By Constance Meju
Next door to an Exon Mobil platform, these community members lack access to health facilities and even funds to pay the traditional birth attendant
Akwa Ibom State was created in September 1987 by the Babangida administration from the old Cross River State. The state has an area of 7,081 kilometers with many coast lines and rivers. It has a population of 3.92million people by the records of the 2006 National Population Census and is the 10th largest state in Nigeria.
Akwa Ibom has 31 local government areas some of which are overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and boasts of a rich source of a wide variety fishes and sea foods including cat fish, barracuda, blue marlin, squid, sardine, croaker, shrimps, prawns, crayfish, snappers, oysters as well as vast arable farmlands that can produce enough food for its citizens and for export. Unfortunately, regular unmitigated oil spills continues to threaten the agricultural potentials of the state as well as the people’s access to safe water.
Exon Mobil is the key oil operator in the state and Akwa Ibom was in 2006, listed as the highest producer of oil in the country and in 2017, it received the highest allocation from the federal allocation as 13 per cent derivation fund but the state is characterized by oil communities suffering from serious deprivation and overwhelmed by the effects of long living with uncleaned-up oil spills.
A recent study on the impact of derivation funds on oil and gas host communities conducted by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center in four Niger Delta states length weight to cries of marginalization by the concerned communities as the report found that even though the state capital, Uyo has been enjoying the establishment of modern infrastructural facilities some of which are considered white elephant projects, the oil bearing communities live below acceptable living standards denied of basic social amenities.
Iwuo Okpom Opolom water source: contaminated well water
Two local government areas-Uyo, as state capital, and Ibeno as a major oil host community. Fifty respondents were chosen from each of the two LGAs as study sample areas and the exercise was carried out in Uko, Offot, Ukpenekang, Iwu Okpom Opolo and Iwokpom Obolo. A total of 63 males and 37 females were administered questionnaires to.
Participants in the special interviews sampling opinion on the 13 per cent derivation utilization in Akwa Ibom State suggested a need for building appropriate and effective institutions to help engender good governance and as improvement on existing standards of lives of people in oil producing communities.
The study recognized an urgent need to institutionalize the management of the 13 per cent derivation fund in the state through a legal framework that will enthrone equity and transparency, create awareness of its existence and build the capacity of citizens to monitor that institution.
It was also found as, necessary need for the state government to design socio-economic development plans, projects and programmes that are capable of creating employment and socially equitable sustainable development in the oil and gas producing areas in particulars and the state in general.
From the study, agriculture through farming and fishing remains a major occupation of the people and the food production capacity of oil communities and income generated from farming and fishing in these communities are being significantly threatened as a result of crude oil production activities.
Oil spills are a constant and clean up efforts are either non-existent or poorly executed endangering both the ecosystem and lives of inhabitants of such communities in one community alone.
A total of 250 children lost their lives to consequences from digesting polluted water in one of the communities in Ibeno LGA, Iwuo Okpom Opolom in 2014 and nothing has changed. Consequently, it is important that government pays attention to food security as that is only possible according to the study, “when all people at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
Ibu Okpom community is sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the sea. Before the advent of Exon Mobil, the main oil and gas multinational in Ibeno Local Government and most of Akwa Ibom State, oil communities in the area were self-reliant, their main occupations being fishing and farming.
Things have however changed according to the natives thanks to regular unaddressed oil spills. Fisher-folks no longer record high yields as oil spills destroy aquatic lives in the waters, the peoples sources of protein and economy. Oil spills also cake the soil, make agriculture impossible and contaminate their source of drinking water. The result is economic displacement and disempowerment translating into unemployment, hunger, youth restiveness, social vices like robbery, militancy, prostitution.
‘‘Before, our husbands used to go to sea for three months and come back with plenty of fish and crayfish. Now they come back with empty nets; customers who book in advance are unable to get back their money. Women before, just put on the pot, go the backyard and catch some fish for the family. Now we buy everything from other places and there is no money,’’ Mrs Florence Uti, one of the women narrated.
In the absence of healthcare, pregnant women turn to traditional birth attendants and spiritual centers. These operate without basic hygiene and items as simple as antiseptics, hand gloves, mackintosh, etc, and in very squalid airless shanties shared with a generator repairer.
Though TBAs charge a paltry N1000, less than $5 many husbands are unable to pay up; four mothers all in their 20s were being ‘detained’ for this indebtedness. Normal delivery costs N20,000 in a conventional clinic.
And the story is the same in almost all of the oil host communities.
Energy is also essential to all human activities and the production of goods and services yet over 70 percent of Akwa Ibom residents according to respondents live without access to electricity causing energy demand these to be dominated by use of wood as fuel, further depleting the environment and aiding climate change.
Observed also was the fact that poor performance in social service delivery is bedeviled by corruption, bad governance and lack of accountability arising from an absence of the voice of the citizenry in governance. Thus, a need to strengthen the voice and capacity of citizens especially the poor to be able to directly demand greater accountability was identified.
“Thus, there is an urgent need to enhance the ability of residents of oil and gas producing areas to engage with government (politicians) and public servants in a more informed, direct and constructive manner.
The study recognized the need for a strong, effective and efficient oil revenue governance institution to manage the 13 percent derivation.
“Getting the institution right is critical for supply of electricity, health, portable waters, food, education and environmental protection. However, if the institution(s) are vulnerable to the problem in Nigeria, especially corruption, it will be fatal to sustainable community development”, the study stated.
