BY Tobi Soniyi
The Core Communities Paramount Rulersâ€™ Forum and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimitedâ€™s Core Community Technical Committee have called on the federal government to issue clear instructions to International Oil Companies (IOCs) to relocate to their operational base.
They also rejected the arguments put forward by ExxonMobil for refusing to relocate its operational headquarters from Lagos to Akwa Ibom State.
A joint communiquÃ© issued by the two groups after a meeting held at the palace of the paramount ruler of Ibeno, Owong Effiong Achianga, said ExxonMobilâ€™s excuses were no longer tenable in view of the development that had taken place in the state.
They therefore called on the federal government to continue to pressurise the oil company to relocate its headquarters to its area of operation.
The groups said: â€œThat we have it on good authority ExxonMobil is deeply worried about exposing its expatriate and other senior workers to the hazards of the environmental pollution and devastation it has caused through long years of negligent operation.â€
They also said ExxonMobil did not want to come to Akwa Ibom because it knew the level of destruction its operations had brought to the land and people of Akwa Ibom State.
â€œSo, it believes the environment is unsafe, health wise for its seniorÂ staff considering the frequency of early deaths and reduced life span of the inhabitants of the area,â€ they added.
The paramount rulers said the company had in the past claimed that it was not feasible to relocate because of a number of reasons, includingÂ insecurity and lack of facilities.
They added: â€œBut the community feels that the American oil giant is simply scared of its shadow.â€
They also said the community entered into several memorandum of understanding with the oil company one of which was for a phased movement of the headquarters from Lagos to its operational area.
However, they contended that when Exxon took over Mobil Producing Nigeria late in 1998, it abandoned most of the agreements in the memorandum of understanding including the phased movement of its headquarters.
The chiefs said all efforts to persuade the company to relocate yielded no result but noted that, â€œIt was therefore a pleasant surprise when Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, rekindled hope for the Niger Delta region when he directed the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, to engage with IOCs on the way forward over calls for their relocation.â€
According to them, the constraints cited in the past by the company for not relocating were no longer there.
They also pointed out that communication was no longer an issue and that an airport was now available within 30 minutes of the companyâ€™s operational area.
The communiquÃ© read in part: â€œThat the onus for the relocation of international oil companies to their areas of operation, however, rest squarely on the Federal Government of Nigeria. With its 60 per cent investment against 40 per cent by the Joint Venture Partners, the federal government should show commitment and give a clear directive to its partners to relocate.â€