A former member of the House of Representatives, Robinson Uwak, said Godswill Akpabio frustrated his effort to get his federal constituency in Akwa Ibom recognised as an oil-producing area when Mr Akpabio was the governor of the state.
But Mr Akpabio, in his response to the accusation, said he made the constituency “to be recognised as oil-producing before he left as governor”.
Mr Uwak represented Oron Federal Constituency from 2011 to 2015. The constituency comprises five local government areas – Oron, Mbo, Okobo, Udung Uko, and Urue Offong/ Uruko – also known collectively as Oro nationality.
The Oro people recently staged a peaceful protest, demanding for oil-producing status and more development projects for their area by the federal and state government, and oil companies operating in the state – the American oil giant, Mobil Producing Unlimited, is among the oil companies operating in Akwa Ibom.
Mr Uwak, in a Facebook post on Thursday, said while he was a member of the House of Representatives, Abuja, he resorted to using the House to push for the status of oil-producing for his constituency after some sad encounters he said he had with oil companies, including Mobil, in Akwa Ibom.
“I remember in my meeting with Mr Mark Ward the former Managing Director of ExxonMobil he clearly told me that my people were not recognised as oil-producing communities by the state government and that ExxonMobil deals strictly with directives from the state government,” the former lawmaker stated in the Facebook post.
“He was full of regrets but was clear about their hands being tied on the issue of accommodating my requests under their funding provisions earmarked for Corporate Social Responsibilities.”
Mr Uwak said the then governor, Mr Akpabio threw spanner in the works when a joint committee of the House, led by Uche Ekwunife, visited Akwa Ibom on fact-finding regarding the agitations of the Oro people.
“Then Governor Godswill Akpabio in a closed-door meeting with the joint committees of the House, with my humble self in attendance, disowned me as a federal legislator from the state and asked the joint committees of the House Of Representatives to boycott the public hearing on the oil-bearing status of Oro scheduled to hold the following day at the Oro Civic Center.
“Governor Akpabio revealed to the joint house committee members that he had received a delegation of Oro Elders and Chiefs led by Chief Okon Osung who came by night to him distancing the Oro people from my actions and apologized to him on my behalf. The governor went further to attack my person in unprintable words,” Mr Uwak said.
“I explained to the governor that my actions were simply to complement the efforts of the state government by compelling the Oil Companies to contribute their quota to developing their host communities.
“I reminded the governor that just as he claims to ‘approach transformation with anger’ I was also emulating his stand by approaching legislation with anger derived from the inhumane living condition of my people.”
Mr Awak said the public hearing was held even when some of the committee members, according to him, boycotted it because of Mr Akpabio’s ‘persuasion’.
He said the report of the public hearing was, however, not presented on the floor of the House for almost a year because the then-governor allegedly lobbied against it.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Akpabio, on Friday, he explained why he was against the fact-finding by the federal lawmakers.
“I told Robinson Uwak that they have never included Oron as oil-producing area in Akwa Ibom and that the best way to do it is not by going to the House of Reps to go and move a motion that Oron should be included which led to a visitation by the House of Reps to come and look at Oro nation whether they have oil wells,” said Mr Akpabio who is now the Minister, Niger Delta Affairs.
“I am the one that gave Oro nation the status of oil-producing, they were never included before,” the minister added.
“When they brought it up to my attention I told them that, for me, Universal Energy, had struck oil in Mbo, so Mbo Local Government Area is oil-producing. Because of that, I appointed Etim Inyang from Oro as Akwa Ibom representative on the board of NDDC.
“I said Oron is contiguous to the sea and the oil wells are by the sea and that as contiguous area you are automatically oil-producing.”
Mr Akpabio said he helped Oron to produce a senator “for the first time in about 40 years”, besides several other political appointments, he said he gave to Oro people when he was the governor.
The House of Representatives, in July 2012, passed some resolutions, including a directive to the federal government to recognise Mbo, Udung Uko, Okobo, Oron, and Urue Ofong/Oruko as oil-producing areas in Akwa Ibom.
The House also directed the oil and gas companies operating in the area to sign MOU with the areas ‘for proper partnership with the people and should fulfil their Corporate Social Responsibility and also abide by the Nigerian local content laws”.
Meanwhile, Mr Uwak, in the Facebook post, appealed to the governor of Akwa Ibom, Udom Emmanuel, to intervene and “right the wrongs” done to the Oro people.
“Sir, you have ended kidnappings, assassination, mindless looting of the state treasury and many other achievements too numerous to mention here and you have crowned Akwa Ibom State with honour and pride especially with the establishment of IbomAir,” he stated.
“I pray you to revisit the communication from the federal government directing the Akwa Ibom state government to fully recognize the five local governments of Oron, Mbo, Okobo, Urue Offong/Oruko, and Udung Uko as oil-producing and catchment areas with a view to righting the wrongs done to the Oro communities by the previous administration.”