We Will Make Mobil Pay For Hurting Us'-Akwa Ibom Community Leader
Mr.Abong Ekpu Johnson is the President of Ekid Peoples' Union, an association that represents the interest of the people of eight oil producing local Government areas in Akwa Ibom state. The community leader is bitter with the way Mobil Producing (Nig) has been handling oil spillage incidents that occured recently in the eight local government areas namely, Eket, Esit,Onna,Ibeno, Mkpat,Enin, Eastern Obolo , Ikot Abasi and Mbo local Governments .that his association represents.
In this exclusive interview with huhuonline.com, he accuses the American oil giants of insensitivity and the steps his association will take to seek redress and justice for its people.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS YOUR COMMUNITIES HAVE WITH EXXON MOBIL? Most Nigerians have heard of what happened between the May 1-4 2010 which was the oil spill at the Idogo field near the platform and Mobil has come out to say that the spill has no impact on the communities and of course that was what they said.
However, those of us who live in the communities know the kind of impact that it has on us. The Federal Government agency, NOSDRA is carrying out some tests at the moment which is the outcome of a demand we made. They are now carrying out assessment to determine the immediate effects, short-time effects, medium -term effects and the long-term effects of these spills on our ecology and so many things.
We also know that fishermen and farmers close to the off-shore locations have suffered so much impact. So with this, we know. W e are not thinking, we are not guessing. We know there is so much impact on our people and that our people are suffering so much hardship as a result of what is going on.
So for Mobil to come out and say that there is no impact on our people and environment, we believe that is unfair and unjust and so we are hearkening that Mobil should pay compensation for both the ecological damages they have caused over the years and even up to about a week ago because there has always been spillages and they have been denying them. The time around, they were able to accept that there have been spillages and they have openly said so.
So we feel if Mobil who come from the US , from Houston , Texas can say something like that, we feel very bad about it because these are issues that ought not to degenerate into arguments. These are issues we can sit down in a round table and resolve. These are issues that by now ought to be a thing of the past but because they don't want to pay for the damages they've caused us in spite of the fact that we all know that they have Insurance schemes and that the money will come fro their insurance companies , yet they don't want to pay the money.
In their backyard, back in America, in the Gulf of Mexico, The United States President has asked BP to pa about 2 billion dollars as palliatives, yet they have refused to pay in Nigeria and so we feel that is most unfair.
HOW MUCH DO YOU PEOPLE WANT AS COMPENSATION? The truth is that we cannot put the exact amount on the whole thing, but for now we are asking for just only 100 million dollars as palliates. That is just something to calm the nerves of the people. When our firm of consultants, Sam Udoka and Partners must have received the quantities and put a value on the quantities, it is then that we are going to be able to say exactly how much they should pay but for now, to calm us down, they just have to pay 100 million dollars.
WHICH COMMUNITIES ARE ACTUALLY AFFECTED BY THE SPILLS? About eight local government areas were affected and these include Eket, Esit, Onna, Ibeno, Mkpat Enin, Eastern Obolo , Ikot Abasi and Mbo local government areas. They were affected by the negligence which ought to have been avoided if the correct things were done in the first place..
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR STATE GOVERNMENT'S EFFORTS IN SUPORTING YOU IN THIS STRUGGLE?
For now,nothing. However, I must give credit to our governor who when he heard of this incident or maybe Mobil run to him, he was able to call people in the communities to sit down with him and Mobil to discuss these issues. Yes, the governor has done that but what he did was to just take care of the palliative aspect of the whole thing so that when we have finished our negotiations, after our consultants must have finished their valuations, then we will be able to come out with damages that Mobil have to pay, That is the only thing, I don't think the governor should do more than that.
We believe that this issue is not a government issue. We believe that it is a community issue and Mobil is a legal person in Eket. If the communityfeel this way and they themselves feel this way, then we should be able to sit down and negotiate.
We should be able to talk like partners. We want Mobil to work here and make profits and also let this profits impact on the communities. We don't want Mobil to run away or not being able to do their jobs. No, they must be here, they must do what they have to do but they must also see that it benefit the communities too.
HAVE YOUR PEOPLE MADE EFFORTS TO REACH OUT TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OR OTHER AGENCIES IN THIS YOUR QUEST FOR JUSTICE? No, we still feel that we can cause Mobil to come into discussions with us so that we can sit as citizens of Eket because like I said earlier on, Mobil is a corporate citizen of Eket and we cannot treat them as if they are enemies. We expect them to come in and stay with us and discuss with us.
If we are able to do this there will be no need to go to anybody but from the look of things I think it is getting out of our hands, we have to seek external help because we have said somewhere before that we are now feeling that we are going to be swallowed by the a corporate body, a multi-national that is much stronger than us and that is why we are now appealing to all concerned NGO's, United State agencies and people of goodwill all over the world to stand by us because of the simple fact that Mobil is doing this things because they believe we will not have the capacity to fight and truly we will not fight them.
They are not people we will fight with, we are only asking for our rights. However, if they refuse us our rights we have other alternative as to how we will go about this issue and these will not be discussed on the pages on newspapers .When we get to the bridge, we know how to cross it.
WILL YOU BE THINKING IN LINE OF THE OGONI STRUGGLE THAT ENDED IN THE HAGUE COURTS?
If Mobil feels to hear our call now, if they listen to us, then there won't be any need for that, but if they feel stubborn then we will have no alternative than to seek peaceful means of settling the matter and that is by going to the courts. We know that we may act along that line, we know that it may not be in a court in Nigeria .
We may go beyond the shores of this country. However, we need the assistance of local and international agencies and even that of our state government because we know we elected them to protect our own interests in matters like this.
We learnt that Mobil officials ran to the Senate to ask for so many things, they didn't come to us, they ran to Abuja to the senators. But we believe that the people there are our own people, They feel what we feel, if they don't feel what we feel, their relatives hare feel what we feel , Whatever is pinching us here is pinching their relatives too..
The kind of ecological problems we have here is such that everybody, even babies yet unborn will also be affected. Yes, if we are pushed to the wall, we might end up there.