ExxonMobil, Local Contractors on Warpath in Akwa Ibom

  • Elders wade in, urged youth to remain calm

Okon Basey in Uyo

Tension is rising in oil rich Esit-Eket local government area of Akwa Ibom State over the delay by ExxonMobil to meet contractual obligations with the local contractors for various works executed, especially school projects.

But the Manager, Media and Communications of ExxonMobil, Mr. Oge Udeagha in a public document a copy made available to THISDAY disclosed that out of N1.2billion total cost of contracts given in Esit Eket, Mobil had paid 40 per cent of the cost while the projects were 46 per cent completed.

We learnt weekend that some stakeholders, contractors, youths and students were at loggerhead with the management of ExxonMobil for defaulting in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the community and contractors especially in the renovation of schools.

It was gathered that more than one year after contracts were awarded and executed according to term of agreement, ExxonMobil was yet to make payment according to the milestone of works on the projects executed.

The students of the affected schools who are now forced to learn under harsh environment have threatened to move desks and canopies to the palace of the Paramount Ruler of the area, HRM, Ededem Ubong Peter Assam ll who was a signatory to the agreement.

Already, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the area had expressed concerned that ahead of the West African Examination Schools’ Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) billed for November\December, 2016, the school projects were yet to be completed and handed over.

Esit Eket branch Chairman of NUT, Comrade Effiong Asuquo Ekong also in a letter to the management of ExxonMobil lamented that students have been learning under the trees following the demolition of their schools by contractors hired by Mobil to renovate the projects.

According to Ekong, “our inquiries from various contractors revealed that the financiers, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) Unlimited to release the third milestone payment to contractors to enable them complete the projects on time was not forthcoming, which is one of the reasons they abandoned the project”.

THISDAY checks reveal that a letter from the youth council in the area to ExxonMobil seeking amicable resolution of the MoU with the community and contractors was now giving ExxomMobil management a sleepless night.

Mobil was reportedly angered by the letter and demanded a retraction of the letter by the youth and apology tender to the management before making further payment to the contractors in the area.

Meanwhile, elders from Esit Eket have waded into the matter urging ExxonMobil to mobilise the contractors to work in order to complete the school renovation projects for conducive learning environment for the students.

The Paramount ruler of Esit Eket, Ededem Assam ll told our correspondent that the community would continue to preach peace and remain calm for the projects to be completed.

He acknowledged that ExxonMobil had defaulted in the payment schedule on the projects saying all the parties had agreed that payment period should be spread every three months until works are completed.

“We cannot say because prices of things are high now and ExxonMobil has not kept to term of agreement, youths should go on rampage we will continue to maintain peace until the debts are cleared.

Also reacting, a former Senator, Eket Senatorial, Senator Etang Edet Umoyo said the community had no problem with ExxonMobil but “we are concerned that more than a year after the oil giant had given contract for the renovation of schools in the area, school had resumed those school projects are not fixed”.

“If you go to Esit Eket when school is in session, you will see students studying under the trees. All we are saying is that Mobil should meet their payment obligation to the contractors so that they go back to site to fix the schools to create favorable atmosphere for the students to study”.

“We want a very harmonious relationship with companies operating in our communities not war. Some youths wrote letter to one of the managers in the ExxonMobil pleading that Mobil should pay the contractors and meet obligations to the community.

“But that letter was misinterpreted as Mobil call on the Transition chairman of Esit Eket to ask the youth to withdraw the letter and apologise to them. As far as I am concerned that is taking the matter over board which could generate crisis.

“Mobil writing to the chairman of the transition committee over the youth letter, we consider it as insult; but we the elders feel we should maintain cool moderation in all these things because that was enough to trigger crisis.

“Mobil should not threaten that they are not going to pay, if the letter is not withdrawn and the youth to apologise. It is the right of the youth to air their view because they are the direct victims of the problem of not going back to school.