Members of the oil and gas rich Esit Eket local government area of Akwa Ibom State have cried out that their living conditions do not reflect the enormous resources being extracted from the area by oil and gas companies and the huge revenues the companies pay annually to government.
The community members bared their minds during a Town Hall Meeting organized by Policy Alert as part of its #WetinWeGain campaign at Esit-Eket Local Government Secretariat of Akwa Ibom State.
The campaign aims to mobilise resource-rich communities to utilize payments to governments data as a tool for making more effective demands from companies and government, thereby improving the benefits the communities derive from investments in their backyards.
Clan Head of Uquo, Obong Ete Udo Ikot, lamented that his people have become greatly marginalized because of oil resources in their lands. He disclosed that Memoranda of Understanding reached on community development and clean-up of oil spills are never honoured by the companies.
Receiving the campaign team earlier, President of the youth socio-cultural platform of Eket/Esit-Eket, Pastor Godwin Francis, said the communities cannot deal with the challenges on their own, saying the support of strong civil society groups are needed, while commending Policy Alert for the initiative.
Speaking during the visit, Iniobong Usen, Policy Alert Programme Lead, Extractives and Open Data, stated that despite playing host to billions of dollars in oil, gas and mining investments on which the Nigerian economy largely depends, the Niger Delta region continues to lag behind the national average on several development indicators.
“One reason for this state of affairs is the secrecy surrounding decades of transactions between the companies and the Nigerian state, which enabled massive corruption and loss of revenues that should otherwise have gone into improving the lives of Nigerians and the host communities in particular,” he said.
Also speaking, Ken Henshaw, Executive Director of We The People, urged participants to be interested in who does what in their community, since they are the ones suffering the adverse impact of oil pollution in the area.