David Augustine’s Naked Dance With ExxonMobil
By Aniekeme Finbarr
David Augustine, journalist and lawyer, writing with the caption, AKSG, MOBIL AND THE DANCE OF THE HEADLESS CHICKEN fought hard to put together half-truths, false facts, incoherent analysis and weak logic into an article. This writer has the highest regard for Mr. Augustine but considering that David Augustine was executing a hatchet job for his clients, ExxonMobil Nigeria and others, I sympathize with him because he had to do all he could to justify his pay. Sadly, in putting that inglorious piece together, Mr. Augustine hurt the truth, twisted sacred facts, insulted the Akwa Ibom State Governor, government and its people and rubbed more salt to the age long injuries inflicted by his paymasters on oil producing communities and the good people of Akwa Ibom State.
I understand the fact that the writer is not a native of Akwa Ibom State but he has lived long enough in this state to feel the pains and the injustice meted out by this oil producing company. From oil spillage to gas flaring, pollution and the abdication of its corporate social responsibilities, indigenes of Akwa Ibom State have the right to be very angry with the IOC, but in tandem with the rich Christian virtues of patience and love have opted to let peace reign.
It is therefore disheartening that Exxon Mobil has chosen the path of evil politics and blackmail, which David’s article clearly portrays.
1. It is silly to contemplate that the Government of Akwa Ibom State is in combative mode, taking up arms against individuals and institutions in whatsoever. David Augustine writes that “the government and its agents have, like a headless chicken, moved in a chaotic frenzy against just anybody and any institution…” The above line is not only false and inciting, it also an insult on the generality of the people of the state who filed out to vote this government into power and have so far expressed their support for the Udom Emmanuel administration. This administration is very focused in its drive to make life better for its citizens and too preoccupied to take up any form of arms against anyone. Mr. Augustine in justifying his pay has abused free speech.
2. David Augustine also wrote that “the youths (of Akwa Ibom state) have also taken on Obong Nsima Ekere and the agency he is running on behalf of the Nigeria people. Goaded by high officials of government, rampaging pretenders to journalism have made mincemeat of Nsima Ekere and the NDDC, using every available media platform at their disposal. Their concern and those that fund their activities cannot be said to be in the interest of the state, rather the attacks have been to diminish Ekere and his agency in anticipation of what lies ahead in 2019”.
This line alone betrays the interest of the writer and his weak attempt to defend the NDDC MD. What even brought Obong Nsima Ekere into his narrative is beyond me. At no point have the youths of the state taken on Mr Ekere except to urge the NDDC to be truthful in its dealings. The youths of Akwa Ibom State are worried that the NDDC could descend so low to publish roads executed by the Akwa Ibom State Government as their own. The youths are concerned that NDDC considers road projects awarded since 2005 as ongoing, even after 12 years had elapsed. They are only asking for honest explanations from the federal agency as to why it should go ahead to publish such roads as completed.
3. David Augustine does not take long before he reveals the essence of his article, a weak attempt to defend the indefensible. He writes: “Perhaps the one fight I have found to be so meaningless and shameless is the fight against oil giant, ExxonMobil. What triggered off the intense, but senseless attack on Mobil was the bringing to the fore of a billboard mounted by the company to showcase its efforts at corporate social responsibility to the communities around its operation areas and the state, by people the government and its “youths” considered as political opposition”.
I smile because Exxon Mobil and her agent in this circumstance remind us of the aphorism that success has many friends but failure is an orphan. The story of Eket-Ibeno road is not a new story, a road unattended to, death trap, eyesore, abandoned, rejected and dejected. The people of Esit Urua, Edeobuk, Ebana, Afaha Eket villages and Ibeno Local Government Area can tell the story better.
David Augustine is insensitive to the feelings of the people by takings sides with Exxon Mobil to play politics. I am shocked that David did not read his colleague, Nsibiet John’s take on this Eket Ibeno issue. Nsibiet, an indigene of Eket wrote and I quote: “Exxon Mobil has over the years snubbed her host communities and therefore cannot wake up now to lay claim to whatever achievements that has been recorded on Eket-Ibeno road. It is to the credit of Akwa Ibom State Government led by Udom Emmanuel, no apologies. For those who may not know and would wish to know, Exxon Mobil has been very unfair to Akwa Ibom State. Make no mistakes; this Company does not have the interest of Akwa Ibom people at heart. They come across as the most insensitive Oil Company operating in Nigeria. Can we compare them to Shell? No! In terms of Corporate Social Responsibility, they come very low on the scale of services and honesty.
