30 November 2011, Sweetcrude, EKET (Akwa Ibom) – More than 500 women from Edo community in Esit Eket Local Government of Akwa Ibom on Wednesday blocked the access road to the gas plant under construction by Septa Energy.
The women, who carried placards and symbolic cassava leaves, were protesting over alleged non-implementation of development projects promised their community.
The protesters besieged Septa Energy’s central processing facility in Edo, while armed security men drafted to secure the facility appealed to them to disperse but the appeal fell on deaf ears as they insisted on speaking with officials of the firm.
They later moved to the village square, disrupting vehicular movement and holding up workers en route to the project site.
The protest started at 3 a.m. and lasted till 7 a.m. when the construction company’s community liaison officer addressed the crowd at the village square.
Mrs Nkoyo Uyongnkpo, a women leader in the area, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the women, who donated their land in anticipation of development projects and job opportunities, were disappointed that the firm had not met its obligations to the host community.
“We opened our doors when the company came calling and we surrendered our farmlands to provide space for the proposed gas plant but about five companies providing services to Septa have not fulfilled their obligations to the women.
“None of the companies cared to meet the women of this community and that prompted us to do a peaceful demonstration because we felt short-changed as the economic empowerment packages they promised are not forthcoming,” Uyongnkpo said.
Deaconess Grace Akpata, the Secretary of the Edo Women Council, also said that the community lacked potable water while its roads were begging for attention.
“We felt sad that none of the contractors hired by Septa has thought it wise to come and see the women who sacrificed their farmlands and means of livelihood for the project.
“We are speaking with our action that we cannot take things lying low as stakeholders in the project.
“We are simply asking for our rights as spelt out in the MoU between the operators of the Uquo marginal oil fields and the community.”
When contacted, Mr Ini Johny-Abraham, the Community Liaison Officer of Septa Energy, confirmed the development, but declined comments on the allegations levelled against the company and its project contractors.
NAN reports that the Uquo marginal oil field was awarded to Frontier Oil Ltd, an indigenous oil prospecting and exploration firm, but it has failed to find crude oil in commercial quantities in the oil block.
The development prompted Frontier to enter into a partnership with Septa Energy to develop the gas reserves found in the oil field.