OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG, FEW ELITES SHARE SPOIL (2)

OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG
Lad fetching water from a polluted little stream beside their home at Okorombogho Village, Eastern Obolo LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

In the Part 2 of this report, Enwono-Abasi Elisha again makes a detailed coverage on OML 13. How SEEPCO Operation tears Eastern Obolo Apart, AKSG and few elites share spoil.

…SEEPCO begins activities despite inconclusive EIA, MoU

OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG
Lad fetching water from a polluted little stream beside their home at Okorombogho Village, Eastern Obolo LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

“Their occupation was greatly affected. So, we gave them each ₦100,000 each to buy fish, crayfish and start selling,” – Community stakeholder.

INCONCLUSIVE is the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, as at the time of this report which should guide the activities of Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited, SEEPCO, in host communities in Eastern Obolo LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

Several assertions by stakeholders of Iko community, Atabrikang I, Obianga, Ikonta, Okoroinyong, Iwofe, Egwenwe, Amazaaba, Emero-oke, all in Eastern Obolo LGA, point to this fact.

Environmental experts view this as abuse of contract process which a duly signed MoU should have followed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report before commencement of any kind of work by the Company in the area.

“It is wrong for any Oil Company to begin any activity without EIA report and MoU duly signed. EIA is one of the tools required before commencement of any site project. Existing ones requires periodic review to meet with the reality of a particular place as it concerns its environment.” Mr. Macaulay Nyoho, Environmental expert said.

The discrepancies surrounding the  Status Of EIA, MoU of Sterling Oil with Eastern Obolo LGA, the host community reveals the environmental flaws committed by the Company.

According to a crown Chief of the area who wants his name not mentioned said the stakeholders condemned a previous EIA report by SEEPCO, alleging it was an obsolete one used by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) before they bought over that old asset.

“There was a previous EIA conducted by the Company. We had to condemn that one because it used an old one by Shell company. After the visit of Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), the EIA contract was later given to Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) headed by Sen. Bassey Albert, representing Akwa Ibom North-East District.

“As at now, the only MoU we have is for Civil works and Rig works. We were expecting another MoU on drilling which will be the Cluster MoU for actual production work and will be the last MoU,” the crown Chief said.

The inconsistency testimonials about the state of MoU and EIA conduct by Sterling Oil which is already operating in the communities make the substandard environmental practices of the Company clearer despite established environmental laws to guide operations of Oil Companies.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act, Cap E12, Lfn 2004, Section 2 (1): requires an assessment of public or private projects likely to have a significant (negative) impact on the environment. Section 60 creates a legal liability for contravention of any provision.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an assessment of the potential impacts whether positive or negative, of a proposed project on the natural environment. The E.I.A Act, as it is informally called, deals with the considerations of environmental impact in respect of public and private projects.

Also, the 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.

The Village Head/Clan Head of Iko Town in Eastern Obolo LGA, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko spoke on the EIA and MoU status of the Company.

Village Head/Clan Head of Iko Town, Eastern Obolo LGA, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko, the Okpononkata 1st.

“Initially, when the Company came in 2017, they agreed on Cluster MoU which is an agreement with respective Communities in Eastern Obolo LGA which Iko Town is one of the Communities but external influences wanted to take their minds away from it.

“We observed that since the Company (SEEPCO) came into the community in 2017, they have not been doing anything. But in 2020 we observed that they started operation and we said no, you can not come into our community and not talk or negotiate with the community people. We started protest. You may have heard of a demonstration we carried out in 2020 which lasted for months and almost created crisis. It was a protest by the community against the company.

“After the demonstration, the Company agreed to enter into an MoU with us.”

A Community source who pleaded anonymity said, “going by what is happening today, I will say that Iko community had issues initially when it was as if Sterling Global (SEEPCO) was not going to enter into an agreement with us by Cluster arrangement but to have a Central MoU which we did not agree. But there is an agreement now by the Company for an MoU with the community. That is by Cluster arrangement.”

The Youth Leader of Eastern Obolo LGA, Samuel Gogo Adasi have this to say about the MoU:

“Even the MoU, EIA is still in progress since they have not  started production aside minor intervention and ongoing structural construction at site.”

Effort to speak with the Company’s source proved abortive as FOIA Request to both email and hardcopy letter to the Corporate Office were not given replies. Calls and text messages to the Base Manager of SEEPCO in Iko Town, Eastern Obolo LGA to further seek Company’s side of the story was rebuffed with no replies.

OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG
Evidences of FOIA requests to SEEPCO Base Office, Eastern Obolo LGA; Ministry of Justice Akwa Ibom State and Ministry of Power and Petroleum Resources.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice, Akwa Ibom State in its response letter dated 9th February, 2022 and signed by Bar. (Mrs) Mfonobong Udo-Inyang for the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, said that the information solicited for can not be disclosed as FOIA is inapplicable in the State as of date. And account of monies paid by oil companies as revenue to State, at any period, can only be released to NEITI.

OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG
Evidence of letter of response from Ministry of Justice.

A member of the General MoU Committee who pleaded anonymity said EIA was conducted last year, 2021. A year after SEEPCO commenced operation in the area. On the status of MoU, the source said the Committee in still on it.

“Yes! EIA was conducted and I was part of it last year. The areas there were concerns were corrected. For the MoU, the drafting Committee is on it.”

Some community members further  revealed the inconclusive status of the EIA and the GMoU which SEEPCO has ignored, placing the cart before the horse and proceeded with activities.

“We have not signed any GMoU. We are waiting for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021. What we did was the EIA and the drilling MoU until their first oil. This is when we will now sit and sign a GMoU with them.

“EIA was concluded and public hearing was done in Uyo, the State capital, but there were issues we raised concerning the EIA. There were issues of environmental degradation and pollution. The Ministry of Environment saw with us and they asked them to address those issues with us.

“Up till now, the EIA statement has not been released. Most of the things they were told to do, they did not do them. That is why, recently when they came out with another workshop for seismic data gathering for another oil exploration. We told them, you are not done with the other one by bringing up a EIA statement, now you want to commence another EIA,” Chairman of the Central Local Committee, Dr. Charles Mbong further revealed.

 

  • Iko Rich Wells with Poor people

“According to the forecast of SEEPCO, an oil well has the potential of producing 1000 barrels a day,” Clan Head of Iko, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko revealed.

Going by this claim, it therefore means for over 70 Oil wells and more discovered in Iko Community alone in Eastern Obolo LGA, worth billions of Naira from crude resource that will be taken out from Iko community in a day.

By current exchange rate as at the moment of this report, live interactive chart of West Texas Intermediate (WTI or NYMEX) crude oil prices per barrel as of January 31, 2022 was $88.15 per barrel.

If 1 barrel = 88.15 USD.

Then 1 Dollar = ₦415.26 (CBN exchange rate price as at January 31 2022).

Naira worth of 1 barrel will be $88.15 × ₦415.26 = ₦36,605.17.

And for one Oil Well, ₦36,605.17 × 1000 barrels = ₦36,605,169m/day.

This therefore means for over 70 Oil wells discovered in Iko Community alone in Eastern Obolo LGA and more are still being discovered, Billions of Naira worth of Crude will be taken out from Iko community in a day.

Going by the 70 Oil Wells already discovered, the worth of value of Crude in Naira will be at ₦2,562,361,830B/d of drilling activities of SEEPCO in Iko Community of Eastern Obolo LGA in Akwa Ibom State. By simple arithmetic, a dollar value at current CBN exchange rate and the value of 1barrel of Crude in USD calculated as at press time above sums up Iko wealth per day to approximately, One Oil well = ₦36,605,169m/day × 70 (Oil Wells) = ₦2,562,361,830B/d.

  • Few Foot Prints of SPDC, SEEPCO in Eastern Obolo

Current condition of communities in Eastern Obolo LGA is that of rape and devastated environment from rash operation of Oil giants over the years.

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) Operated in the area between the 80s/90s and left a spill incurred by SEEPCO.

“Shell drilled Oil for so many years in our Communities far back in the 80s. Later we were annoyed that we only see them drilling Oil without positive impacts in the community.

“When our roofs, farms, water bodies and environment were destroyed, we stood up to ask shell why?

“They brought security men, Nigerian Police and shot our sons, burn down houses with corpses of our people who died out of environmental hazards and were embalmed locally at home,” Clan Head of Iko Community, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko further explained.

He said the carnage took place between 1983/84, 39 years now, as there were no hospitals within the Community or good roads to take the sick out for treatment and to embalm the dead.

Today, not much has been achieved in the aspect of development and environmental protection.

According to Iko Clan Head, part of what Iko Community term ‘Legacy Projects’ in their Cluster MoU, is to clear the environmental mess by SEEPCO which is a liability left by Shell Company which they inherited.

