Over a month of traversing the creeks, mangroves and shores of oil producing communities in Akwa Ibom State lies a picture of rich, green vegetation mashed in the sheen of oil flowing to the surface by the operations of oil companies.
Few species of flora and fauna left recedes and become afraid of the environment they once survived in.
- Unyenge Community, Mbo LGA -Akwa Ibom State
The 1hr 34 minutes drive from Enwang to Unyenge Community of Mbo LGA, covered approximately 10km due to undulated road terrain to Stubb Creek where Universal Energy Resources Limited operations site is located.
Universal Energy Resources Limited is a marginal oil field of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 13/14 into Crude Oil production at Stubb Creek, Unyenge, Mbo LGA with Five Hundred Million Naira (₦500,000,000) Share capital. It has no person of significant control according to CAC directory.
Only five (5) Officers are put up on CAC website out of the six (6) officers. Out of the five, three (3) are Directors, one (1) is a Company Sectary and the other, a Deponent.
Four are Nigerians living in Nigeria. Only one of the Directors, Wibrew Roger is from United Kindom with no trace to place of resident.
All are of active status, no email addresses except Wibrew Roger, which email has linkage to Savannah Energy Limited. Only Nkoyo Etuk and Ogunmekan Funmilola, who are two of the three Directors, have same date of appointment, 23 Jan 2020.
Only Wibrew Roger has date of birth, May 1977.
From MoUs available to The Crest Reporter, Nkoyo Etuk is a Managing Director in Universal Energy Resource Limited; and also a Chief Operating Officer signing for Savannah Uquo Gas Limited.
This reveals the monopoly of one individual or two to these companies and the interwoven connection existing in their operations.
From CAC registry, Director Nkoyo Etuk may be duplicating other roles with just one other on the team. Then, stretching tentacles to Savannah Energy Limited (which is not traceable on CAC Registry).
Through the lonely road, echoing a community in dire need of development, are lined up electrical poles but unconnected to the national grid.
The major occupation of the people in this area is lumbering. That is why traditional injunctions (Mbiam in Ibibio dialect) are sighted displayed on top of these firewood position for sales along the way. This shows that lumbering as an important means of livelihood to the people of this locality.
Others engage in petty trades like small provision shops, while those in farming business can not boast of good yields due to polluted environment.
“Concerning Universal Energy Resources, their operations is on land not in water. We have other companies in Mbo like Adak Oil, Total E&P and Monopoly Oil. They have not tried. For whom much is given, much is expected.
“You can see the road from Enwang to Unyenge Community is very, very bad. We don’t have even electricity,” The Paramount Ruler of Mbo, HRM Ogwong Asuquo Okon Abang posited.
He went further to admit that the review of MoU carried out last year, 2021, in the State capital, Uyo, has not been respected by Universal Energy.
The royal father said the traditional stool has been completely deprived and marginalized of what should be the benefits as contained in the MoU.
“In the MoU, the rights of Royal Fathers as contained in the MoU are completely deprived. Nothing like monthly stipend or quarterly stipend to us. Whatever comes out of the earth, we Royal Fathers are the custodians here.”
According to the MoU between Universal Energy Resources Limited and Unyenge Community and Mbo, Oro Nation, Ntak Inyang Community and Esit Eket LGA and Government of Akwa Ibom State, Sec 12 (a) with subtitle ‘Courtesies and Homage’ says,
“To mark the culture, customs and tradition of the Host Community and catchment Areas, UERL shall undertake a yearly courtesy visit to the village heads of the Host Community, Ntakinyang community including the council of Chiefs, Youth Council of the Host Community, women forum of Host Community, key community leaders and Chairman of Mbo and Esit Eket Local Government Areas. PROVIDED also that the UERL shall undertake a yearly courtesy visit to the Paramount Rulers in respect of Local Governments captured under the catchment Areas in this MoU.”
Mbo Paramount Ruler continued,
“They only take expatriates to work with them and neglect our indigenes. If you don’t have degree, MA or well-skilled, you can not work there and yet they refuse to train our children.”
