Akwa Ibom community laments govt neglect, impact of oil spills

Okoroiti, one of the rich oil-producing communities in Eastern Obollo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, has decried the absence of government and the negative impact of the explorative and exploitative activities of international oil companies in the area.

The people made this known on Tuesday during a Community Dialogue on “Wellness and Resistance Building” organized by an ecological think tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), at Okoroiti village hall, Eastern Obollo Local Council of the state.

They lamented that despite their significant contributions to both state and national economies through their natural resources (oil), they lack basic social amenities such as clean water, electricity, access roads, and hospitals, among others.

Speaking with our correspondent, one of the participants, Bartholomew Araguja, explained that Okoroiti people walk miles to access a primary health center in another community, saying that it is always difficult to rush any emergency case to a hospital due to inaccessible roads.

Araguja further explained that economic activities in the area, such as barbing, hairdressing, and ICT, have been crippled for over seven years due to a lack of electricity.

He also said that youth unemployment was at its peak despite the presence of three IOCs in the council and some youths being skilled and educated.

His words: “Our community has been neglected for a long time. We don’t have any access roads; what we have are only track roads. We haven’t had clean water for over seven years now, and we don’t have light in our community. Many of us need electricity to do our work, like salons, joints, photocopying, etc. We want the government to look into this and help us.

“We have graduates in our community, but no employment. Even some of us have skills, yet we won’t be employed in these companies because we don’t have connections.”

On her part, Rose Donald Ogwunte said the people have suffered from poor yield in their farms and fishing activities due to oil exploration and spills.

She noted that both the oil companies and the government have failed to play their part despite repeated calls from the community.

The Program Manager, HOMEF, Stephen Oduware, in an interview, wondered how a community that hosts three oil companies and has abundant natural resources could be so economically backward without basic social amenities.

He, however, pledged HOMEF’s readiness to partner with them and other CSOs to amplify their voices in order to address some of these pressing issues.

The Coordinator of Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF), Umo Isua-Ikoh, reacting, wondered if there are politicians or representatives in government from that area, saying that it was high time the government began to give a human face to the plight of the people and address some of these challenges.

“It is high time the government begins to do their part so that we give the community a human face. It is even a pity that politicians coming out of this community, once they win an election, turn their eyes the other way,” he observed.

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