By Collins Ughalaa KSC
Traditional rulers and other community leaders from Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on Thursday met with the State Committee on Local Content Compliance over reports of acts of negligence by the oil company mining oil at Ofekata III Autonomous Community against the community.
Lamenting that they have suffered untold hardship in the hands of the oil company which they said has been mining oil in their community for over a decade and has since treated them with disdain, the traditional rulers said all efforts to sort issues out with the oil company fell on deaf ears.
In an address presented by the Traditional Ruler of Ofekata III Autonomous Community, HRH Eze P.O. Abanukam, the traditional rulers said their farm lands, air and water have been contaminated.
He noted that the oil company, Addax Petroleum Company Ltd, has been operating in their community without a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) and has since not paid them any form of rent/royalties, no corporate social responsibility, no Environmental Impact Assessment, no Community Needs Assessment, no employment opportunities for the host community, among others.
Lending his voice, the Traditional Ruler of Ozuh Omuma Autonomous Community, HRH Eze Philip Uzodimma, called on the Committee to use their good offices to ensure that the era of negligence against oil producing communities by the international oil companies are over, even as he reiterated that the entire Oru East LGA has nothing to show for the presence of the oil company in their community for over a decade.
Responding, the Secretary of the State Committee on Local Content Compliance, Capt. Bishop Johnson, noted that the Committee would not achieve its objectives without the collaboration of the traditional rulers and other community leaders, emphasising that the Committee’s mandate goes beyond the operations of the oil companies but covers other entities doing business in the State as well.
Also responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Bar Pronise Uyaeme, assured the delegation from Oru East that the whole essence of setting up the State Committee on Local Content Compliance by the Governor was to ensure that the local content law is enforced to the benefit of the host communities, adding that the Committee would engage the oil companies on behalf of the oil producing communities in the State and ensure that the right thing is done.
He also admonished the traditional rulers to always put the interest of their communities first, because, according to him, when the community is in order the palace will be in order as well.
He said: “It will no longer be business as usual. The oil companies must enter into a GMoU with their host communities because it is paramount. It is in the GMoU that you get the Freedom To Operate (FTO) Agreement, which also provides the Community what they stand to benefit.
“Though these benefits have eluded the communities in the past, the Committee cannot allow it to continue. The international oil companies should provide roads, electricity, scholarships, employment, etc, and we will ensure they comply and provide those essential amenities”.
Meanwhile, the Coordinator for Petroleum and Gas Matter and Special Adviser to the Governor, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Nanah Opiah, has assured the oil producing communities in the Stste that the oil companies cannot be mining oil from the communities without a GMoU.
Opiah disclosed this while addressing the delegation from Oru East LGA briefly, saying: “The problem with the oil companies is the same in all the communities. They cannot be operating without GMoU. This had been going on until this administration decided that it cannot be the same any more.
“We are going to partner with you to ensure that the oil companies begin to develop the areas where they operate. We will also partner with you to ensure that the oil companies have peace, because without peace no meaningful development can be achieved”.
Some of the traditional rulers at the meeting included: HRH Eze P.O. Abanukam, HRH Eze Bar. C.E. Amukamara, HRH Eze Philip Uzodimma, HRH Eze Linus O. Obilom, HRH Eze Cyril U. Uzoukwu, HRH Eze (Engr.) T.N. Onyenekwu, Eze Prof. E. A. A. Alagwu, HRH Eze (Dr.) E E. Okolie, HRH Eze (Dr.) Aloysius Nwokeji Akuma, HRH Eze K.N. Ndujife (JP), HRH Eze Amb. Dr. A. Angoka, HRH Eze B.N. Armando, HRH Ese B.N. Igbodekweh, among others.
Select members of the Committee who also were in attendance at the meeting were: Barr. Promise Uyaeme (Committee Chairman), Capt Bishop Johnson (Committee Secretary), Dr. Collins Jumbo (Chairman Sub-committee on Community Development Affairs), Barr. Kenneth Onyemejalam (Chairman Sub-committee, Legal), Comrade David Egbula (Chairman Sub-committee on Skill Acquisition and Empowerment), and Sir Collins Ughalaa (Chairman Media and Publicity Sub-committee).