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Niger Delta Youths Besiege ExxonMobil Over Unpaid Oil Spill Compensation

More than 2,500 members of a coalition of youth organisations from seven Niger Delta states today participated in a peaceful demonstration at the Qua Iboe terminal operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom.

More than 2,500 members of a coalition of youth organisations from seven Niger Delta states today participated in a peaceful demonstration at the Qua Iboe terminal operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom.

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SaharaReporters gathered that the youths were protesting the non-payment of oil spill compensation for spills, which occurred at the Idoho oil plattform within the Qua Iboe oil fields since 1998.

According to the demonstrators, the insensitivity of MPN, the Nigerian Unit of US energy firm ExxonMobil, in flouting court judgements has become unbearable and the youths had decided to explore other avenues of seeking redress including today’s unified protest of various concerned groups.

“We are law-abiding Nigerians who have refrained from taking laws into our hands but unfortunately Mobil has shown that it has no regard for Nigerian laws.  We patiently went through the slow, expensive and laborious process of obtaining justice in Nigeria but Mobil keeps exploiting the lapses in Nigeria to their advantage,” a placard-wielding youth said.

He further told SaharaReporters: “We cannot continue like this and we are here to send a signal to them that we are not weaklings and will take steps to bring them to the negotiating table to pay for the damages they have caused to our fishermen, farmers and to our ecosystem.  Look at what they did to BP in the Mexican Gulf, we cannot accept anything less.

 Though Mobil Officials at the Qua Iboe Terminal denied knowledge of the said court judgement, they were finally forced to enter into negotiations with leaders of the coalition in order to forestall a breakdown of law and order.

Mr. Elaye Otrofanowei, MPN Field Security Operations Manager at the Qua Iboe Terminal, presided over the session, which slated a meeting for March 29 in Port Harcourt to resolve the face-off.  Officials of Mobil at the meeting agreed that there were about 10,000 pending oil spill cases in various courts and pledged to verify the status of the claims by the organisations before the meeting.

The coalition comprises four organizations: Ijaw National Congress (INC), Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Ijaw Survival Movement of the Niger Delta (ISMOND) and Movement for the Survival of Ethnic Nationality in Niger Delta (MOSEND).

The Akwa Ibom Chairman of MOSEND, Mr. Godwin Robert, said that the protesters came from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Edo, Delta and Ondo states to prevail on the oil firm to comply with court judgements which ordered MPN to compensate the aggrieved youths.

According to him, members of the coalition who suffered the impact of oil spills from the facilities of Mobil were yet to be compensated for the 1998 oil spill despite obtaining favourable court judgements ordering the oil firm to indemnify them for their losses.

“We are protesting because we have these long-lingering issues of unpaid compensations that occurred in 1998, precisely January 12 to 17 at Idoho platform in Mobil, now ExxonMobil,” he explained.  “We had a ruling in 2007 which compelled the company to pay us our compensation and between 2007 and now, Mobil legal team has been coming to court to plead that they would settle out of court and yet they have been unable to settle us.  Why? We do not know.”

It will be recalled that ExxonMobil has had a chequered history of frequent oil spill at the Qua Iboe Oil fields caused by its ageing pipeline network.  Despite several spills, the oil firm has not paid one kobo in compensation within the past 13 years.

SaharaReporters investigations indicate that most of the crude pipelines laid in the late 1960s at the Qua Iboe oil fields are yet to be replaced, contrary to industry-wide lifespan of 20-25 years for crude oil pipes.  Analysts say this is a matter that ought to be of great concern to the federal government and not just affected local communities.
 

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