Members of Ibeno community in Akwa Ibom, host to Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), an ExxonMobil subsidiary have turned down relief materials from the oil firm meant to cushion the effects of the recent oil spill that ravaged the area.
The November 9 oil spill which reportedly discharged several thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Atlantic has been grossly under reported to the ill equipped oil industry regulators who depend on the operators for data.
The strategy of cover up was however punctured when Lead Country manager of ExxonMobil affiliates appeared before the House of Reps committee on environment last week where he apologised for misinforming the regulators.
The oil firm had put the estimate of crude disc hare at 200 barrels; under Nigerian laws, spill of 200 barrels and below are regarded as minor and does not attract compensation.
The oil firm had distributed some 60 bags of rice, 5 cows, ten goats, textile materials, other food items and hot drinks to entice the impoverished nine communities along the Atlantic coastline.
Some observers say that the materials were grossly inadequate and calculated to cause disaffection amongst the oil spill victims, moreover the items did not include fishing materials that the peasant fishermen badly need to get back to the Atlantic after the clean up.
Rev. Sam Ayadi, Akwa Ibom chapter Chairman of Artisan Fishermen Association told Sahara Reporters that the fishermen had nothing to do with the so called relief materials.
“Rather than face the realities caused by the spill which had thrown more than 6500 of our members out of business, they are pursuing shadows. The materials they sent did not include fishing impliments and accessories to bring relief to our losses not to talk of the deprivation we have suffered for the past one month that the spill occurred,” Ayadi said.
Members Ibeno community were irked by a clause in the letter accompanying the materials which stated that the items did not mean that the oil firm was liable for the spill. Chief Dan Afia a village Head in Ibeno council area said that the community resolved to return the material with a covering letter stating their grievances after consultations with their Attorney who pointed out the implications of accepting the ‘greet gift’.
It was gathered that the letter accompanying the relief material was read to the traditional rulers at the palace of the Paramount Ruler Chief Effiong Archianga.
The traditional rulers mandated the Paramount Ruler who placed a call to Mr Paul Arinze, General Manager in charge of Public and Government Affairs in Mobil rejecting the relief materials.
“It is very provocative to send a paltry 60 bags of rice and some other items to the entire Ibeno local government when there is a major oil spill that has thrown thousands of fishermen out of the sea. The letter from Mobil management was very offensive and we have communicated our decision to them that it was not acceptable, we have asked that the materials be returned to them. If they are claiming that they are not liable for the spill which they did confirm to us in writing it means that something is wrong somewhere,” Afia said.
Public Affairs officials at the oil firm had been making moves at swaying the leadership of the communities to avoid an embarrassment associated with turning down the package brokered by Akwa Ibom government.
African Media Agency