In my early sojourn in life, by the special grace of God, I had opportunity to work in some foreign multinational oil companies, including Saipem Contracting & Engineering Company, a subsidiary of the Eni Group, an Italian oil and gas company that is working with the Agip Oil Company, Shell, TotalFina Elf Nigeria Plc, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Bonny amongst others.
In order to place this article on a sound footing, it would be better to build on the foundation of my past experiences in oil multinational companies operating within the shore of Nigeria.
Like I said at the opening paragraph, I started my career in Saipem as a Safety Officer/Safety Trainer, and ended up in the department of Community Affairs, Safety, Health, Environment and Security (CASHES), working in several onshore/offshore oil and gas projects across the Niger Delta region, including the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project, Finima Town – Bonny LGA, Rivers state, which my former employers (Saipem) also played active role, before I voluntarily exited the company in the late 1990s.
So I am well grounded on the operational patterns of multinationals in Nigeria. I am vested with their community relations policy thrust. Because, whilst in these oil and gas companies, and by virtue of the CASHES department that I served; my responsibilities also included to oversee all community relations issues and projects; and to ensure that my employers kept their part of the corporate social responsibility with our host communities throughout the projects.
This article, however, focuses on the recent bullying and act of intimidating NNPC/ExxonMobil over the Eket-Ibeno road project by the state government and its commissioner for works, Mr Ephraim Inyangeyen.
Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), an offshore multinational oil company, is the second largest producer of crude oil in Nigeria, after Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). It began operations in Nigeria in 1955 as Mobil Exploration Nigeria Incorporated (MENI). The company and its joint venture partner, NNPC, operate over 90 offshore platforms comprising of about 300 producing wells at the capacity of over 550 thousand barrels a day of crude, condensate and natural gas liquids (NGL), spanning across 3,200 square kilometres ( i.e. 1,200sq mi; 790,000 acres) within Akwa Ibom territorial waters. The Federal Government via NNPC has a 60 percent share, while MPN has 40 percent share in the joint venture business.
As a concerned private citizen of Akwa Ibom state, and a journalist, while I am not holding brief for MPN (now ExxonMobil) and without sounding immodest, I can say that since coming into Akwa Ibom offshore in 1961 through the joint venture partnership, MPN and its federal government agency, NNPC, have tried to sustain an active community relations programmes for their host communities.
I am aware that as part of NNPC/ExxonMobil’s corporate social responsibility, they have contributed immensely in these sectors: health, education, sports, water supply, electricity, capacity development, skill acquisition training, employment/empowerment of our people and roads construction projects in Akwa Ibom State. Even though, like Oliver Twist, I expect them to do more, to ameliorate the harsh effects of their oil exploration activities on our lives; and to end gas flaring, oil spillage and protect our ecosystem.
As one, with vast knowledge of how these federal government agencies and multinationals operate, at least, in Nigeria; I can also state that nothing is new in NNPC/ExxonMobil erecting a billboard advertising their N8b contributions for the construction of the Eket- Ibeno road, whether the money was embezzled by the administration that received it or the project contractors. But, everything is wrong for the state to publicly unleashed verbal attacks on NNPC/ExxonMobil and their managements on account of the billboard.
It is also barbaric and incisive for the authorities to instruct that the NNPC/ExxonMobil billboard on the Eket-Ibeno road project be demolished by youths of the area. This action can further promote hostility and youths restiveness against federal government agency(s) and multinationals operating in Akwa Ibom State.
This is one action, I view as uncivilised and counter-productive in this 21st century. It has painted a negative picture to the international community and to sane Nigerians that the two years administration of Mr Udom Emmanuel is specialising in bullying, intimidating and fighting every federal government agencies and multinationals operating in Akwa Ibom, under the guise of project execution.
The other day (Sunday), I had cause to publish the Part One of my article, titled: “NDDC ABANDONED PROJECTS: WHAT DOES UDOM GOVERNMENT WANT?” refer. It is still on the same issue of the administration’s bullying and intimidating the present NDDC management team and her MD, Mr Nsima Ekere over projects execution in the state.
It would be better if the handlers of the Udom Emmanuel’s government bear in mind that this is not the first administration in Akwa Ibom State since creation in September 23, 1987, and will certainly not be the last.
Before now, we have had both military and civilian governments. I stand corrected, if any of the past administration had bullied, intimidated or fought any federal government agency or multinationals in the state. I stand corrected again, if any of the past administration had spent several millions of the people’s collective patrimony on frivolities; such as, sponsoring media attacks on the management of federal government agency(s) and/or multinational companies.
For the records, the most vocal administration we have had, is the one led by Obong Victor Attah. But, as it were, the administration never bullied, intimidated or fought development partners, be it, federal agencies or multinationals. Though, I never agreed with Obong Attah’s style of governance, I supported his advocacy for all oil and gas companies including MPN (ExxonMobil) to relocate their operational headquarters from Lagos and Port Harcourt to Akwa Ibom State. This wasn’t bullying; it wasn’t fighting, but intellectual and persuasive advocacy that gained popular acceptance of the generality of Akwa Ibom people. This singular struggle was devoid of pride, ego and hatred for the multinationals, that was why it saw the unity of all Akwa Ibomites across political party lines.
Of course, you could image the economic boom that would have taken place if ExxonMobil and the over 180 oil and gas companies operating within Akwa Ibom territorial waters (offshore), had relocated to the state. So this was a very popular and worthwhile advocacy to have embarked upon by the state.
The unwarranted ego-driven media attacks unleashed on federal government agencies and multinationals operating in the state by the authorities and her appointees/proxies should stop, if we need rapid growth and development in the state. Government cannot do it alone! We need other development partners, be it, federal agencies or multinationals.
The Udom’s administration should choose her battles wisely, else it would be seen as an unfocused administration only set out to antagonise development partners, instead of encouraging cordiality and give peaceful atmosphere for development to thrive in the state.
It is high time Udom -led administration focused on his dreams to industrialise Akwa Ibom State; and to possibly consolidate on the “uncommon transformation” programmes of his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio. As it stance, most legacy projects of the Akpabio’s administration have been abandoned.
Finally, as Governor Udom Emmanuel prepares to commission the Eket-Ibeno road project on May 29, 2017 (two weeks ahead), as part of achievements of his two years in office, I congratulate him, in advance, and urge him to disappoint me and other critics of his government, and be magnanimous to acknowledge other development partners on the road projects; i. e., the N8b NNPC/ExxonMobil contributions should be mentioned in his address on that commissioning day!
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator