Protest Against Frontier Oil
A compromise has finally been reached between the Esit-Eket and Ibeno communities of Akwa Ibom State and Frontier Oil Limited an indigenous oil and gas company operating in their communities.
The truce is said to have been brokered by the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly through the member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency in the assembly.
It would be recalled that the host communities of the oil company who are operators of Seven Energy had protested against what they described as discrimination and non-adherence to the terms of Memorandum of Understanding MOU an agreement entered into between Esit-Eket and Ibeno Communities and Frontier Oil.
The host communities of Esit Eket/Ibeno had further accused Frontier oil of underpaying indigenes of the communities and usurping the Job quota of the communities in favour of non-indigenes. As a result, the communities had recently picketed the operational base of the oil company to show their displeasure.
One of the contending issues the communities had is that the company deliberately evolved a disparity of wage structure between the indigenous employees and non-indigenes to the extent that while non-indigenes were paid three hundred thousand naira (N300, 000.00), the indigenes were paid a paltry Seventy thousand naira (N70,000.00). This discrimination is said to have led eventually to the resignation of the indigenous staffs.
Frontier oil, it was alleged went on to replace the two employees from outside the community without first advertising and publicising the vacancies to the communities first in line with the tenets of the MOU.
This action was said to have infuriated the communities especially the youths who came out in droves to protest against the company, demanding the immediate sacking of the two employees and the general manager of the oil company Mr. Wole Adefila.
It was also gathered that the crisis would have snowballed into a full-fledged demonstration and riot if not for the timely intervention of Rt. Hon Usoro Akpanusoh the House of Assembly member representing the communities in the state legislature.
Rt Hon Akpanusoh Intervening in the Crisis
Akpanusoh was compelled to wade into the matter to reconcile the dissenting parties. He also cautioned the oil company to uphold what was stated in the MOU they signed with the community advising them to reciprocate the peaceful gesture of the communities by adhering to the MOU.
According to Akpanusoh, “We want the oil company to comply with the demands of the communities. It is all about what they signed and not new agitation, after all, nobody forced them to sign the MOU.”
He warned that should the oil company refuse to comply with the MOU they willfully entered with the communities then the communities will have to ask them to leave.
He equally refuted the rumour that the traditional rulers of the communities were working against the interest of the communities because of the patronage they received from the oil company insisting that though they may have a personal interest, however in a matter like this the interest of the community supersedes all personal interest.
The oil company has also made an effort to reconcile with its host communities by resolving the conflicting issues between them. As a first step, it was revealed by its Government and Community Relations Manager, Mr. Samuel Atara that the Managing Director of the oil company has publicly apologized to the communities and given them assurances that the company would cancel the said employment.
The MD is also said to have acceded the slots to the communities in line with the MOU. These are some of the decisions that the company is discussing with the communities as they engaged them in a dialogue to resolve the differences.
According to Atara” Even in the mouth, you have the teeth, you have the tongue, there is bound to be friction. We are doing our best to resolve the issue.
“What happened is that it was a stop gap issue. It’s a relieve duty and so, we called one of our body shop contractors to send in personnel to fill a gap for us, and the community took that as employment.
“So it was just a kind of misinformation. We needed to bring in just two persons for a relieve duty from our body shop contractor. So the community insisted it was employment that we didn’t pick people from their place and we say sorry, the MD has canceled that”