7 November 2011, Sweetcrude, Uyo – The Akwa Ibom State government has established a 14-member committee to mediate in the feud between Septa Energy Nigeria Limited (SENL) and some communities in the state over the construction of a 37.3-kilometre gas pipeline project.
The communities through which the pipeline passed are located in four local government areas of the state – Mbo, Udung Uko, Urue Offiong-Oruko and Esit Eket. They are concerned about the ecological impact of the activities of the company in their area.
The 14-member committee is expected to evaluate the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) raised by the company following agitations by the affected communities.
The new committee is headed by the permanent secretary in the state Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources and has three representatives from each of the four affected local government areas as well as two representatives from Septa Energy.
Addressing stakeholders during the meeting where the committee was set up, the Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr. Enobong Uwah, said the essence of the committee was to give opportunity to the affected interests in the feud, including the government, Septa Energy and the pipeline project-impacting communities – to review the MoU draft properly before it would be signed by government.
According to him, this will give room for amendment of the document submitted by the gas company to avoid future complaints from any of the parties, adding that the committee was expected to complete and submit the document to his office within one month.
“This MoU shall come into effect on the date of signing by the last party and shall subsist for at most one year or the entire duration of the construction phase of the gas pipeline project, whichever lasts longer. The document provides for 15 MoU implementation committee members, courtesies and homage, obligations of parties, among others,” he said.
He stated that the MoU would cover all Septa Energy’s pipeline laying/construction activities within the affected communities from Edo in Esit Eket to Usung in Udung Uko local government areas.
According to the commissioner, the gas project, the second Septa Energy would be undertaking in the state, would include activities such as survey of the pipeline route, environmental impact assessment, soil test, site preparation and construction, construction of access roads, installation of cathode protection and construction of gas receiving facilities, among others.
He appealed to youths from the affected areas to give the company the maximum co-operation in its operations and to avoid unnecessary disturbance that could scare away private investors from the state.
The representative of Septa Energy, who is teh company’s Community Relations Manager, Mr. Joseph Ekpelegho expressed appreciation to the state government for putting in place a platform for the stakeholders to rub minds on the way forward.
He explained that by the MoU Septa Energy was seeking social permit from the pipeline project impacted communities and for good working relationship while their operation in the areas lasted.