Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has expressed disappointment with the poor handling of development in the oil-bearing state by Federal Government and international oil corporations.
“Our state produces oil and contributes significantly to the economy of the country. But I’m yet to see any meaningful development brought to our state. I have not seen any significant presence of those who explore our oil.
“Even ExxonMobil feels too reluctant to pay tax. So, what we can do to help ourselves, is to encourage those who are willing to partner with us to develop our state”, Udom says.
Mobil Producing Nigeria that operates in the state is one of the largest oil producers in Nigeria. The company commenced operations in Nigeria in 1955 under the name Mobil Exploration Nigeria Incorporated (MENI).
It operates a Joint Venture with Abuja, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Nigerian government has a 60 percent share, with the remaining 40 percent being Mobil’s.
Since 1961, when the company was granted Oil Prospecting License (OPL) offshore in present Akwa Ibom, it is boasting of making visible contributions to the development of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
ExxonMobil and its joint venture partner, NNPC, operate over 90 offshore platforms comprising of about 300 producing wells at a capacity of over 550 thousand barrels a day of crude, condensate and natural gas liquids (NGL).
A series of projects by the joint venture is targeted to increase the current average production level to above one million barrel per day. The East Area Additional Oil Recovery project represents a major investment in a mature operation to extend field life, increase oil recovery and eliminate non-routine gas flaring by injecting produced gas.
The East Area project’s 18,000-tonne EAP Gas Compression Facilities platform was set in place at the end of 2005 and set a world record when it was installed in open water using Float-Over Technology. The Natural Gas Liquids (NLG II) project, which has the capacity to contribute 45 KBD of natural gas liquids to our total production, is an expansion of the NNPC/MPN Joint Venture’s successful Oso-NGL project and involved the engineering, procurement, construction, start-up and commissioning of an offshore NGL extraction platform, undersea pipeline infrastructure and expansion of the JV’s existing onshore fractionation and storage facilities at Bonny River Terminal.
Together with the NNPC, ExxonMobil claims to be maintaining a very active community relations programme, boasting of making substantial contributions in the areas of health, education, sports, water supply, electricity and roads, especially around its operational bases in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
Presently, the joint venture is focusing on sustainable development projects aimed at promoting economic independence for communities in its areas of operations. Through partnerships with reputable NGOs and other organisations, it is involved in capacity building, micro-financing of small and medium enterprises, healthcare and agriculture.
Though the joint venture is quick to announce awarding 500 scholarships to undergraduate students in Nigerian Universities, the Akwa Ibom State Government wants it to pay tax in order to boost its internal revenue generation.
With the COVID-19 crisis, the Udom administration has not yet been able to announce tax relief because it will affect the state’s internally generated revenue. The state’s internal revenue profile is not quite impressive.
In the first half of 2019, it recorded N20.4 billion as internally generated revenue. In 2018, it generated N24.2 billion and N16 billion in 2017.
Governor Udom is appealing to citizens to bear with his administration as it focuses on ensuring that the state survives the COVID-19 scourge before tackling more capital projects. He reassured citizens that all projects will be looked into once the situation improves and the rain subsides.
So far, the administration says it has invested over N3.00 billion in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that the money was spent on the provision of drugs, food and construction of isolation centres.
Adding, the governor said three more containers of medicals equipment and supplies have arrived the state. ‘’Government is ensuring that both suspected and confirmed cases are fed and treated free of charge throughout their stay at the isolation centres.’’
All the 43 cottage and general hospitals in the state, according to him, have been provided with basic COVID-19 training and kits to improve the handling of cases before they are transferred to isolation centres.
In addition, a new PCR laboratory has been completed and is awaiting the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) certification, he said, disclosing that seven persons have so far died from COVID-19 with 80 active cases while 1,103 people have been tested and 121 discharged.
“I am glad to inform you that the state has activated the second PCR lab and it is 100% ready. We are only awaiting NCDC certification. So be rest assured that we will soon step up the testings in the state. We won’t wait for people to show symptoms “, Governor Udom says.
He said his target is to have 49 functional Intensive Care Units ‘’before we leave the office. Recall that I said while revamping some of our hospitals that ‘ there could be a condition where 30 minutes reach to hospital matters’, lo and behold coronavirus came!”
Akwa Ibom, he said has entered the stage of community spread, appealing to citizens to protect themselves and comply with government safety protocols at public places and social events.
“We are at a stage of community transmission, and what that means is that you must protect yourself. At this moment, everything is important. Don’t ignore even a sore throat. Don’t wait to realise that coronavirus is real when it is too late”, he said.
Continuing, he said since the pandemic hit the country, the state has recorded just seven deaths of those who tested positive to the virus, admitting that there has been additional four deaths recorded.
“It is not as if they all died in one day, but it is just because that is the time that NCDC decided to update its records. All those cases were brought in to our facilities when their conditions were very bad”.
On the new PCR laboratory, he said it will boost testing. “I am glad to inform you that the State has activated the second PCR lab and it is 100% ready. We are only awaiting NCDC certification. So be rest assured that we will soon step up the testing in the State. Now that we have a second laboratory, we will have more testing carried out.”
According to him, “we are soon going to announce the resumption dates for schools. We are beginning from JSS 3 and SS3. We want to fumigate the schools before we allow the children to return. The Ministry of Education is monitoring the West African Examinations Council to know when the exams are holding so that they will ensure that the students resume and acclimatise long enough before exams commence.’’