He added that it is very hard for the Company to meet with the people and discuss employment slots. The Local Committees set up to liaise with the Company for the interest of the people is only for Unyenge people, leaving other parts of Mbo LGA.
“It is very hard for Universal Energy to have a meeting with us to discuss about slot matter.
“The Committee set up to liaise with the Company for the interest of the people is only for Unyenge people, not for entire Mbo LGA.”
The Paramount Ruler commended Oriental Energy for training and giving scholarship to youth of the Community. He also commended Oriental Energy for constructing and equipping science Laboratory at Community Grammar School, Ebughu, Mbo LGA; and skill acquisition centre at Enwang.
The Youth under the aegis of ‘Youth Progressive Association of Unyenge’ further tell the story.
“If you check our community, you will realize we don’t have portable water or good roads. The Companies are not providing anything for us or our people. Universal Energy has worked in our community for over 10 years but no tangible development in the area,” Augustine Nkwobia, National Youth Leader of Unyenge Youth Progressive Association.
“There was timely interface with the Company at least twice in a year but recently, there are selected group of people who do that and they are not doing anything in the interest of the people except their personal interest. I can say they have been bribed against the people,” Youth activist, Stephen Akpanim submitted.
A source from Biakwan Light Green Initiative, an NGO working on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and also engaging communities on sustainable forest resources management and human wellbeing, said, Stubb Creek mangrove which served as a reserved area for species of animals which are almost going extinct, has been affected by exploration and other human activities including lumbering.
“Some primates and birds which make habitat from the mangrove at Stubb Creek have been threatened by encroachment of human activities. We have also lost forest resources by exploration activities,” Mr. Ikponke Nkanta of Tropical Research and Conservation Centre.
Another Community source said there have been several meetings but none of their requests concerning community welfare has been granted.
Prince Edet Akakattan, Secretary, Village Council of Atakidiang – Ebughu, Mbo LGA said the only two health centres in the area can not carter for the health needs of the 16 villages in the area.
“Here, we suffer high level of environmental degradation and outbreak of diseases. The only two health centres in this community can not carter for the health needs of the people in the 16 villages.
“From acidic rain, damaging the roofs of our homes, to the oil spills, spoiling the nets of our fishermen, tell a lot of the situation we found ourselves.
“We don’t feel any impact of the Oil Companies. We have been having several meetings with them without a snowball effect on the people.”
“Even during the intense period of Covid-19, the palliative was not enough for the people and quantity of two cups and an indomie was a take home for the people at the end of the day.
“We need serious and massive intervention by the Government and the Companies because we have been greatly marginalised.”
Efforts to speak with a source from Universal Energy Resource Limited proved abortive and the FOIA request was not responded to.
Meanwhile, it is also stated in the copy of MoU at the disposal of The Crest reporter ‘between Universal Energy Resource Limited and Unyenge Community and Mbo, Oro Nation, Ntak Inyang Community and Esit Eket LGAs and Government of Akwa Ibom State,’ that:
“UERL agrees to fund sustainable development projects and programmes to the value of Sixty Million Naira (₦60,000,000.00) per annum,” MoU sec 11(d).
The above section makes the community members question the nonrealistic Community Development Projects in the area by the Company (UERL) in the past years.
Since there are no projects justifying this amount in the area according to Community leaders, the following questions arise;
~Do they make this financial remittance?
~If yes! To who?
This exposition tells of the disregard and abuse of agreement entered by the oil Companies and host communities in the State.
- Ibeno LGA
In Ibeno, the polluted environment which contaminates all sources of water, including borehole, is said to be one of the factors contributing to low life expectancy.
Gospel Obio Japheth, Youth Leader of Atabrikang II said SEEPCO is not transparent in its dealings with the people in his community, Atabrikang II.
