Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), the Nigerian unit of ExxonMobil, has recorded yet another oil spill in its operation in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. The spill occurred Sunday 29th June, 2014 which the community estimates it at over 15,000 barrels discharged to the Atlantic coastline.
The spill, according to community source, was first noticed by fishermen who went for fishing that night. Peace Point Action, a member organisation of National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), reports from the scene that the spill is traced to Exxon Mobil equipment failure behind the QIT Terminal, which impacted negatively on the coastline, creating untold hardship to the community members who depend solely on the sea for their sustenance.
Koko-Mime, a fish seller who also serves as Women Leader, Inua Eyen Ikot, said, “The spill has broken down our business as customers do not even care to come for fish this morning as they used to buy every day since they know that the spill killed all the fishes in the sea, the fishermen will not bring fish for us to dry and sell. Feeding our children is now a problem.”
“Fishermen reported to us this morning at about 4 am that they discovered large quantity of oil floating all over the sea as they were fishing and their nets pinched by the tick volume of oil,” said Inyang Atabop,Vice Chairman, Ibeno President Forum, who also serve as youth President, Esuk Ikim Ekeme Community.
According to him, there are pending oil spill compensations yet to be paid to the community by Exxon Mobil, lamenting that now another one has occurred. “Who will fight for us as Mobil now came up with new English called ‘Palliative’ which the community youths do not know the meaning?” he demanded.
He called on relevant bodies like National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Federal Ministry of Environment and the State Ministry of Environment to come to their aid by compelling Exxon Mobil to pay compensation to the community members as compensation usually follows whenever oil spills occurs. He said that, as youth leaders, it’s their responsibility to ensure orderliness within the community especially at this critical period but Mobil should not use this as an opportunity to work against them.
Another youth in the community who simply gave her name as Glory said, “God will not allow Mobil to force our youths into militancy before they listen to us.” She decried the frequent oil spills occurrences in the community.
One John David, who attended Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) training organised by NACGOND, said, “In all the reported oil spills in Ibeno and other oil producing LGAs in the state, Mobil never carried out a JIV, all what they do is to employ community youths and pay them N5,000 each to clean up the mess.” He traced the source of the spill to a damaged Exxon Mobil tank just behind the firm’s office at QIT. According to him, some law enforcement officers visited the community this morning (29th June, 2014) and “pleaded to us to remain calm.”
John also said the youths earlier contacted Paul Orinze, Exxon Mobil Manager, via mobile phone who acknowledged the situation and also promised that Mobil would forward acceptance letter to the Local Government Chairman soonest.
Godwin Ikot, Youth Leader of Okom Ita Community, told Peace Point Action reporter: “Our fishermen are left with no other alternative as they cannot fish under this condition.”
“Let Mobil tell us what to do now that we don’t have what to feed on, our land is polluted, all the fishes killed,” Mrs. Eka said.
However, there were large deposits of crude oil found on the sea surface and shoreline as well as dead fishes killed as a result of the spill.
Eno-Obong Enyine, a fisherman, said, “The fishes I came back with were all dead as the oil soaked my fishing net, and I had no fish to go home with.” He complained that Mobil uses helicopter to spray a chemical that easily mixes the spilled oil with water which, according to him, is harmful to human being. He pleaded with government to bring relief materials to the affected community members.
The situation took a new dimension on Monday, 30th July, 2014 as the community youths took to the street on a peaceful demonstration, demanding compensation from Mobil. All roads leading to Mobil facilities at QIT were blocked between 8am and 5pm when the angry youths dispersed to watch the Nigeria vs France World Cup match. They promised to reconvene the next day until they achieve their demand.
Peace Point Action urges Mobil to commence immediate environmental cleanup in affected communities and also pay full compensation to the community members in all the spills recorded within the area so far. Additionally, the group asked NOSDRA and the State Ministry of Environment to ensure that Mobil complies with oil spill regulations and safety standards in its operations in the state.
By Umo Isua-Ikoh, Piece Point Action