It noted that bureaucracy and hijack of institutions by vested interest groups create extreme red tape which discourage economic activities and advised, that “focus should not just be about creating institutions because the effectiveness of the institution is largely a function of its degree of independence and professionalism.
Since it is obvious the development in Akwa Ibom State leaves out the critical communities, the study stressed that the government needs to de-emphasize focus at the center and lay more emphasis on decentralization and devolution of power in other to be able to touch all segments of the state.
Perception on the Udom administration
34 per cent of the respondents agree to government presence in their communities while 66 per cent disagree. Beneficial effects of the administration registered progress in the area of improvement in local agriculture at 17 per cent, increased opportunity for small scale business to spring up by 15 per cent, opportunities to execute contracts, 14 per cent, increased opportunity for local populace,11 per cent, youth scholarship,11 per cent, community welfare programmes,10 per cent while increased revenue to government through increased tax revenue registered eight per cent.
On sustainable development,52 per cent of respondents indicated they are very unsatisfied with government’s performance on scholarships for youth and women trainings with only 10 per cent expressing satisfaction with government. Only one per cent are very satisfied while 37 per cent are not sure what they feel.
On provision of infrastructure, 53 per cent are very unsatisfied with government, 28 per cent are satisfied, one per cent very satisfied, while18 per cent were undecided. In the area of employment opportunities for host communities, a majority, 54 per cent are very unsatisfied , 18 per cent satisfied and 28 per cent undecided. On employment opportunities for host communities, 54 rated government very unsatisfactory, 18 per cent satisfactory, and 28 don’t know where to pitch.
On contract opportunities, 53 per cent of respondents are very unsatisfied with government,29 per cent undecided while 17 per cent indicated satisfaction with government performance and only one per cent indicated very satisfaction. In the area of agriculture, 53 per cent of the study sample are very dissatisfied with government against 25 per cent who are satisfied and three per cent very satisfied. Another 19 per cent are not sure where to fall into.
On support to small scale businesses, 54 per cent are very dissatisfied with government with only 12 per cent satisfied with government, two per cent very satisfied and 32per cent undecided.
Youth and women development are also areas of failure by the government. government claimed to be Only 21 per cent of the respondents ranked government performance on women development programmes satisfactory against 45 per cent that ranked government very unsatisfactory and 34 per cent are undecided. Only 18 per cent ticked government performance on youth development as satisfactory against the 49 per cent who are very unsatisfied while 33 per cent are undecided.
According to the survey report, some of the reasons for respondents’ dissatisfaction with government derived from the poor state of social services such as healthcare, education, lack of potable water, unemployment and the general poor state of infrastructure.
An overwhelming majority of the study sample, 98 per cent, indicated high expectations that the state government would do a better job while two per cent do not expect that government can change the situation for the better in future.
The Akwa Ibom State government received the highest derivation fund from the federal government in 2017. According to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, the state received the sum of N146bn from the federation account reflective of improved global crude oil prices but the statutory receipts could not finance its expensive and prestigious projects, the government resorted to opaque loans during the year (Social Action, 2017).
Although Uyo respondents feel the state government has made some progress towards addressingsome of the nagging problems of development, those from the oil producing areas think differently especially against the huge revenue which accrued to the state from the 13 per cent derivation fund. Data from the survey revealed that vital sectors such as education, health, electricity supply, pipe borne water and employment generation were below the peoples’ expectations.
From special interviews, it came out strongly that that part of the low service delivery could be traced to poor management of the derivation fund, in particular and public finance in general. This they claimed compounded the impoverishment of the citizens as the state continues to be characterized by widespread poverty, low employment rate, inadequate infrastructure and social services.
Government officials told the research team in confidence that the Udom administration appeared to be a departure from the Akpabio government with visible renovation and construction of schools and hospitals and other infrastructure but oil community members argue that government’s social service delivery and infrastructure efforts are less focused on oil communities. Data from the study reveal that the development level of physical structure on ground in the state does not match the revenue profile of the state. Education and health received minimal allocation in the 2017 budget while much went to recurrent expenditure and budgets in the two sectors were mostly unexecuted.
The state is yet to set up a commission for the derivation fund and majority of the respondents know little about the derivation fund.
As oil host communities continue to lament over their harsh fate even in the midst of their state’s bulky revenue purse, the survey recommended measures to get the derivation fund to touch their lives.
It recommended as follows:
There is an urgent need for the state government to establish and manage an effective and transparent institution that will manage the use of the 13 per cent derivation fundto the benefit of the people.
- The government should address more vigorously, the use of service delivery, transparency and accountability in public service.
- Government should cultivate and nurture an environment that will accelerate poverty reduction and enthrone sustainable development.
- To play an active role in enthroning good governance, civil society has to emerge as a strong voice in the development process. This implies that that it has to play a vital role in mobilizing citizens to pressure government to establish a 12 per cent derivation fund institution, articulating social demands for its use and providing countervailing influences to elicit accountable performance and transparency in the use of the derivation fund.
Between 1999 and 2014, Akwa Ibom received as its share of the 13 per cent derivation fund, a total sum of N1, 079, 630, 576, 411.6 and in 2017, the highest allocation of N143.6biilion and despite this, the government secured loans during this year of highest revenue.
All community members are asking for are the basics of safe water, health facilities to tackle issues arising from oil activities, schools for their children, power supply, agricultural input and financial support, public transport facilities, jobs especially for the husbands, youths, security; services that can easily be funded from the billions that come in regularly for communities.