“In Atabrikang II, Sterling Oil Global is slow. They say they are not drilling oil yet, but what we found out may be they are saying that to wade us off. The MoU is not completed, that is why we can’t take them up yet.
“The Chiefs and family heads are doing hide-and-seek with the MoU. The youth wing doesn’t have an idea what is the content of the MoU. They don’t want us to know. But with time, we will still know.
“As I speak to you, there is only one source of water (borehole) by NDDC that is feeding the entire community.”
According to the Paramount Ruler of Ibeno LGA, HRM Owong (Dr) Effiong B. Archianga (JP), life expectancy has been reduced due to oil exploration carried out in the area by Exxon Mobil and other Oil Companies.
“The water here is highly contaminated. If it rains, it is acidic. There are frequent lung problems here amongst my people because of excessive gas flaring.”
He added that durability of buildings have also been threatened by exploration activities.
“If you sleep at night, sometimes during the day time, you will hear some cracking sounds or serious vibration in the building. There is so much deprivation here.”
This was collaborated in a separate interview with the Youth Leader of Ibeno LGA, Barr Martins Asukpa.
“If you are in this House for hours, you will hear some cracking sounds which gradually sinks the building. Our roofing gets spoilt in no time and painting fades speedily because of the operation of Oil Companies.
“For me as a person, I will say that there is nothing that Oil companies have done that will be commensurate to the direct impact of the exploration in the area. There has been series of oil spillages and if you try to draw their attention to it, they say it is not from their facility. And you know the locals don’t have enough resources to hold a multinational Company like Mobil or others accountable. So, they take advantage of this.”
Barr Martin Asukpa also lamented over the quality of drinking water in the area.
“As you can see, that is well-water and natural water from the ground. But it is not clean but brownish in colour. Had it been there was no operation of ExxonMobil and other Oil Companies, the water would have been so clean. The activities of Oil Companies affect everything in this community.”
Ibeno locals further decry of neglect as packages design to be Corporate Social Responsibility of Exxon Mobil are almost withdrawn.
“On daily basis, the situation is getting worse. Before now, we used to have packages and other incentives from the Company like; training, scholarship and employment quota. But today, none of those things are anymore. Our people are no longer sent to Mobil Training School which was there before. I can not recall the last time anyone in the Community has gotten Mobil Scholarship,” Prince Afaiko Bassey Etim, Ibeno youth lamented.
Ibeno Youth Leader, Barr Asukpa added that since the outbreak of Covid -19 in March 2020, Exxon Mobil has been hiding under this cover to shy away from its Corporate Social Responsibilities to the people.
The Youth Woman Leader in Ibeno, Patient Eshiet lamented of no capital for traders and fishers who would have been interested to go into other businesses as fishing business has been greatly affected by oil exploration.
“There is no capital for businesses and our mothers’ farms have been destroyed due to oil exploration. The Companies should at least support our mothers and Fathers who are fishers with fishing nets as their nets have been damaged by oil spillages. The only Government Primary and Secondary schools in the area are overcrowded to carter for primary and secondary education needs of our children.”
The Ibeno Paramount Ruler submitted that the Community took Exxon Mobil and NNPC to court. The court ruling was in favour of the Community which the firms were asked to pay a fine worth N82b for ecological damages to the Community.
He also added that there is serious need for embankment work to be done by Exxon Mobil in the Community as there is threat of ocean surge in the area.
Meanwhile, it is in the news that Seplat Energy, together with a partner, is in competitive discussions to acquire ExxonMobil’s Nigerian shallow water business. ExxonMobil’s President, Liam Mallon on October, 2021, had said the company remains “committed” to Nigeria despite its decision to divest from the joint venture (shallow water) with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The company has divested some of its assets in Africa, selling an 80 per cent interest in a Ghanaian offshore block and proposing to offload its stake in the Doba oilfield in Chad.
