By Okon Bassey in Uyo
President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to probe oil spills recorded in the Niger Delta region in the past 17 years and compensations paid as part of the steps to reduce tension in the oil rich territory.
Paramount Rulers in Akwa Ibom State under the umbrella of “Akwa Ibom State Paramount Rulers’ Forum” made the call in a petition to the President a copy made available to THISDAY.
The forum stressed that one of the causes of militancy in the Niger Delta territory might not be unconnected with the non-payment of compensation for oil spills recorded in the region between 1998 and 2016.
The rulers specifically noted that major oil companies in the region Mobil and Shell had consistently refused to handle the menace of oil spill and compensation in accordance with internationally accepted standard of practice in the oil and gas industry.
The petition signed by three paramount rulers each from the three senatorial district of the state frowned that “instead of payment of compensation and proper clean-up of oil spill, Mobil now prefers to adopt an escape route called ‘palliatives’.
The forum alleged that the so call palliatives were mere “pittances by way of minor contracts awarded by themselves to themselves ostensible for jobs like water boreholes, renovation of classroom blocks which should normally be their corporate social responsibilities”.
Mobil, the forum said had blatantly refused to compensate the millions of artisanal fishermen, fishing communities and co-operatives for the colossal damages done to their ecosystem, fishing implements and sources of livelihood.
The rulers said they and other community leaders had now been exposed to accusations, attacks, abductions and series of kidnappings because of the thinking that they had been settled by the oil majors.
“We understand that the thinking and belief of the kidnappers and other subjects is that there was no way Mobil could undertake only palliatives without the payment of the main oil spill compensation to all the affected victims including all individual fishermen and co-operatives.
“Infact, it is widely believed within the core communities in Akwa Ibom State, Mobil had released the 1st May, 2010 oil spill compensation to the Presidency and that the President has in turn released same to the Paramount rulers which sum they have embezzled.
“Also, the 2012 and 2014 Mobil oil spill compensation are believed to have been embezzled by the Paramount rulers hence the attacks and abductions which started in 2010 when a paramount rulers was kidnapped and taken to Cameroun and kept in the forest for 23 days”, the forum stated.
Because of this, the rulers said the crisis of oil spill pollution and non-payment of compensation had contributed to loss of employment in the Niger Delta region as more than 10 million fishermen and linked labour force had been shut down completely.
“This gives rise to joblessness amongst Niger Delta Youths resulting in armed robbery, militancy, kidnappings, oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the region.
“Our prayer is that Mr. President should use his good offices to investigate the whereabouts or otherwise of the alleged 2010, 2012 and 2014 Mobil compensation money already believed to have been released by Mobil Producing Unlimited”, the petition declared.