Protesting members of Iko community in Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday against alleged marginalisation of the community by SEEPCO and NPDC

*Urges NPDC To Deal Directly With Community

By Ovie Okpare

The people of Iko community, Eastern Obolo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, have protested against the management of the Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigerian Limited (SEEPCO) over alleged marginalisation of the community in its oil exploration activities at the Utapate oil and gas field development project in the OML 13.

It accused SEEPCO of allegedly blocking efforts by the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) from having a direct negotiation and agreement with the community on all issues relating to the operations of the company in the area.

Members of the community numbering over 5,000 including elders, women and youths from the community on Tuesday staged a peaceful protest over the development, demanding that NPDC deals directly with the community rather than using proxy.

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They threatened to use legal measures to resist any attempt by SEEPCO to shortchange them by preventing NPDC, from having a direct negotiation and agreement with them over oil exploration activities in the area.

Taking turns to address newsmen during the peaceful protest, Protem Chairman of the community, Mr. Sampson Agba, Youth President, Mr. Evans Toyo, Woman Leader, Mrs. Amira Sampson, Elder David Ufford, said the SEEPCO would not be allowed into the town to carry out its operations until it deems it fit to call for a dialogue and meet directly with them on areas of disagreement.

They specifically accused the company of using a divide and rule tactics to cause problems in the community, insisting that it must carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and respect their right to a GMoU.

Meanwhile, speaking on their behalf at a world press conference, their solicitor and a renowned human rights Activist, Dr. Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, said NPDC in partnership with SEEPCO “are now in the process of operating in full, OML 13, which is substantially located within the precincts and boundaries of our clients Iko Community.

“The Iko Community hosts the largest Oil Fields, that is, Utapate Oil Fields and a Flow-station in the OML 13 Cluster arrangements as established by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC.

Mudiaga-Odje who addressed the press conference moments before the protest, said: “The issues at stake in this context are truly located within the present intention of Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to commence work with a view of operating OML 13 owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the commencement of operation of OML 13 with a view of raising the national crude oil output to Three Million Barrels per day by April, 2020.

“The above was sequel to the payment of the sum of $3.15 billion US Dollars by Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company for the operation of the OML 13.

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“Needless to accentuate that, the Iko Community hosts the largest Oil Fields, ie Utapate Oil Fields and a Flow-station in the OML 13 Cluster arrangements as established by NPDC.

“Our clients had expected that the State Government, Eastern Obolo Local Government Council, SEEPCO and Naturals Oil Services Limited, NOSL will directly interface with the Iko Community on these issues and more, as duly represented by Our clients.

“However, to our clients’ chagrin and utter dismay, SEEPCO decided on the contrary to set up a Committee for that purpose, and which said Committee does not represent in its true sense the interests of our clients, Iko Community.

“Our clients have therefore resolved unequivocally and unanimously to henceforth deal directly with NPDC on this matter of the operations of OML 13 as they have completely lost faith in the sincerity of SEEPCO and NOSL on this Issue”.

The managements of SEEPCO and NPDC could not be reached for reaction to the allegation leveled against them by the community.

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