Gov Bassey Otu
Barely a week after the people of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong had identified 33 exploratory wells of two oil fields in their area, more communities in Cross River state have come up with claims of more exploratory oil wells in the state .
Hence they have called on the state government to laiase with the federal government to commence oil and gas exploration in their areas.
The communities are the people of Usung Esuk Odot and Ediong Communities, among others, requested passionately for the resumption of exploration activities over the oil and gas deposits in Odot Creeks, Okpokong Estuaries/Esuk Odu in Odukpani Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.
Recently, the people of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong led by their Clan Head, Etubom Nya Asuquo said they have identified in their community two oil fields and 33 exploratory wells capped and abandoned by Shell Petroleum 65 years ago and called on the federal government to give an approval for an exploration to commence at the two oil fields.
However, fears are rife that the claims by the people of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong may pitch them against their neighbours, that is the people of Usung Esuk Odot and Ediong communities who in a letter to the State Governor, Senator Bassey Otu, said, “we write as the bona fide Landlord communities of the vast area straddling across the Odot Creek down to the Itu Head Bridge being the boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States”.
Justifying their claims, the people of Usung Esuk Odot and Ediong communities in their letter to the governor and endorsed by the Youth Leader, Ediong, Chief Bassey Effiong Bassey, Community Leader, Ediong Elder Ndiyo Ndiyo Okon and a Leader of Thought, Ediong, Hon. Ndem Essien Ndem, recalled that “at the composition of the leadership and administrative structures of the defunct Odot/Ediong Clan was unique and of course tranquil, harmonious and responsive in the interest of the age long, ancestral fraternity and development of the two Communities.
“Interestingly, sometime in 1996, the then Military Government of Cross River State created more Villages and Clans in what is known as the Cross River State (Clan Creation) Edict No. 1 of 1996. This historic milestone carved out the Odot/Ediong Clan into three administrative structures or autonomous Clans”.
They named the three clans to include; (a.) Ekim/Uyi —Usung Esuk Odot, Akwa Ekim, Ebebit, Obio Asim, Obio Bassey Effiong Villages and other adjoining settlements. (b) Ndon clan – Ndon Nwong, Atan Odot, Esuk Odot and other adjoining settlements. (c) Ediong clan – Otong Ediong, Esuk Ediong and other adjoining settlements.
Before the clan creation, they stated that, “the people of Usung Esuk Odok and Ediong communities independently administered the vast area straddling across the Odot Creek, Okpokong estuaries/Esuk Odu, with the enormous potentials that abound in the area to further confirm the fact of their ownership.
“Again, in 1999, due to the incessant boundary skirmishes between the people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, the Cross River State Government approached the Supreme Court of Nigeria for interpretation that would ascertain and establish the actual boundaries between the two sister states. It was resolved by the Apex Court that the two States inclusive of Odot Forest Reserve, Esuk Ediong and the. Okpokong bridge etc. which are major landmarks are indeed part of Cross River State and particularly in Odot and Ediong Land.
“Further to this, the Natural Boundary Commission (NBC)/Federal Government’s White Paper on the Akwa lbom/Cross River boundary dispute published on the 11th day of March, 2002 also lends credence to the above explanations”.
In this regards therefore, they said, “worthy of note too, is the fact that Odot and Ediong axis of Odukpani LGA of Cross River State has several Oil and Gas reserves located along the Odot Creeks, Okpokong/Esuk Odu estuaries in Usung Esuk Odot Village and the borders of Ediong Community.
“It is also on record that the largest Oil field in Cross River is in Odukpani Oil field of which the Odot Creek, Okpokong/Esuk Odu estuaries constitute a greater percentage.The ‘Nigeria Oil Concession Map’ has also indicated that a substantial part of the capped Oil Wells/Blocks described in NCB2 which was reserved for future exploration by Shell Petroleum Development Company during its exploration activities in the area in 1957 were in the aforementioned areas”.
To further establish the real ownership of the aforementioned areas, they argued that “the Nigerian Integrated Power Project (NIPP) handling lots 25-2 330KV OHT line on Ediong and that of Usung Esuk Odot Communities along the area duly handed over the compensation that was due Landlord Communities to the two Communities of Ediong and Usung Esuk Odot.
“In fact, in the commencement of the ongoing construction of the Calabar-Itu Highway, the Federal Ministry of Works also recognised the two aforementioned communities as their host communities.
“These evidential notes remain a clear testament to the fact that the administration of the aforesaid areas has been historically and indisputably the exclusive preserve of the Usung Esuk Odot and Ediong Communities”.
According to them, further checks for exploration activities in the area would be more revealing and rewarding to the state as “this would indeed bring greater fortunes to better the social and economic lives of our people just as it would ‘relist’ Cross River and position her comfortably among the oil producing states in the country.
“In view of the foregoing, we most passionately request that Your Excellency should use your good offices, in conjunction with relevant agencies of the Federal Government, to take steps that would commence exploration activities for Oil and Gas resources in the Odot Creeks, Okpokong andEsuk Odu estuaries”.
In a brief reaction to claims by the people of Usung Esuk Odot and Ediong communities on oil and gas in their communities, and fears in some quarters that this may lead into conflict, the Clan Head of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong said, “there is nothing wrong with that, the more the merrier. The more areas that we have oil , the better.
“If you look at the map it extends from Adiabo and beyond. NNPC or whichever company, when they come , they will do the seismic in five LGAs and they are Akpabuyo, Akamkpa, Odukpani, Biase, and Ogoja.
Oil field is not in one spot, there are reasons why they want to do in these areas. My own locality is what is more important to me.
“Why should people lay claim on fields? If you have read the petroleum industry Act, it is clearly spelt out. Under the exclusive legislative list , it is clearly an area of the FG while the locals get 3%, other benefits include schools, roads, Hospitals, scholarship, etc. Akwa Ibom state has 76 oil wells, there is no agitation, we are just about to start, l don’t foresee any problem”.