The Akwa Ibom State house of Assembly has finally wadded into the ongoing crisis between the Frontier Oil Limited (FOL) operators of seven energy and its host communities of Eket and Esit Eket.
The youths of the communities have in different occasions protested as well as picketed the operational base of the oil giant, alleging the renege of Memorandum of Understanding by the Company.
The youths claimed that the company underpaid two of their indegenes under their employ by paying them the sum of N70, 000 as salary per month while their colleagues with the same job specifications were paid over N700, 000 monthly. This disparity according to the youths compelled the two indigenes to resign their job.
They maintained that frontier oil in attempt to fill in the vacant positions in the company employed people (non-indigenes) without following due process of placing advertorials in one national newspaper, one state based newspaper (emphasis on Pioneer Newspaper) and pasting of the notice on the local government secretariat as stipulated in the MoU.
It was gathered that the youths have called for the immediate sack of the newly employed persons and allow the recruitment process open also called for the sack of the General Manager, Mr. Wole Adefila.
However, the member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, while interacting with newsmen in his office, explained his efforts to bring the dissenting parties to a reconciliation table.
Akpanusoh further explained that inasmuch as the protesting youths have been urged to ceasefire and embrace dialogue, that Frontier Oil should as well uphold what was stated in the MoU adding that the oil company could as well call for a review of the MoU if they feel the conditions therein are outrageous.
According to him, “We want the oil company to comply with the demands of the communities. It is all about what they signed and not new agitations, after all no body forced them to sign.”
Asked what would happen if the frontier oil refuses to comply with the demands of the host communities, the lawmaker simply said, ‘the community will ask them to leave.’
Akpanusoh also dismissed the allegation of disharmony and sabotage amongst the traditional rulers over the issue saying, “I think the elders are on the same page with the youths. Though it is possible for someone to have a personal interest but the interest of the community supersedes.”
Meanwhile, the head, Government and Community Relations of Frontier Oil, Mr Samuel Atara, said that the crisis was as a result of misinformation and gap in the communication chain promising that the company would try its best to resolve the crisis.
His words, “Even in the mouth, you have the teeth, you have the tongue, there is bound to be friction. We are doing our best to resolve the issue.
“What happened is that it was a stop gap issue, it’s a relieve duty and so, we called one of our body shop contractors to send in a personnel to fill a gap for us, and the community took that as an employment, so, it was just a kind of misinformation. We needed to bring in just two persons for a relieve duty from our body shop contractor, so, the community insisted it was an employment that we didn’t pick people from their place, and we say sorry, the MD has cancelled that”.
Atara disclosed that the company had started discussion with the aggrieved youths with the hope to bringing the matter to amicable solution.
“The managing director has apologised to them and has promised them that the company would revoke what they said was employment. And has directed that they be given the slot, we are ready to do that as soon as possible. We have given them our corporate apologies and I can assure that Frontier would do its utmost to resolve the issue amicably. We have opened discussions with them, we have already reached out to them and we are now asking them to provide us with those persons and we will employ. So what we need to do now is to get CVs from them , and when once we have the CVs, we will finalise the whole problem within few days time. We would be guided by the MOU we signed with the host communities and was witnessed by the Akwa Ibom State government,” Atara said.