Close to a thousand residents of the Esit Eket local government area of Akwa Ibom on Monday staged a protest following a new oil spill reported at the Qua Iboe Oil fields.
A spokesman for the protestors described the damage: “The oil spill was so massive that the entire fishing gear we were using was soaked in crude oil and some of our members who were using small canoes in fishing had their boats capsized as they hurried away from the currents carrying the oil.
“With the waters contaminated, you can no long have any reasonable catch and even when you catch anything the fish would be oil contaminated and poisonous for consumption so the reasonable thing to do is to leave the waters for a while,” he said.
National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) confirmed a spill at the oil field operated by ExxonMobil at Ibeno in Akwa Ibom state of the Niger Delta region. Number of barrels spilled on Nov. 9 was unspecified.
Peasants, youths, women and farmers took part in the protest. They carried placards, marched to the palace of the Paramount and later to the official residence of the council chairman in Uquo, Esit Eket.
Chanting solidarity songs, the protestors were met by Paramount Ruler of Esit Eket, Chief Ubong Assam who pledged to convey their grievances to the oil firm.
At the residence of the local government chairman, the protesters displayed oil-stained fishing nets and gear damaged by the spill.
Speaking for the protesters, Mr. Ayanga Jonathan-Esibe laid out the grievances of the group to Chief Ibanga Etang, Chairman of the council area and lamented that frequent oil spills had crippled fishing in the area.
Jonathan-Esibe urged the leadership of the council to prevail on Mobil officials to take full responsibility for the spills.
“Mobil should immediately come to our aid and bring relief materials because the anguish the spill has inflicted on the fishing population along the coastline is unimaginable.”
In a response, the Chairman explained he had been briefed of the development by officials of Mobil and urged that protesters remain peaceful as the leadership of the local government would take up the matter with the appropriate authorities at the state level.
Etang promised that the local government would seek the means to assist the impacted people while it would engage the management of Mobil to assist those impacted by the spill.
He commended the peaceful disposition of the protesters and advised them to abstain from lawlessness as dialogue remained the best option in conflict resolution.