The people of Iko community, Eastern Obolo local government area, Akwa Ibom State, Tuesday embarked on a mass protest against Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigerian Limited, (SEEPCO) and the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, (NPDC) over alleged ill treatment by the companies.
The protesters vowed to use all legal means to resist attempts by SEEPCO to shortchange them by preventing NPDC from having a direct negotiation and agreement with the community on all issues relating to the operations of the company in Utapate oil and gas field development project in the OML 13.
The community accused the company of using divide and rule tactics to cause problems in the area, insisting that the firm must carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and respect their right to a GMoU.
A human rights activist, Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, told journalists: "SEEPCO are now in the process of operating in full, OML 13, which is substantially located within the precincts and boundaries of our clients Iko community.
"The Iko community hosts the largest oil fields, that is, Utapate oil fields and a flow-station in the OML 13 cluster arrangements as established by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC."
He added, "The issues at stake in this context are truly located within the present intention of Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to commence work with a view of operating OML 13 owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC.
"President Muhammadu Buhari has graciously approved the commencement of operation of OML 13 with a view of raising the national crude oil output to 3,000,000 barrels per day by April, 2020. The above was sequel to the payment of the sum of $3.15 billion by SEEPCO and NPDC for the operation of the OML 13."
Continuing, Mudiaga-Odje said, "Needless to accentuate that, the Iko community hosts the largest oil fields, that is Utapate oil fields and a flow-station in the OML 13 cluster arrangements as established by NPDC. Our clients had expected that the state government, local council, SEEPCO and Naturals Oil Services Limited, NOSL will directly interface with the Iko community on these issues and more, as duly represented by our clients.
"To our clients' chagrin and utter dismay, SEEPCO decided on the contrary to set up a committee for that purpose, and which said Committee does not represent in its true sense the interests of our clients, Iko Community. Our clients have therefore resolved unequivocally and unanimously to henceforth deal directly with NPDC on this matter of the operations of OML 13 as they have completely lost faith in the sincerity of SEEPCO and NOSL on this Issue."
When contacted, managements of both companies declined to talk as of the time of filing this report.