By Obas Esiedesa
Elders, women and youths of the Iko community in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State on Tuesday protested against Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigerian Limited (SEEPCO) and the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) for alleged ill treatment over the OML 13.
The indigenes of the community accused SEEPCO of attempting to shortchange them by preventing a direct agreement between the NPDC and the community on all issues relating to the operations of the company in Utapate oil and gas field development project in the OML 13.
The community said it would use all legal means to stop SEEPCO, and vowed that it would not allow the oil and gas company into the town to carry out its operations until until there is a direct dialogue on the vexed issues.
Speaking during the protest, Protem Chairman of the community, Mr. Sampson Agba, Youth President, Mr. Evans Toyo, Woman Leader, Mrs. Amira Sampson, and Elder David Ufford also 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.
Earlier, speaking to journalists at a press conference, their solicitor and 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: “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.
“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”.
He continued: “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”, he added.