seem to have policies that forbids qualified indigenous graduates from benefiting from the company as most staff in key positions are non indegenes posted down from Lagos. This policy furthers extends to indigenous contract staff who have over the years complained of menial contracts. Even indigenous media covering activities of the company are trapped by this policy, as the electronic media, with established broadcast fees have all been converted to charity workers by MPN.
The recent presentation of relief items to victims of the February fire disaster in Iwuoachang community confirmed the insensitivity of the company against the people. By making consumables 95 percent of it relief items, the company neglected the actual need of the people, but opted for unwarranted publicity with heaps of food items.
Tagged at the sum of N4.5m, the ‘relief’ items for the fire victims included; 200 pieces of wrapper, 100 eight-spring mattresses, 20cartons of toilet soap, 20 bags of detergent, 20 bags of salt, seven bags of garri, six bags of beans 20cartons of soft drink, 20 cartons of peak milk, 20 cartons of milo, 20 bags of rice, 20 cartons of knorr cube, 100 cartons of bottle water, 10 gallons of groundnut oil.
Obviously disappointed by such abysmal outing, one of the victims, Mrs. Helen George said she expected the relief items to have included more household items than consumables. She noted that as a fishing community, fishing tools worth millions were destroyed.
She therefore used the occasion to call on the oil giant to assist the community with fishing nets, capital to re-establish businesses and financial support to rebuild lost houses, as many of them were still putting up in churches.