As a youth or middle-aged man or woman indigent in any of the Niger Delta or oil producing states (major or minor), whatever has been consuming your time in the last forty eight (48) hours may not be known. No doubts, it could be of importance and benefit(s) to you, but it might interest you to know that indigenes of Akwa Ibom State of both male and female genders had structured a convergence somewhere with some others, likeminded and indigent outside the state, to chart a course that may most likely change a narrative, and make a historical mark that will sure transcend generations yet to come.
It could be recalled that not too long ago, Ag. President Yemi Osibanjo, in his visit to Akwa Ibom, had made a pronouncement, call it an advocacy, for oil operating firms in the country to relocate, as a matter of necessity, their headquarters to their respective states of exploits.
Like an army contingent that had been waiting for a long overdue order from the commander to feast on an overbearing opposing force, the host states of the said oil firms had immediately taken up the advocacy. It was the case of the bereaved not letting the sympathizer cry more tears. Perhaps the thinking that triggered that was that, if a sympathizer (Osibanjo) could cry that much over a years-long loss that has left the oil rich states perpetually bereaved, then the states, certainly, had more reasons to outdo the sympathizer in tears.
Within the reach of this writer, there is yet to be any positive response on the part of the firms in this regard. Perhaps there has been one, but yet to be made public or made to touch the reach of the writer, except for some rickety excuses explaining the difficulty, nay, impossibility of effecting the relocation so advocated. With this, they have only won the power of retaining the burden of convincing us, if ever they will.
One may want to ask why the much agitation for exploiting oil firms to relocate their headquarters to host states. The answer in one sentence is that the firms owe their hosts the corporate-social responsibility of contributing to their development and ensuring or, at least, contributing to their welfare, especially where it concerns the immediate communities where the acts of exploration are done. This advocacy is neither strange nor new, and we can prove this with a short drive down historical lane.
Dating back to 1964, the League of Developing Countries (LCDs) had converged at the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to agitate for a New International Economic Order (NIEO). However, the systematic account of the various elements for a NIEO was contained in the resolutions later adopted in subsequent sessions of the UNCTAD.
Lying underneath this demand for a NIEO was a dissatisfaction on the part of the LDCs as it concerns trading, financial, technological and other (selfish) policies pursued by the developed countries towards the LDCs. And it is on record that since inception, the developed countries have oppressed the LDCs, discriminated against them, as well as denied them access to advanced technology.
How does this concern the oil dealing firms and the relocation issue in context? Simple. The NIEO proposal as was drafted and pushed by the LDCs had five standing objectives. And for the sake of time or the lack of it, the one which concerns the issue at hand is the demand for the regulation and control of the activities of Multi-National Corporations/Trans-National Corporations (MNCs/TCs) in their host states (country in this sense).
In this view, the NIEO declaration emphasized on the formulation, adoption and implementation of an international code of conduct to regulate the activities of MNCs in host countries with the aim of removing restrictive business practices in the LDCs, regulating expatriate domination and repatriation of profits (capital flight), promoting re-investment of capital in host countries to help develop their economies, among others.
Back to the local scene. Akwa Ibom as an oil rich state (a major one at that) plays host to ExxonMobil which is a multinational corporation. This has been an age long visitor/host affair but which unfortunately, has been of far more benefits to the visitor than to the host. As a growing child who once had a regular fare through the Eket/Ibeno/QIT Terminal route, the writer personally witnessed several cases of violent protests by youths of the area against the ExxonMobil management. The causes have always been the case of oil spillage, indiscriminate sack of indigenous staff, unpaid attention to the welfare of the host and surrounding communities or failure on the part of the ExxonMobil management to meet the terms of agreement which contradicts the Judaism triggered Latin Maxim- “pacta sunt servanda”, meaning that any agreement entered into must be kept- a brocard and and a basic principle of civil, canon and international law.
Granted, the first attempt at the international scene to have given us what we are struggling for today is almost so woeful a failure at the NIEO instance, on reasons bothering on lack of economic cooperation among the LDCs which paved way almost so easily for the opposing stand of the developed countries to have dominating prevalence. However, this is a local case that has no dependence on the NIEO, except for some lessons to be learnt from the mistakes on the part of the LDCs- mistakes of being intimidated by the “trade and escape” clauses, and being cowed into ignorant concessions through a sheep-clothed wolf of General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT).
It is therefore time we took up this agitation from the point of the pains we have been enduring all through the past years of mourning. It is high time we faced ExxonMobil with the raw truth about how we feel about their many years of treating us as mere signposts, which only serves the very important purpose of showing the way to a destination, yet, never partakes in the event at the destination.
Fellow Akwa Ibomites, young and old, this is one of those very pressing times to dakkada. We must rise and join the course and take this chance of being part of rewriting history. Join the course of agitating for the relocation of Mobil headquarters to Akwa Ibom.
Closing, do you know that the top staff of ExxonMobil hardly spend one night in Akwa Ibom in a year? These people are the real money bags of Mobil who fly in and out of the QIT terminal every day and never spend a dime of the money from our oil to patronize as little as a supermarket in Akwa Ibom? What stark example can the term CAPITAL FLIGHT have other than this? Akwa Ibomites, the time is now.
To initiate this course and swing into action, an online (WhatsApp) chat group was created to campaign under the Movement For the Relocation of Exxonmobil Headquarters to Akwa Ibom State and membership was placed on voluntary basis.
On the first meeting day, an hashtag- #RelocateExxonMobilHQ was created and a total of 256 presence was recorded. As part of steps to ensure adequate information to facilitate the campaign, a Reach-out Committee was set with majority of the members selected from oil producing areas.
The said committee was mandated with the duties of:
* approaching leaders at all levels and aspects of the society.
*Approaching ExxonMobil spokespersons, the community, and the Lagos office of the firm.
*Approaching the House of assembly Committee currently handling the ExxonMobil case.
Furthermore, 14th of July 2017 was set as the online campaign launch date and the major and primary aim of this movement is to have the Exxonmobil head office relocated to Akwa Ibom State.
For more information and link to membership, contact the Convener, Mr. Uduak Inwang, on 09025699607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ubong Sampson (08021419939)- a public affairs analyst and media practitioner writes in from Ata Minya, Mkpat Enin LGA.