OML-13-SEEPCO-OPERATION-TEARS-EASTERN-OBOLO-APART
Picture showing desks recently donated by NPDC/Sterling Oil Global (SEEPCO) to Schools in Iko Town.

“We made ‘Legacy Projects’ part of re-entering projects. These include; installation of transformers, provision of school desks, maintenance of Primary Healthcare Centre, renovation of royal palace. They have not completed these reentering projects but still on it.

“SEEPCO has started minor interventions in Health Centre at Iko Town. They promised to construct 2000 desks for our schools in OML 13 communities. Some have started arriving with inscriptions ‘sponsored by Sterling Global/NPDC. There are seven transformers on ground but not installed. Also, they are parching the road we asked them not to ply again.”

The Youth of Eastern Obolo recently  protested over the dilapidated ‘Iko- Okorombogho-Okoroette-Okoroinyong-Akpaden’ road, the only access road to the LGA which was worsened by the plying of heavy vehicles of SEEPCO since commencement of their operations in 2020.

“The facelift to the Primary Healthcare Centre should not only be the structure but also the equipment and facilities as it was completely dilapidated. The nets were outdated and mattresses were eaten up by rats. There are no drugs, everything is just bad. So, the company only handled the physical structure of the health facility,” Dr. Charles Mbong said.

During the intense Covid-19 period, the Community stakeholders said they were able to secure Covid-19 palliatives, grants worth ₦100,000 each for women across the Local Government to advance their trades.

According to them, the grant was to cushion the effect of ground clearing work of the Company which destroyed a lot of natural habitats like the mangroves where the women hunted crabs, periwinkles and other seafoods for their livelihood.

“Their occupation was greatly affected. So, we gave them each ₦100,000 to buy fish, crayfish hand start selling,” Dr. Charles Mbong submitted.

 

… Community Self Help

OML-13-SEEPCO-OPERATION-TEARS-EASTERN-OBOLO-APART
Eastern Obolo Local Government stadium.

The Clan Head of Iko explained how he has been utilising community efforts in the area of development before SEEPCO’s few interventions.

“I constructed 1000 desks, 600 for the three sections of the community, Okoroetor, Ataessien and Akprikpe axis. Before the desks arrived, the children in Primary and Secondary Schools were sitting on the floor for lessons.

“When the transformer in the area was vandalized, we reinstated it and bought ormoc cable, poles, grass cutting machines to the two schools we have, Iko Community Secondary School and the Government Secondary School, Iko Town. We have also repaired our Corper’s lodge with burglary proof.

“Also, since I assume office as the Village Head, it is the community that pays the light bills not individuals.

“Also in Schools, we do not have teachers. The community pays outside teachers to teach the children.”

 

  • Community Challenges

Going by the worth of resources drawn from Iko community and other communities in Eastern Obolo, stakeholders say the few development in the area is not commensurate.

The Iko Clan Head, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko said, “The volume of oil drilled in Iko is not commensurate with projects and development in the area. I have never seen a community with so much wells of oil within it. Others that I have been privileged to witness in all my 14 years as an oil worker, are in mangroves in other states.”

He said the community only source of electricity is from Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHED, and supply is very poor.

“So, you can see, the impact of Oil is directly on the people. The Company suppose to supply light to the people from their base station directly. We don’t have light here except NEPA brings light which is very rare.”

OML-13-SEEPCO-OPERATION-TEARS-EASTERN-OBOLO-APART
Parched ‘Iko- Okorombogho-Okoroette-Okoroinyong-Akpaden’ Road, Entrance to Eastern Obolo LGA.

The Executive Chairman Eastern Obolo LGA, Hon Abraham Odion said the major challenge is the training of the youth so they can fit into positions available in the Company when drilling will commence in earnest.

“The only Challenge we have is calling the attention of the Company to train our youth so when they finally move in full swing, our youth can be employed and engaged favourably.”

He said insecurity is also a challenge which the Company should join force to beef up security in the area.

The challenge of spillages in the area was disclosed by a youth source.

“We have suffered oil spill since we were very small. It has affected our sources of drinking water. Even water from our boreholes is brownish in colour.

“It has affected our aquatic lives. Most of our fishes have gone extinct. Our seafoods including periwinkles, crabs, prawns, oyster, Octopus locally called ‘Obrikosok’ and ‘Ajitlulut’ fresh fish, are now scare which used to make rich our local soup called ‘Grogro soup.’ They are no longer much and you can not find them come ashore anymore,” Samuel Adasi, Youth Leader of Eastern Obolo LGA lamented.

