In line with the Federal Government’s directive by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, during the recent Town Hall Meeting with stakeholders of Akwa Ibom, Youths under the aegis of Amalgamation of Ibeno Youth President’s Forum, Ulok Ulok People’s Assembly and the Ibeno Chapter of Ijaw Youth Council have demanded for the immediate relocation of the corporate Headquarters of ExxonMobil to the state through a peaceful protest.
The youths, who gathered in their numbers at the entrance of ExxonMobil QIT on information that the newly appointed Managing Director of the establishment, Mr. Paul McGrath, was in the state on facility tour, said refusal by the company to carry out the directive of the Federal Government in its totality will not only trigger crisis but will degenerate into unforeseen catastrophe.
The protesters, who said it was unfortunate to have welcomed the new Managing Director of ExxonMobil with loads of pending issues, stressed that their protest was not meant to ostracize and distract their visitor, rather to strengthen, keep him focus and equip him with the nitty-gritty of business and community relations.
Saying that the Managing Director’s visit was an opportunity for them to drive home their positions, the youths carried placards with some inscriptions that read: “ExxonMobil, Don’t Take Akwa Ibom People For Granted,” “ExxonMobil, Respect the Directive of Mr. President and Relocate Your Headquarters to Akwa Ibom State,” “ExxonMobil, Youths are the Leaders of Tomorrow, Empower Them and Improve Their Welfare,” “ExxonMobil, Women are Mothers of all of us, Create Lofty Programmes for Them and Improve Their Welfare,” “ExxonMobil, Education is Key to Development. Send our Graduates Abroad for Further Training,” among others.
Addressing newsmen, Coordinator of the groups, Mr. Samuel Etoekere, said “We are here for a peaceful demonstration. From the inscriptions on our placards, you can see that we welcome the new Managing Director of ExxonMobil, Mr. Paul McGrath, believing that his coming will bring positive change to our community. We are very peaceful people. We are here to drive home our position and we also want some pending issues to be addressed.”
Stressing further, Mr. Etoekere said “ExxonMobil should do what the Federal Government has directed them to do instead of putting up their usual deviant attitude, which is always our problem. Even when you provide enabling environment for them to operate, they still prefer their own traditional way of crisis and restiveness. We believe the New Managing Director will see reason to partner with us for equity participation. We believe he will see reason to ensure that the Memorandum of Understanding that had been signed is fully implemented.”
In the words of another speaker, Chairman of Ibeno Youth Presidents’ Forum, Mr. Alphonsus Umoh, he said “We heard that the new Managing Director of the company was expected today. So, we decided to come here to welcome him and to also use the opportunity to let him know our plights. We are peace loving people and we will continue to keep that nature. But that we are peace loving people does not mean ExxonMobil should take us for granted by depriving us of our rights.”
Also speaking, Ibeno Chapter Chairman of Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Robert Ekpadibe, expressed optimism that the appointment of a new Managing Director by ExxonMobil will enhance community relations and compliance to the directive of the Federal Government, regarding the relocation of its corporate Headquarters to Akwa Ibom.
In his words: “Ijaw Youth Council is a peace loving organization. Look at this place, what kind of development is here? No empowerment; no electricity. But we are optimistic that it will be better with the new man. ExxonMobil QIT is our glass house; we will not throw stone at it. So, we believe that the new Managing Director will comply with directive of the Presidency. We want the Headquarters of ExxonMobil to be brought to Akwa Ibom.”
ExxonMobil’s Manager, Public and Government Affairs, Mrs. Regina Udobong, who was expected to address the youths on behalf of the new Managing Director of the company, declined comments but later referred newsmen to speak with a Lagos-based Manager in charge of Media and Communication, Mr. Ugochukwu Udeagha.
Effort to speak with Mr. Odeagha, which was restricted to email communication and SMS by him, proved abortive as response from him was indefinitely delayed.