- Edo Atai Community, Esit Eket LGA
Another OML 13 Company, Frontier Oil Limited, a fully owned Nigerian E&P Company with Twenty Million Naira (₦20,000,000) share capital, has a footprint in Esit Eket LGA. In Ibeno, Frontier Oil operates as a group joint venture consisting of Frontier Oil, Universal Energy Resource Limited and Network Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, forming the FUN Group Joint Venture.
Also in Esit Eket is Savanna Uquo Gas Limited which share same location with Frontier Oil in Esit Eket. It is a full cycle E&P British Independent Company.
Out of 21 Officers of Frontier Oil Limited on CAC registry, only eight (8) Officers’ data are published. Out of these eight Officers (8), six (6) are performing the role of a Director. G. E. & P. Nominees Limited (297793) is performing the role of the Company’s Secretary with distinct email address and appointment date of 05 August 2020.
Six (6) Directors share two appointment dates; 02 Nov 2013 and 21 February 2014. The Deponent officer, Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi, has no data except an address, 6, Catholic Mission Street, Lagos State, and is a Nigerian living in Nigeria.
The MoU reveals that Solomon Dada Thomas is the CEO/Managing Director of Frontier Oil Limited with Wole Adefila as Operations Director.
Residents of Edo Community where the production base of these Companies are located have their stories to tell.
The Village Head of Edo Community, Etteidung Sunday Joseph Unyongmkpo said the community had long been forgotten by Frontier Oil and Savannah Uquo Gas despite their existence.
“The Companies do not even pick our calls again. The Royal father’s welfare and that of our community is neglected by the company against the terms in the MoU.
“There was no Christmas package last year and in fact, the welfare package for the Community was stopped immediately we said they should not be visiting the Community jointly but as two separate Companies which they are.”
The Chief lamented how few interministerial jobs by the State Government has been the only source of intervention to the infrastructural decay in the area.
The Royal Father further explained that lungs disease which give rise to chronic cough and catarrh is a common ailment in the area as young and old are affected due to gas flare.
He said that Esit Eket LGA needs a General Hospital not a Healthcare centre as the health needs of the people are enormous due to the activities of these Companies in the area.
According to section 11 (1) of the MoU between Akwa Ibom State Government and Frontier Oil Limited and Savannah Uquo Gas Limited and Esit Eket LGAs;
“FOL – SUGL shall set aside annually a minimum of the sum of ₦80,000,000.00 (Eighty Million Naira) only for its sustainable community development projects and programs for the duration of this MoU.”
The situation in Esit Eket queries the availability of this fund towards the development and wellbeing of people of the host community.
The outcry of the people makes one more worried about the functions of the Local ‘MoU Implementation Committee’ which duties seem to be relegated.
An environmental expert from Esit Eket, Pastor Macaulay Nyoho said the quantum of gas flared in the area is beyond the expected quantity per day and against environmental standard.
“There is a limit to the quantum of gas that should be flared in a day. Anything more becomes a problem to the Community. They have been doing this consistently. Any agitation or raising of eye-brow to these obnoxious activities makes the Companies to run to the political class with peanuts or contracts to cover these environmental flaws against the wellbeing of the people,” Pastor Macaulay Nyoho lamented.
He went further to disclose a spill in the area which the Companies have denied responsibility.
- Past Spills; The Denial
The spill in Edo Community, Esit Eket LGA alleged to occur on November 25th through 26th 2021 was said to be reported to the spiller, Savanna Energy Resource Ltd in charge of Savannah Uquo Gas, by a community source when the spill occurred last year.
The community source who is an environmentalist said the Company denied impact of the spillage on the environment.
“Recently, there was an oil spill in the area and you know when there is a spill, it will either spread and go deep to the water base and kill the phyto-plankton (plants) and zoo-plankton (animals) of the ecosystem. This is why most of our plants species and animal species are going extinct which saved as food to our people.
“I sent the pictures to the Company for compensation to the damages. One Mrs Nkoyo Etuk replied that the spill was on Company’s land. This is ridiculous because as an environmentalist, you can’t stop the spread. Once a spill occurs, it can spread on water surface and seep into the water base. This affects our ecosystem so much.”