 

  • Sterling’s delay tactics

Community stakeholders say SEEPCO is slow in keeping its part of agreement.

“We are the people living in these communities and feel the impact of this exploration which needs urgent attention. We are not asking the Company not to know the Government. They neglected the people up till now. Look at this road (internal road in Iko Community), if not NDDC, Iko would not have feeder roads. The one that leads to Eastern Obolo LGA was done by Shell company, then, while that of Atabrikang I and II was done by NDDC and completed by Sterling Global (SEEPCO).

“They want to do something according to the Cluster MoU but they are sluggish. The problem now is delay on the part of the Company,” Clan Head of Iko, HH CH (Capt) Eteidung Isaiah Thomas Okonko said.

The Village Head of Emere-oke II, Eastern Obolo LGA, Ayagwung Joshua Matthew (Regen) Okama-elect, said he suspected the Company trying to play smart on the people.

“Infact, from the information getting to us, they are even lifting Crude Oil from Iko town.

“My brother told me that late 2021, they saw an escort vehicle about five Hilux vans and five tankers came into the community. He said even when the youth said they should be stopped, Naval officers, soldiers and the rest of security personnel accompanying the entourage scared the people away from the road.”

More findings have strengthened the claims that SEEPCO may not be transparent with their dealings in the area with the unnecessary excuses they tender on fulfilling their obligations.

According to the Paramount Ruler of Eastern Obolo LGA, HRM Rt. Hon. Chief Harry J. Etetor (ILILE X1)

“About last month, we heard that they lifted Crude for testing. At this point you can’t demand much from them because as we speak, they have not signed the MoU.”

Another Chief in the area who pleaded anonymity said, “Is what I have been asking myself. In the course of taking quantity for test, they can do small business. If it is just for testing, it will be a small quantity not a tankful of crude taken out of the community. So, we can’t stop them. Even if you stop them, what will you do with the crude. They have authority in the area to do their work and we won’t interfere.

“The only time we will raise eye-brow is when they will think they are fooling us by saying they are through with a particular rig which is up to five or six Oil wells, and still want to take Crude for testing. When they come back to take Oil from the same rig for testing is when we will say no.”

Another Community stakeholder, Dr. Charles Mbong said, “We are not satisfied at all, at all. In fact, from the onset we asked questions why of all exploration Company, they asked Sterling to come and do exploration in Eastern Obolo. Because we know Indians are people who cut-corners. We know they do substandard things. We were assured they were the only company to do the business as IOCs are packing up from Nigeria and Shell selling off their assets.

“We are not satisfied because most of the things tabled before them have not been done. Like the percentage of community workers and their welfare have not been considered by this company. We are asking them to do more but they are lagging behind in their Corporate Social Responsibility.”

The relocation delay of the people of Ikonta-Obianga, who are fishers, to a new location due to SEEPCO’s petrochemical and fertilizer plant in the area, taking over 1000 hectares of the community land, is attributed to the Company.

Some indigenes alleged that the compensation paid to the fishers at  Lagos fishing settlement was not commensurate.

“We know how much was paid to the fishers at Lagos fishing settlement as compensation. It was quite small compared to the damages in the area,” Paramount Ruler of Eastern Obolo LGA, HRM Rt. Hon. (Chief) Harry J. Etetor (ILILE XI) lamented.

Another community source attributed the relocation delay of Ikonta-Obianga to SEEPCO’s non-execution of their commitment in making the new location habitable for the fishers.

“Lagos fishing settlement’s compensation was made through the State Ministry of Lands and Water Resources by carrying out enumeration, Community did their enumeration and State Government did. The leaders of Ikonta-Obianga community worked out modalities to ensure that everyone was paid.

“Why they have not moved is not because the amount was not commensurate but because Sterling Oil has not provided an alternative location for them. Which must be identified, cleared up, sand-filled and compacted to make it habitable. We even asked for further embarkment work so the place will not be swept off by ocean surge.

“But as we speak, they have not made the place ready for the people to relocate. It is not the fault of the Local Committee or the Community but the fault of the investors,” Dr. Charles Mbong said.

