By ABASIOFIOK INYANG
For the people of Ukpana community in Onna Local Government Area, this is not the best of times for them as the village has suffered an unwarranted trespass and destruction of their properties perpetuated by Sterling Oil Exploration and Production Company Limited through oil exploration activities in the area.
The massive destruction occurred during the construction of access road to the Appraisal Wells’ Drilling Site in Ibotio Field – OML 13 and the company’s operational base.
The said destruction , The Crest reports, has affected both economic crops and trees, streams namely: Idim Mkpighe, Idim Uton, Etuk Enyeng, Adaha Ukim, Idim Akpan Akwa, Idim Judah etc. Also affected are swamps including Mbat James Udo, Mbat Ikang Eta, Ndua Udo Otu, Ndua Akpasi Abasi, Ndua Udo Essien, Ndua Ekpouwana Ndua Ekanem Awaekpo, Ndua Otu Ikan and Edem Esa Ikot Inyang. Many farmlands that were destroyed include Ikot Inwang, Udat Ufok Atia Etiang, Iso Nkunku Otung Mkpa, Usung Urua Edo, Ikot Ufot Nsek, Adaha Ukim, Udi Nnwip and Mkpighe.
The destruction has also affected several water bodies in the community. Among them, Idim Isong, Idim Uye Mfi, Idim Inyang, Idim Mkpighe, Idim Uton, Etuk Enyeng, Adaha Ukim Stream, Idim Akpan Akwa, Idim Judah. Economic crops and trees of various types damaged are oil palm trees, raffia palm trees, ukim, mango, ukana, kola nut trees, star apple trees, fluted pumpkin, cassava, plantain, banana, yam, cocoyam, and other farm crops/trees, etc.
The village owned properties such as oil palm trees, raffia palm, pineapple plantations, cemeteries – Uwa Iban Cemetery, Iso Mbubiam, Akpa Mbiam as well as ancestral shrines – Nku-Ku Ikot Inwang, Ikpaisong Ubop Owo, Iso Ubo, Uwong, Eka Ndito were destroyed without appeasement and relocation which now caused unwarranted deaths in the community.
It would be recalled that in July 2021, the Company – Sterling Oil Exploration and Production Company Limited entered into Ukpana village without proper consultation or consent of the constituted authority of the village, cleared their land with bulldozers to enable it carry the construction of access road to the Appraisal Wells’ Drilling Site in Ibotio Field – OML 13 and the company’s operational base.
The company, it was gathered, never served the community the requisite notices of their intended desire to acquire their land before carrying out the exercise as required by law.
It was also gathered that before entering into the said land to commit the act of trespass, the company did not also carry out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project on the community to identify the negative and positive impacts of the project as required by law.
According to the village head of Ukpana, Eteidung Goodnews Bassey Ranzi, “The company concluded their survey works without any input from the community who are the custodians of the land, swamps and creeks, deities and shrines of which most of them are affected during the said construction exercise. The company refused to provide the necessary safety and security measures to the community as required by law.
“The company bulldozed aforesaid farmlands located at different locations in the community. They sand-filled the community streams and other water sources making water unfit for human consumption and domestic use”.
The monarch who was flanged by the 11 family heads, women and youths of the village, among them, Chief Michael Udoessien, Chief Udosen Udoidiong, Chief Udo Andrew Ikoe, Chief Udo Udo Sambo, Chief Nyon Charlie Obonganwan Christiana Udo Ikpe, Mrs Ekaette Ewah, Mrs Hannah, Mrs Comfort Sunday Emmanuel, Mrs Cecilia Caleb, Mrs Grace Okon Udofot, Mrs Comfort Akpan Mbong, and David Joe Jack for the youths,said that the destruction has caused an untold hardship and danger to members of the community. “Due to massive destructive activities of the company, the people have suffered the untold dangers even as it continues to experience hardship. This is sequel to the denial of their means of livelihood being farming, fishing, hunting and allied businesses.
“Specifically, the activities of the company in this regard have caused the community the following hazardous consequences:
Pollution of streams, swamps, rivers and fish ponds, thereby denying the community sources of drinking water and the effect is still continuing till date;
Destruction of aquatic lives resulting in the death of aquatic animals and fishes;
Flooding of the village leaving some roads impassable and destruction of some homes, leaving some villagers destitute and homeless;
Deprivation of people’s means of livelihood particularly fishing, farming, hunting, etc. which are the main occupations of the inhabitants; Subjection of the people to abject poverty and hunger;
Damaged to the community reserved forests, oil palm and raffia palms plantations, hard and softwoods, timber and non-timber products and medicinal herbs;
Destruction and desecration of the community ancestral shrines and venerated areas of traditional worships, thus denying the people their ancestral identity to the annoyance of the gods of the community, which is causing a lot of deaths and apprehension;
“Destruction of wildlife, ecosystem, natural habitat and the physical environment of the people;
Causing the ecological, health and environment hazards to the people, poor crops yield and unhealthy vegetation;
Destruction of graveyards with tombstones at various locations; Destruction of fish ponds and fishing waters; and Human rights abuses and violation.
“The activities of the company have caused substantial damage to the community which inspite of all their sufferings have not been paid compensation to alleviate their sufferings. Whereas, the same company has paid compensation on the same project to the neigbouring communities like Ikot Abasi village in Onna LGA whose land is contiguous with that of Ukpana village. But the company deliberately refused to pay same to Ukpana community”.
The community demanded the sum of N177 billion in compensation from the oil company for the massive properties destroyed and the appeasement of late fathers of the village whose graves have been destroyed.
Meanwhile, an environmental rights organization in the country, AIbom Oil Producing Community Development Network (AKIPCOC) has called on the people of the oil producing communities to unite and demand for their rights within the confine of the Act.
The call was made by the Special Assistant to President General of AKIPCON on Projects Monitoring, Elder Iniobong Nnah Akpan. He advised that they should not allow infighting deprive them of their rights, and that they should insist on the Local Content and payment of percentage allocated to oil producing communities in the Act and other benefits accruable to them.
Efforts to reach Sterling Oil Exploration and Production Ltd for reaction on the destruction of the community has proved abortive.