In Eastern Obolo, the Executive Chairman of Eastern Obolo, Rt. Hon. Abraham Odion said the State Ministry of Environment was contacted about a spill which occurred three years ago. But as at press time, the source of the spills three years ago has not been detected.
“We have informed the Ministry of Environment about the spill in Eastern Obolo LGA but up till now, the source of the spill is not ascertained. The Ministry of Environment will carry out their investigation of the last spill which occurred three years ago and Sterling oil was not in picture. Even up till now, the Company has not started real drilling to say they are responsible for the spill.”
The community still awaits report of the Ministry of Environment about the last spill.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response from National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) duly signed says there was no spill reported in these areas. Hence, no spill occurred.
“I wish to inform you that National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has not received reports of any oil spill incidence from Edo community in Esit Eket, communities in Eastern Obolo LGA or Oil Operators in those Communities; as such, there was no response action.
“NOSDRA Established Act, 2006 and NOSDRA Statutory Instrument 25 Part II section 4(1) stipulates that an oil spiller or any person who observes a spill should report to the facility owner, the Agency or any other related regulatory or security organization. To the best of the Agency’s knowledge, there was no occurrence of an oil spill incident on 25th to 26th November 2021 in Edo Community in Esit Eket and communities in Eastern Obolo LGA,” the FOIA response reads.
FOIA request to NOSDRA and their response.Meanwhile, all effort to reach the Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Charles Udo proved abortive and text messages to his phone line were not replied.
- The Cover-ups
Even as Nigeria bagged the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Award in far away Seoul, South Korea, late last year, there are still transparency concerns in the extractive sector.
Nigeria beating Tunisia, Ghana and other Countries in Africa and Middle East to emerge top in the assessment of reforms enhancing transparency in Beneficial Owners, and other factors in the extractive sector to curb corruption, makes one concern over some red-flagged conducts still perpetuated by some individuals in this sector.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI Act 2007 makes clear the obligations of this body to compel transparency from extractive industries in their dealings not just with the Federal Government, but State and the Local Government of Host Communities in which they operate.
In Section 3 (a) and (g) of NEITI Act 2007 says the body shall;
“Develop a framework for transparency and accountability in the reporting and disclosure by all extractive industry companies of revenue due to or Federal Government.” and,
(g) “Identify lapses and undertake measures that shall enhance the capacity of any relevant organ of the Federal, State or Local Government having statutory responsibility to monitor revenue payment by all extractive industry companies to the Federal Government.”
This is why, annual reports of companies in the sector should be timely published without much delay to enhance follow-ups of their operations by concern publics.
By Open Government Partnership standard, EIA reports and MoUs should no longer become secret documents if environmental standards should be kept and welfare of host communities rightly protected while these Companies go about with their activities.
For public interest and transparency, ‘Beneficial Owners’ should be clearly unveiled by the registry of Corporate Affairs Commission.
Compelling should be the respect of Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, requests from interested Journalists by these Companies to foster transparency in this sector.
In all the FOIA requests with reminders made to relevant firms to back up this report, only NOSDRA and later Ministry of Justice-Akwa Ibom State were swift with response.
If National Environmental Standards And Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act 2007, Section 7 provides authority to ensure compliance with environmental laws, local and international, on environmental sanitation and pollution prevention and control through monitory and regulatory measures, it therefore behoves on the Regulators of this sector, including Federal/State Ministries of Petroleum Resources; Environment etc, not to be complacent in their regulatory duties over these companies operating in Niger Delta region. They must step up in their responsibilities if the narrative must change in this sector.
The influences, manipulative Local Committees, evasions, denials, blame-game and making public information ‘strictly confidential’ will continue to be challenges endangering the collective good of the people if the commitments on Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) are not taken serious.
Until these veils are up, the people’s benefits will still be denied by unrepentant benefit captors hidden under shallow pretenses which should be long overthrown for needed development.
This investigation is supported by Policy Alert with funding from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).