Ibeno, the host community of ExxonMobil, has called on the oil giant to ensure an immediate and comprehensive audit of the community to ensure a restoration of the area before divestment.
In a statement unanimously endorsed by the host community’s women, youths and men after a community divestment dialogue with some NGOs in Ibeno on Monday, the people said the audit should cover the environmental, livelihood, health, social and economic impacts of crude oil and gas extraction.
The audit, the people recommended, should be immediately followed by the remediation of impacted places, restoration of the human and ecological damages caused by extraction activities and reparations for the irreversible damages caused by oil extraction.
At the community divestment dialogue held between the host community and some NGOs including We the people, Homer, Kebetkache, Peace Point Development Foundation, Environmental Right Action and Policy Alert, Ibeno people also tasked the Federal Government to immediately produce a framework and guide for how oil companies disengage from areas where they have operated.
“This should be done in collaboration with the Ibeno people and all other oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta. Adequate and due consultation must be initiated with the Ibeno people as critical stakeholders in decisions related to the hydrocarbon deposits located in their community.
“That before divestment, ExxonMobil must settle all outstanding memorandum of understanding with host communities, undertake post-operation environmental and health assessment and restoration, settle outstanding judgement claims and compensation obligations to host communities and 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 people, who took turns to speak on the occasion, said they followed with total disappointment last week’s debates between the Nigerian oil sector regulator, The Presidency, Akwa Ibom State government and Seplat on who had rights over the sales, without recourse to the host and devastated community.
“While the controversy rages, it is noteworthy that there is absolutely no reference to the indigenous people of Ibeno. At no time has their opinion been sought nor have they been consulted.
“On several occasions, the Ibeno community has protested and made representations to the company and the Nigerian government demanding the restoration of their environment and livelihoods lost on account of oil pollution,”the statement stated.
In her contribution, a member of the community Madam Ikwo Okon said:“Traditionally, the Ibeno people depend on fishing for their livelihood, creating a vast trade in fish and other aquatic food across most of the Niger Delta region. In fact, the whole of Ibeno was previously a fishing settlement, one of the largest on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria. But when oil extraction began in the area, that major means of livelihood ceased.”
She also reported alarming health impacts of gas flaring including cancers and various diseases of the respiratory system.
Another speaker, Comrade Daniel Mbakara,indicted traditional and political leaders from the area for overlooking major shortcomings and life-threatening operations of the oil company to the detriment of the people.