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Akwa Ibom: Restore our Environment before divestment, Ibeno Community tells Exxon Mobil

  By Lovina Anthony   The host community of Exxon Mobil Producing Nigeria, Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State has called on the oil giant to restore...


By Lovina Anthony


The host community of Exxon Mobil Producing Nigeria, Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State has called on the oil giant to restore the ecological status of the community to its original state before exiting.


Exxon Mobil which has operated in the community for over 60 years had announced plans to sell off its shares to Seplat.


President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also the Minister of Petroleum approved the sale on Monday to the tune of $1.28 billion, though the oil regulatory body in Nigeria immediately challenged the presidency saying, it has no statutory authority to sanction such a sale, especially given the Petroleum Industry Act.


Akwa Ibom State government where the multinational company operates on its own tackled the FG over its exclusion from conversations relating to the sale of the assets, though FG has backed down, the benefitting oil company, Seplat has threatened Nigerian authorities with court actions for stalling their acquisition of the assets.


The immediate host community of the multinational company, Ibeno lamented that in all the transactions, there was absolutely no reference to them who have borne the brunt of the environmental impact of Exxon Mobil for 61 years.


In a communique signed at the end of a Community Divestment Dialogue jointly organised by some Non Governmental Organizations which include: “We the people,’ HOMef, Kebetkache, Peace point Development Foundation, Environment Right Action, Policy Alert,” held at Upenekang Hall on Monday, the Ibeno people said they were not afraid of Mobil leaving the community but it(Exxon Mobil) should, first of all, remediate all the environmental, livelihood, health, social and economic impacts caused by their crude oil and gas extraction as well as reparations for the irreversible damages caused by their activities.


The people stressed that before ExxonMobil divests, it must honour all outstanding memorandum of understanding with host communities, settle outstanding judgement claims and compensation obligations to host communities as well as implement a detailed decommissioning and abandonment plan, or show evidence of savings in dedicated accounts for the Decommissioning Fund, before the conclusion of any sales.


The community called on the federal government to come up with a framework and guideline on how oil companies should disengage from areas where they have operated, stressing that such should be done in collaboration with oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta.


The communique in parts “The resilient Ibeno people are not bothered if Exxon Mobil decides to leave, but we are concerned about the legacy of sicknesses, lost livelihoods and pollution. For us, no divestment should be discussed without restoration; and no divestment should happen without the due consultation of the people.


“After 61 years of reckless oil extraction, it is criminal for the company to just walk away. Men cannot perform any longer, and women cannot bear any longer. We cannot drink water from rain, stream or boreholes.


The people described as ironical the move for the divestment of Exxon Mobil at a time when global concern is focused on the devastating climate impacts created by explorative industries, and the need to hold fossil companies accountable for their negative footprints on the planet and communities where they operate.


They lamented that the Ibeno community is highly exposed to the negative impacts of climate change where the coastline of the community is experiencing rapid sea level rise which is already destroying homes and businesses saying “the sea has encroached inland about 40 metres in the last 2 years, displacing several businesses lying along the coast.


“The unfortunate reality is that as companies divest and runoff, oil-producing communities will be left with the mess created, with almost no chance of restoring their environment, their health and their livelihoods; or reversing the already obvious impacts of climate change on them.”


Also in a statement by the Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey, adequate and due consultation must be initiated with the Ibeno people as critical stakeholders in decisions relating to the hydrocarbon deposits located in their community.


Bassey who is also an Environmentalist stated that from the beginning, the business of oil extraction was operated as a mix of corporate greed and state-backed repression citing the irregularities in the proposed divestment as environmental irresponsibility and total disrespect to the Ibeno community who have hosted Exxon Mobil for over 60 years.


“These relations of production have remained largely the same from pre-colonial to colonial and present neo-colonial times. The companies must clean up the pollution their extractive activities have created in the Niger Delta. The plans to move offshore was to evade the scrutiny its onshore activities have attracted.” Bassey added.


Meanwhile, it’s been gathered from inside sources that ExxonMobil is only proposing to sell its shares to Seplat and not the physical asset as reported, as the MPN is still there and nothing will change in terms of operation.


However, when the media communications manager of Exxon Mobil, Mr Ogechukwu Udeagha was contacted for a reaction, he declined to comment, saying, “the matter is still in court Please.”


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