The Akwa Ibom State government has urged the Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) Joint Venture to increase its budgetary allocation for Community Investment Programme (CIP) in the state.
The state commissioner for transport and petroleum resources, Orman Esin, made the appeal at the opening ceremony of NNPC/MPN Joint Venture CIP in Eket Local Government Area of the state on Saturday.
He said ExxonMobil should review the budgetary provision for the community investment programme because of its huge benefits in the state.
“We are calling on MPN to review the CIP upward because the results you get from the programme, money cannot buy,” he said.
He appealed to the youth of oil communities to always use dialogue to resolve crisis that could cause conflict between them and the joint venture operators in the area.
Mr Esin, however, regretted the harassment caused by the youths but appealed to the Joint Venture to engage the youths in capacity, skills, and employment to put an end to the kidnapping of contractors.
“We will dialogue with ExxonMobil till we get what we want. Dialogue is the only way out of crisis and we need the ExxonMobil to do what should be done,” he said.
Also speaking, Nigel Cookey-Gam, the General Manager, Public and Government Affairs ExxonMobil, said that the total investment by the Joint Venture in the CIP) in Akwa Ibom was N170 million.
He noted that the CIP was one of the NNPC/MPN Joint Venture’s several initiatives dedicated to positively engage the youths, re-orientate and inculcate virtues other than adopting confrontation as the only mode of engagement.
“The Joint Venture is here for long haul and is repositioning to deliver greater value to the community, Akwa Ibom and Nigeria,” Mr Cookey-Gam said.
He said the event marked the formal commencement of the implementation of the five programmes under CIP such as Peace and Conflict Resolution Workshop (PCRW), Clean and Green Environment Project (CGEP).
Others, according to him include Community Safety Awareness Campaign (CSAC), Upgrade/Beautification of Market Stalls and Community Beach Party.
He said that their partners were indigenous Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) namely Community Partners for Development, Art and Skills Development Initiative and Foundation for Peace Studies and Human Development.
The general manager explained that their partners were all from the four core oil communities of Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket, and Onna LGAs and they are working in conjunction with the youths of the communities.
Mr Cookey-Gam thanked the state government and people of the state for the peace and enabling environment provided for the Joint Venture Operations.
Tom Benjaminsen, general manager, Joint Venture Operations, also expressed optimism that the executive partners would implement the programmes with the active collaboration and partnership of youths of the communities.
He, however, said that “a chain of events, which are solely constraining our effort to successfully sustain NNPC/MPN Joint Venture Operations as well as deliver critical economic lifeline to the communities and state.”
Mr Benjaminsen also decried what he called unprecedented harassment, badge seizures and attacks on the company’s contractors by a handful of individuals in the communities.
He said these constituted major impediment to the continued survival of the business in the area.
He said the company had recorded over 25 of such cases from January to date.
He appealed to the community leaders to continue to mentor the youths to explore peaceful avenues for resolution of issues.
Nsekpong Udoh, Executive Director, Community Partner for Development (CPD), handling the peace and conflict resolution component, speaking for the NGOs said participants were expected to acquire skills of arbitration, mediation, and conciliation at the end of the programme.
Mr Udoh said the overall goal of the programme was to help the youth in ExxonMobil host communities to respond peacefully in conflict situation through dialogue.
He said the workshop could inculcate the spirit of negotiated settlement of conflict to enhance the smooth operation of ExxonMobil and community development.