The Federal Government through the Ministry of Environment has directed Natural Oil Field Services Limited to immediately commence the process of cleaning up Ikot-Ebidang community and its environs in the Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
It also mandated the company to adequately pay compensation to the affected communities without delay.
The government’s directives were contained in a letter signed by the State Controller of the Ministry, Dr. Sunday Ntoiden, and addressed to the Base Manager of the company titled ” Re-discharge of noxious hydrocarbon/gas emission into Ikot-Ebidang Community with attendant damage and destructions to sources of livelihood of the People”
It followed a complaint lodged by the Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Community Development Network over the discharge of noxious hydrocarbon/gas emissions to the community.
The statement read in part, “This office has received a report from Ikot-Ebidang village in Onna local government Area, Akwa Ibom Stats indicating that on 21st to 23rd August 2023, there was a discharge of large quantity of toxic hydrocarbon into their environment in particular and the adjoining communities in Onna LGA in general with attendant noise, gas emission, and general pollution.
“Due to this, the entire community and its environs including water bodies, farmlands, Afi Creek, air, and vegetation were seriously polluted.
“This was due to the fact that the company did not put in place safety and security precautionary measures to control or hinder the spread of the gas which was washed into the water bodies by the runoff water, thereby worsening the impact.
“Upon the receipt of the report, a site visit was made and the authenticity of the report was confirmed to be true. In view of the foregoing, I strongly recommend that environmental clean-up be carried out and the affected communities should be adequately compensated”
However, the company has maintained that there was no such occurrence from its findings.
A response letter addressed to the Ministry by the Senior Base Manager, Engr. Fabian Ebri, said the company’s operational record indicated adherence to environmental safety protocols.
It stated “Our company HSE team visited the site for evaluation and came up with the following findings: There were no records in the drilling statistics that showed the presence of toxic gas in the proposed drilled well or hazardous level of pollutants at the stage of operation and the company’s operational record indicated adherence to environmental safety protocols”
However, there is no end yet in sight as the community has raised objections to the letter by the company as it predated the date of the discharge.
Reacting to the company’s letter, the President General of the Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Community Development Network, Dr.Ufot Phenson said the 21st through 23rd when the incident occurred has nothing to do with the 15th of August, 2023, adding that this was done to “cause confusion, conceal the fact and mislead the Federal Ministry of Environment”
Efforts to speak with the Base Manager of the company were not possible at the time of filing this report as his lines were switched off.
However, based on rampant protests and blockages of the company by the irate youths, the paramount ruler of Onna LGA, His royal majestic, Edidem Raymond Inyang, has decided to wade into the matter, hoping that the company would respond to the plights of the communities.