Tuesday, 6 June 2017

EXXONMOBIL’s refusal to relocate: A naked dance of self deceit

Time To Call Mobil To Order

The Federal government, in its effort to find lasting peace in the Niger Delta, a region were anger walks on four legs due to decades of environment pollution causes by International Oil Companies (OICS) exploitative activities, in September 2016 under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, brought together leaders and elders of the region to a round table of solution-finding. 

That was the period destruction of oil and gas pipelines by some aggrieved youths of the region took a breath-taking maddening height.

The intensity and vivacity of the destruction almost brought Nigeria to her knees, economically, as crude oil production dropped to a five-year low, prompting the call by Mr. President for a cease fire.

By the time the Abuja meeting ended, stakeholders of the region had Presented a number of demands, including the relocation of international Oil Companies (IOCs) to their operational base to the Federal Government.

In life, there is time for everything, a time for peace and a time for war, a time to stand sentry and a time to move. There is also a time for a people to be oppressed and even suppressed with intimidation of brute force. And on the other side of the same coin, there is also time for freedom, equity and justice.

During his pacifying tour of the Niger Delta State which began in November 2016, the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo in a town hall meeting in Uyo, during his visit to Akwa Ibom State, in response to an address presented by a former Minister of Housing and Environment, Chief Nduese Essien on behalf of the people, directed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Barrister Ibe Kachikwu to “engage” with International Oil Companies (OICs) including Exxonmobil over calls for their relocation to operational base.

Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, a Subsidiary of Exxonmobil, produces over 60% of Nigeria’s crude oil in Eket, Akwa Ibom State. Since 1969, the company has been drilling oil in Akwa Ibom but with offices in Lagos, depriving Akwa Ibom State and its people of the benefits of moving its administrative headquarters to the State.

The company kept citing constraints which made such movement untenable to include absence of communication facilities, inadequate infrastructure, lack of an airport and other flimsy excuses.

Today, Akwa Ibom State is one of the most advanced States of the Federation in terms of infrastructural development with an international airport, good motorable roads, efficient communication facilities and is the most peaceful State in the Niger Delta in terms of security.

For ExxonMobil to come out with a statement reported in some dailies few weeks back that it was not ready to relocate its administrative headquarters to Akwa Ibom State, even after the Acting President YemiOsinbajo has given an executive directive as a way tolasting peace to the poverty ridden region, exploited, raped and abandoned by successive governments is the highest height of arrogance. The people of the region have become the living dead with short life expectancy because the air they breathe is polluted, their rivers are polluted, their land has lost fertility and yet the Purveyors of their agony are rigid and arrogant.

The company, according to a reliable source have refused to move “because they know the level of destruction their operation have brought to the land and people of Akwa Ibom State, they believe the environment is unsafe, health-wise for their Senior Staff, both expatriates and local”. As earlier stated, there is time for everything. Now is the time for ExxonMobil to move its headquarters from Lagos to Akwa Ibom as demanded by “time”. 

They should better listen and obey the recent communiqué from the joint meeting of the core community’s paramount ruler’s forum and the technical committee held on Tuesday, May 27,2017 at the Palace of the Paramount Ruler of Ibeno, HRM Owong EffiongArchianga. 

The communiqué which was signed by HRM Owong Effiong B. Archianga, Paramount Ruler of Ibeno, His Majesty Edidem E.C.D. Abia, Atta Ekid Afid, Paramount Ruler of Eket, His Highness Etebom Raymond Inyang, Clan Head Awa Afaha, Chief Nduese Essien, Chairman Eket Technical committee, Hon Frank Archibong, Chairman Eket L.G.A, Dr. Joshua Ndoro, Chairman Onna L.G.A, Prof. Etie Ben Akpan, member State Technical Committee, Chief Udo O. Bassey, Rt. Hon Imo M. Utin, Pastor Isaiah Abia, Rt. Hon Imo Udobia, Obong Okon S. Ekpenyong and Barrister Bassey Nkannang called on the Federal Government to show absolute commitment and give a clear and decisive directive to its partners to relocate.

“The Communiqué read in parts, “the Onus for the relocation of international oil companies to their areas of operation, however, rest squarely on the Federal Government of Nigeria. With its 60 percent investment against 40 percent by the joint venture partners, the federal Government should show commitment and give a clear directive to its Partners to relocate”.

“When the Federation is restructured, would the IOCs remain in Lagos to exploit the resources of the Niger Delta Region?” the Communiqué questioned.
To me, ExxonMobil is dancing the dance of a drunk, she is soaked in the stupor of the political liquor of self-deceit and destruct, dancing naked to the unpatriotic music played by the likes of Femi Gbajabiamila, a member representing Lagos State and the Minority leader of the House of Representative, a music that nudges her closer to disaffection with the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

My annoyance is aggravated by the arrogant and senseless dance-step of this aberrator of environmental justice, Mobil. As she dances, she is even poking the tiger she is riding on, by openly challenging the people of the State through its refusal to relocate after over 50 years of squatting and drilling the black liquid that feeds Nigeria, the liquid being the urine and remains of the forefathers of the core communities. Relocation of Mobil headquarters to Akwa Ibom State is a movement whose time has come.

The sorry story and sight of Oloibiri a sleepy village in the Niger Delta where oil was first struck in Nigeria in June 1956 is a parable of what Eket and other core oil bearing communities of Akwa Ibom can become after oil.

By the relocation, the oil giant will be mindful of the health of its expatriate staff and will stop the flaring of excess gas with infernal venom and impunity. The tax the company pays to the Lagos State government is by right the exclusive revenue of Akwa Ibom State Government. The cheating must stop.

Finally, if the federal Government is sincere with its peace and development strategic plan for the Niger Delta Region, it must exert its executive powers on oil companies doing business in the region to respect the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the communities. This issue of OICs relocation to their operational base should not be allowed to degenerate into another ugly phase of militancy.

It is not a matter for the legislature, it demands executive fiat, the type that was executed by Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo during the Resource Control fight led by a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah. If ExxonMobil does not know, it should now know that the tiger its riding on, has a strong capacity to wreak havoc if driven beyond the time limit of patient and endurance. The struggle this time around may take a digital mien which of course may led to regrets to all parties involved. 

The pen Oracle has never gotten it wrong.

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