Effiong Johnson’s 17 Slain Birds


To kill two birds with a stone is an apparent complexity. But to say that one is killing 17 birds in just a stone -throw would certainly attract pessimistic views. One may think that Oro people are making a noise by agitating their recognition as oil producing area. Surprisingly, no fewer than 17 local government areas of the state will reap the first fruits of that honest motion.

The Member, Mbo State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Effiong Johnson may have just resumed his seat. But his strides in representation of Mbo people and indeed Oro Nation is having a good footing. A man whose election victory had been manipulatively robbed could only have been ‘retired from politics’ by a budding personality whose ‘election’ may have had some ignoble supporting forces.

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Asuquo Frank had been declared winner by a ‘perfect election umpire’ manned by the Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini, Esq. But the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar found skirmishes in the process which had its affirmation from the elections petition tribunal sitting in Akwa Ibom. Effiong Johnson was then declared the rightful winner of that election and subsequently sworn-in, after his colleagues had already spent six months in the HousGame

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The ovation was high, not only because the same man had sought the post for three times, without having the fortune of emergence. Yours truly had concluded plans to approach the gentleman and tell him that so much was being expected of him. While in a phone interaction by a concerned Oro citizen, I had resolved to meet with him and tell him why he must engrave his name in gold with impressive mark of quality representation. Just a few hours after that interaction, myself and the other person were joyfully startled getting to know that the man had moved a motion for the recognition of Oro Nation as oil producing community.

According to Mr Johnson “the bloated and palpable agitation among the Oro communities of Oron, Udung Uko, Mbo, Okobo and Urue Offong/Oruko local government areas of Akwa Ibom State stemmed from undue marginalization and exclusion from oil producing communities. He recalled the effort of Hon. Robinson Bassey Uwak, then member of the House of Representatives, who presented the non-inclusion as a ‘matter of urgent public importance’ on the floor of the House of Representatives for prompt intervention. He reminded the House of four committees of the House of Reps whose assessment of the area resulted to the report which affirmed the oil bearing status of Oro Nation. The same report, as Johnson observed, had directed: the Federal Government to recognize the five Oro LGAs as “oil producing/catchment areas”, as well as prevailed on “any Oil/gas companies operating in Oro communities to put in place Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for proper partnership with the people, and fulfill their corporate social responsibility and also abide by the Nigerian Local Content Laws. Further resolutions and directives from the House, he said included: “the directive for appointment of an Oro indigene into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, among others.

Johnson who listed out nine oil companies that have operated in the area, prayed the governor of the state, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, should “accord recognition to Oro Nation as Oil and Gas Producing Communities and Catchment Areas”, “set up a committee to collaborate with the House Committees on Petroleum and Environment to identify and enumerate Petroleum Hosts and Impacted Communities in Akwa Ibom State and report back to the House to enable the communities access benefits which accrue to such communities in Nigeria”, “order immediate Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, of Petroleum Hosts and Impacted Communities and Development Index of the communities in line with international best practices in Corporate Social Responsibility.” He equally prayed, “that appropriate government agency should be empowered to closely monitor the operation of Oil Companies in the State to ensure adequate compliance with sustainable development practice and environmental governance.”

No doubt, the Speaker of the House. Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey acknowledged the genuine issues raised and forwarded the motion to the House Committee on Petroleum Matters for review and subsequent report. Aniekan Bassey who expressed concern over the way the oil bearing communities were treated, used the occasion to ventilate his worries on the exclusion of his Uruan community from the list of oil bearing areas in the state. Question is, what should the public expect from this crucial motion by the first elected chairman of Mbo LGA?

There are revelations that oil exploration started in 1956 when an international oil company, Shell BP landed in Oro. In addition to this, there are only eight littoral local government areas in the state. These include the five Oro LGAs of Mbo, Udung Uko, Oron, Okobo, Urue Offong/Oruko, together with Ibeno, Eastern Obolo and Ikot Abasi. To say that Eket, Esit Eket, ONNA and Mkpat Enin are oil producing while at the same time, denying Oro Nation such status is clearly a promotion of half truth. Of course, there is no denying the fact that Oro Nation has four of its LGAs directly bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. This revelation goes to show that Oro cannot be excluded from the status of oil producing community, no matter the parameters.

Speaking recently on a phone-in radio programme, the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang stated, “Oron, Mbo, Okobo, Urue Offong/Oruko and Udung Uko are oil producing communities and should be given their entitlements. Oro Nation delayed to speak up for their rights.” This admission corroborates with learned positions advanced by various politically exposed and enlightened persons, in favour of Oro oil producing status.

Furthermore, the Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, Barr. Ekong Sampson, who may have been speaking for the governor, pointed out, “There is oil in Oro Nation, no doubt about that. Oro Nation is a very important part of Akwa Ibom State. They are hugely endowed. Their right will be protected by the Government”. Explaining further, Ekong Sampson stated that part of the problems faced by the state government was sorting out and repositioning the previously signed memorandum of understanding, MoU’s, between the international oil companies, IOC’s, and the host communities.

What must be noted is that none can disqualify the five LGAs of Oro Nation from being oil producing. What is more important is the revelation that beyond the local government areas being projected by the Akwa Ibom State government as oil producing, there are plenty other oil bearing LGAs in the state. According to a veteran lawyer, Barr Umoekeoyo Uno, there are seventeen oil producing LGAs in the state. He listed the oil bearing LGAs to including the five LGAs of Oro Nation: Oron, Udung Uko, Mbo, Okobo and Urue Offong/Oruko as well as Mkpat Enin, Uyo, Uruan, and Nsit Atai. Others, as he listed, are Etim Ekpo, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun. The remaining five of the confirmed 17 LGAs are Eket, Esit-Eket, ONNA, Ibeno and Eastern Obolo.

Consequently, citizens of other LGAs would be glad to become part of the spoils of war currently being pioneered by the Oro people. Although government, in recent situation, seems to be in favour of Eket, Esit-Eket, ONNA, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo and Mkpat Enin LGAs, leaving others behind, the second prayers of Johnson’s motion seeking an inauguration of a committee to identify impacted oil communities in the state implies that the whole 17 known LGAs will certainly be part of the victory song. By the time the oil companies would fulfill their obligations of paying reparations and corporate social responsibilities to impacted communities, the benefits will no more be an Oro thing. Even other LGAs like Itu, Etinan and Nsit Ubium may eventually be added to this long list. Besides the fact that Oro Nation is ‘sumptuously oil producing’ and may have to take its well deserved lion share of the cake when the time comes, Akwa Ibom people in the seventeen LGAs would have taken their fair share of the dividends of Johnson’s legendary motion on the proper recognition of excluded oil producing areas. Of course, the implication will be that Effiong Johnson has successfully killed 17 birds with a stone.

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