Thursday, 5 March 2015

N26.5 billion Eket oil spill money haunts PDP, Akpabio

N26.5 billion Eket oil spill money haunts PDP, Akpabio
Few weeks to the governorship  election in Akwa Ibom State, one question that Governor Godswill Akpabio and his Peoples Democratic Party must answer, and convincingly so, is: what went wrong with N26.5billion supposedly paid by Mobil Producing Nigeria to Eket, Ibeno, Onna and Esit Eket as compensation for the November 2012 oil spill?

The troubling question has remained unanswered for about three years now since the people of Eket first accused Godswill Akpabio of meddling with an issue they considered was strictly between Mobil and its host communities. The issue has now become a political one against the governor and his party, PDP. And of course the opposition All Progressives Congress is reaping political capital from the situation. 

“The people of Eket are very angry with Akpabio over the oil spill money,” Mr. Godwin Akwaowo, the chapter chairman of APC in Eket Local Government Area told journalists in Eket, during the party governorship rally in the area. Before speaking with journalists, Godwin Akwaowo had mounted the podium to persuade Eket people to show their anger against Godswill Akpabio for ‘taking our oil spill compensation money’ by voting against PDP in the forthcoming general elections.

A former commissioner of health in Akpabio’s administration, Dr. Emem Wills similarly told the crowd at the rally that Akpabio was playing politics with the oil spill compensation. He said the governor was deceiving Eket people as far as compensation for the oil spill was concerned. “I was a member of PDP, and I can tell you that there’s something fundamentally wrong with PDP in Akwa Ibom State,” Dr. Wills told the crowd of APC supporters.

The rumour, which was later confirmed to be true, was that Governor Godswill Akpabio wanted Mobil to release the compensation money to the Akwa Ibom State government for it to use it to construct Etinan-Eket-Ibeno Road, a proposal that was said to have been accepted by the oil company, but rejected by the host communities. The host communities, ravaged by hunger and poverty, and decades of environmental pollution, saw the money as a lifeline that should have been handed down directly to the victims of the November 2012 oil spill.

The people’s suspicion heightened against Governor Godswill Akpabio and Mobil Producing Nigeria every passing day. In one instance, in late 2013, the paramount ruler of Esit Eket, Ubong Peter Assam was abducted by persons who wrongly thought he had received some oil spill compensation money from Mobil. In October, 2013 the host communities of Eket, Ibeno, Onna and Esit Eket protested for days around Mobil facilities in the areas, demanding for the payment of the N26.5billion. 

The protest, organised under the aegis of Eket Federal Constituency Vanguard led by Isaiah Abia and William Mkpa, paralysed the company’s operations at its airstrip in Eket, Mobil Terminal in Ibeno, and Mobil Housing Estate in Eket.
The tensed situation then forced Governor Godswill Akpabio to deny the rumour that Mobil had paid the compensation money to the Akwa Ibom State government. “The state government has never received any money from the company as speculated, and no paramount ruler or royal father from the oil producing communities has received any money from the company neither has the company given any money to the state government,” Governor Akpabio said when the Executive Vice-Chairman of Mobil, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, paid him a courtesy visit in Uyo, in November, 2013. 

The governor used Kachikwu’s visit to announce that the state government had set up a committee to find solution for the payment of the N26.5 billion oil spill compensation.

The victims of the oil spill are yet to receive any monetary compensation from Mobil till date, and every piece of information available suggests that the oil company may have collaborated with the Akwa Ibom State government to put the money into the re-construction of Etinan-Eket-Ibeno Road which seemed to have been abandoned for now.

“Akpabio had no business coming into the oil spill money, it was entirely between Mobil and the host communities,” said the APC Chapter Chairman in Eket, Mr. Godwin Akwaowo who confirmed to reporters that none of the victims of the oil spill received money from Mobil.

Akwaowo alleged that the governor collected a loan of N30 billion for the Etinan-Eket-Ibeno Road but refused to put the money into the road project.
“Mobil partnered with Akwa Ibom State government to do the road. Mobil has paid its counterpart funds of about N11 billion, but the state government has refused to pay its own part of the money,” Mr. Akwaowo alleged.
The APC leader said, “Except for someone that is ignorant, Eket Federal Constituency has no business voting for PDP.”

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