By Chris Udoh & Eyenisong Ibibio
NEGLECT & PLUNDERING OF THE GOLDEN EGGS
Yesterday something took me to Eastern Obolo. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Eastern Obolo, the place is a Local Government Area with an only road that transverse from the front of Akwa IBOM State University of Science and Technology to the place. Transportation to the place by bike from the university frontage is N50
Eastern Obolo has one poor road to its communities. I understand this road was constructed either before or during Obong Attah’s regime. There is also an ‘empty’ health centre which I suspect was constructed by shell. There are 2 dilapidated schools in Eastern Obolo, there is an old generation church and 2 new generation churches, there is also a local government head quarters.
There is a dilapidated shoreline protection that was constructed by NDDC many years ago. You would find their signboard visibly displayed in the place to indicate the real owner.
Live in Eastern Obolo revolves around shallow water fishing, and burial ceremonies. Their boats are made of woods and dilapidated to a fault. I call them moving coffins on water. They live in thatched homes and still depend on raffia lives for their roofs. Firewood is their only source of Energy and cooking. There is endemic poverty in Eastern Obolo
There are no industries, no good roads, no water, no good schools, no functional health centre. Electricity visits them like strangers few hours in a month, but this is not guaranteed. You can hardly find any visible growth both in the people and in the surrounding environment.
There is no state government presence in Eastern Obolo.
Beside Eket and Ibeno, Eastern Obolo has the highest number of oil wells which attracts huge revenue to Akwa IBOM state every month, but these people have nothing to show for.
There are basically 3 interested points in Eastern Obolo. These are the waterside, one old generation church, and the LGA HQ.
I chosed to take photo of the waterside because that is where their livelihood comes from; if you like call it River Eastern Obolo or Iko Town River, so long as you have an idea of its location, there are no problems
If Akpabio cannot put money in Mkpat Enin LGA because he feels that the people hates him, what has the people of Eastern Obolo done to Akpabio that has made him to neglect the goose that lays the golden eggs.
The people of Eastern Obolo should ask Governor Akpabio where he hides their money. If they cannot do this now, they should remain quiet forever.
OIL REVENUE THEFT AND CONSIRACY
The plight of Eastern Obolo is replicated in all the oil producing areas/communities in the state. They live in penury while watching helplessly as their source of livelihood are destroyed by oil prospecting and exploration companies without any form of compnsation.
However, there are several perspectives to the state of neglect of oil bearing communities that anchored on greed, dishonesty and exploitation.
I am in no position to speak for the oil companies about their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) but let me draw our attention to the issues that are also hindering the little efforts of the oil companies towards effective community development operations.
In the case of Eastern Obolo, the major oil exploration/production company is Total (ELF). I am aware that every year the organization provides for community development projects in its budgets . To help the community have input in the projects they want for their area, Total set up an Implementation Committee with members drawn from especially the oil bearing communities and in fact all over the state. It is the duty of these members to monitor the implementation of projects earmarked for their area. That is where the beautiful news ends.
On being nominated to committee, the members have colluded with the staff of the oil companies to loot and plunder the little resources allocated for development projects in their areas.
You may be shocked to hear that even scholarship awards which has both local and foreign content are diverted – sold out to the highest bidders while projects are listed without actual execution. Members of the Implementation Committee end up collecting or rather sharing the amount allocated to some of the projects with insiders of the company without the job being done.
Most members of the Implementation Committee are in league with their traditional rulers in these unholy acts of short-changing their communities.
This is a tip of the iceberg. It’s a real smelling can of worms.
On the part of the state government, its refusal to plough back some of the funds received as derivation allocation is indefensible. On providing for 13 per cent derivation fund, the act directs that the various oil producing state governments invest at least 40 per cent of the derivation fund in oil bearing communities.
To manage this fund, a few of the oil producing states set up intervention agencies charged with the responsibility of catering for the developmental needs of their various communities.
Akwa Ibom is too busy wasting the money somewhere else than think of any such thing. The money is frittered away even outside the state. I dare say that none of the oil producing areas in the state has anything to show for its huge contributions to the state’s oustanding revenue earnings.
I challenge any one especially the apologists of Akwa Ibom state government to show one item of “uncommon transformation projects” in the whole of Eket Senatorial district apart from the recently awarded road construction contract running from Etinan to Eket.
It would therefore seem safe to conclude that ESD is told to wait until it has a governor from the zone before its oil communities would be given any form of attention.
And so shall it be.