By Etim Joseph
Residents of Iko community in Eastern Obolo Local Council of Akwa Ibom State yesterday, October 10, protested against alleged ill-treatment by an Indian firm, Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company.
The protesters said that the company had been dredging for two years in the community allegedly without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the people.
A human rights lawyer and lead counsel for the community, Dr. Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for authorising the operations of OML 13, adding that Iko community has a significant landmass of oil and gas resources.
He said that within the OML 13, Iko is the largest, but regretted that as minority their rights have been expropriated by the larger society within the context of their state and environment.
“What we are trying to do is to draw the attention to the Federal Government and the appropriate authorities and their elected officials that their rights need to be protected and the company has to dialogue on the rights to compensation, good environment and remedial action for the devastated environment.
One of the chiefs, Roland Numgba, in his remarks, urged the management of the firm to stop work in Iko OML 13 until it produces a valid EIA and MoU reports.
He faulted the company’s claim that it had stopped work on the site, saying: “If the claim was true, what is the company’s dredgers and swarm buggy still doing in their environment.
“We are calling on SEEPCO to stop work on Iko OML 13 until it produces a valid EIA and MOU reports. We are protecting our environment, our health, and our livelihood. SEEPCO must pay us compensation for all illegal dredging without EIA and the damages caused by desecrating our cemetery.
A youth leader of the community, who corroborated the views of the chief, Mufari Jogomas, said, “While the company has taken the community as assets, they should also take the community as a liability by taking care of the destruction of the community.
Meanwhile, efforts to speak with the management of SEEPCO were not successful as they declined comments on the issues.