OML-13-SEEPCO-OPERATION-TEARS-EASTERN-OBOLO-APART
Map of Akwa Ibom State.
  • “Why they want to take our lands” – Eastern Obolo Youth raises alarm

“If you take a look at the remapping, most of the places they claim is in ONNA are in Eastern Obolo LGA. How can the state suddenly deny people of Eastern Obolo of their heritage. Like now, if the remapping should be, my Certificate of Origin which authenticates my origin and identity as an Eastern Obolo man will be changed. How can I speak my language in a strange land?” – Eastern Obolo youth cries out.

Ilima Obolo, a socio-cultural organization of Eastern Obolo LGA recently in an organised press conference raised alarm over the political manipulation to seize their lands through remapping plan of the State Government.

The youth of Eastern Obolo expressed disappointment over the State Government plan which might be unconnected to the entitlement benefits of oil producing communities captured in the Petroleum Industry Act assented by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.

“The essence of the remapping is so that Esit Eket will have access to the Atlantic ocean through Ibeno; Eket will have access to the Atlantic ocean through Ibeno; and ONNA will have access to the Atlantic ocean through Ibeno and Eastern Obolo LGAs. Mkpat Enin LGA will have access to the Atlantic ocean through Eastern Obolo; and Ikot Abasi LGA will have access to the Atlantic ocean through Eastern Obolo LGA. Meaning that most communities of Eastern Obolo LGA will be ceded to about three LGAs of the State,” Youth Leader of Eastern Obolo, Samuel Gogo Adasi lamented.

OML-13-SEEPCO-OPERATION-TEARS-EASTERN-OBOLO-APART
Experimented Akwa Ibom State Map showing the affected areas in the remapping plan of the State Government.

Another youth of the area, Magnus Richard Jessy said, the State Government did not make an Eastern Obolo person part of the team for aerial mapping of the State. He wondered how effective the exercise will be if people who know the ancient landmarks of their localities are not part of the team.

 

“How can outsiders determine our natural boundaries. There is need to take our elders in the respective communities to be part of the team to determine our ancient boundaries.

“If you take a look at the remapping, most of the places they claim is in ONNA are in Eastern Obolo LGA. How can the state suddenly deny people of Eastern Obolo of their heritage. Like now, if the remapping should be, my Certificate of Origin which authenticates my origin and identity as an Eastern Obolo man will be changed. How can I speak my language in a strange land?”

The Village head of Emere-oke II, Ayagwung Joshua Matthew (Regen) Okama – elect said the State Government’s move to remap the State was the more reason the youth of Eastern Obolo agitated for the preservation of their ancient and territorial landmarks by taking the State Government, Surveyor General and State House of Assembly to court.

Also read the first Part of the report: OML 13: SEEPCO OPERATION TEARS EASTERN OBOLO APART, AKSG, FEW ELITES SHARE SPOIL

  • The Gap!

Findings show poor communication gap between the Company and the host communities despite the community interface committees set up to serve as an intermediary for the people.

The existence of these Committees may further worsened the plight of poor communication with community members, deepening social class status in these communities.

“You know our people, the State Government came in and set up a Committee led by Dr. Charles Mbong. This Committee interfaces with the people, Government and the Company. So, you can see, the story they tell us is what we take. They don’t allow the Company to come to us anymore,” The Village head of Emere-oke II, Ayagwung Joshua Matthew (Regen) Okama – elect explained.

The Chairman of the Central Local Committee, Dr. Charles Mbong said of Sterling Oil throughout last year has not organised any community engagement with the Local Committees.

“My Committee is determined once the GMoU is signed for Sterling Oil, we suppose to have quarterly interface with the Company. Now, the interface is abandoned and they do not meet with the people or do anything.

“For the whole of of last year, we did not hold even one meeting. We just send them a mail this year on the matter.

“We have told them that by the end of this 1st quarter, if they don’t hold meeting with us, the Community is going to shut down their operations in the area. This is the language they understand. They need force. We have been very, very lenient with them,” Dr. Charles Mbong said.

While some stakeholders claimed that the Company is at the structural level of construction and has not commenced drilling, others are of the opinion that this Company have been lifting Oil secretly from the area.

“We were told about the lifting of crude from the facility for testing. That was the speculation though not substantiated yet,” Chairman of  Central Local Committee, Dr. Charles Mbong said.

Recall that in July 2019, Sahara Reporters reported that NNPC Signs $3.15bn Deal Financing for OML 13

To be continued.

This investigation is supported by Policy Alert with funding from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

 

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