‘It is sickening, nonsensical and an act of dubiosity for any man to credit the success story of Eket-Ibeno road to Exxon Mobil. Even the most naivety of men will have no excuse to credit Exxon Mobil with such glory or dignity.
‘Okay, Let us even agree that Exxon Mobil like they are saying contributed 8billion naira as part of her counterpart funds to the Eket-Ibeno road. Exxon Mobil just has to spare us the inglorious boast of how much they have contributed to Akwa Ibom State. They must allow us to remain in peace and bemoan their harsh treatment of us. Because in terms of Corporate Social responsibility, Exxon Mobil’s contribution is always so infinitesimal. Infact their efforts are always so demeaning.
‘There is no justification for Exxon Mobil to come now and boast of an 8billion naira contribution to a project of over 30 billion on a facility they are the most beneficiary. That road leads to their operational base. Take Eket-Ibeno road away and you take Exxon Mobil away fromAkwa Ibom State. If for anything sake, Akwa Ibomites and Exxon Mobil should be grateful to Udom Emmanuel who decided to take the bull by the horn and broke the jinx of successive governments’ denial of attention to that road.
‘Afterall, Exxon Mobil precedes Governor Udom Emmanuel, the road before now equally precedes Governor Emmanuel, so what are we saying? Exxon Mobil should leave us alone. We have always shouted and shouted for attention to be paid to that road but we were shunned. Successive Government, NDDC and Exxon Mobil were full of excuses. Now that a Governor have come, listened and fixed this road, Mobil is coming to claim it. This is not only greed, but a fraud.
In fact for daring to insult the sensibilities of the people, Exxon Mobil should go and remove that annoying signpost otherwise we will help them remove it. We don’t want to fight anyone, company or institution. And they should never contemplate bring up that annoying signpost again. If Exxon Mobil is a political party, they should tell us, if they are now operating as a political party, they should tell us so we know.
‘And the most offensive part of this Exxon Mobil politics on Eket-Ibeno road is the hypocritical silence of the authorities of this Company. Their PRO or Public Affairs manager is not saying anything. This is Fuelling the rumour that is indeed Exxon Mobil that has paid heavily some sum of money to some partisan individuals to go ahead and discredit the efforts of Government on that road.
‘Well, whether they remain silent in the face of this argument or not, the Oil Company should bear in mind that Akwa Ibom people are too enlightened to be deceived by a few very sponsored and misinformed individuals who terrorize the pages of the cyberspace and or print media and electronic media with lies induced by the funds of Exxon Mobil.
‘The Company should understand by now that their job has blown and if they thought by paying some mischief makers to discredit the State Government on Eket-Ibeno road, they will take the shine, then shamefully, it failed on arrival. It was a poorly executed blackmail. Exxon Mobil should bury their head in shame.
However, with the signpost of Exxon Mobil positioned deliberately structured to mislead the people, Exxon Mobil should tell us if they are a political party or a branch of it so that they can be treated accordingly like a political entity. Hiding under the guise of an oil company to play politics on development is totally unacceptable and uncalled for, we shall reject it vehemently”. Nsibiet John added.
David Augustine’s attempt to defend mobil that “the 8 billion naira it contributed is part of its multi-year investment in Akwa Ibom state totalling N26 billion” is annoying. David’s claims on behalf of Exxon Mobil that “The company’s counterpart contribution of N8 billion paid in 2014 is part of the short term projects captured in the multi-year investment programme” is untrue. If Mobil claims that what it paid is not part of the palliative accruing to the oil bearing communities from incessant oil spills, then it should go ahead and pay the said palliative to the communities.
It is also unprofessional for Mr. Augustine to claim that the government said it earmarked 56 billion naira for the Eket-Ibeno road project. That is ridiculous as it is untrue. Government has so far spent about 31.4 billion naira on the road, improving on its original design that did not include side drains from kilometer 10. Exxon Mobil should stay on the path of honour, mind its business, be alive to its social responsibility and stay clear of politics. Any person or institution who attempts to discredit the present government’s efforts at delivering projects will be exposed and brought to shame. If Mobil had designed a billboard to accompany its famous 8 billion naira, why did the company not put it up in 2014? Why did it wait till 2017 after government had defied the harsh economic climate to deliver a beautiful, dualized road with bridges?
Akwa Ibom people forgive David Augustine this one time and hope he doesn’t sin again. Also, I have tried to decipher why he would also bring in the MD of NDDC into his piece that was solely intended to launder Exxon Mobil’s bad image. I have found only one connection so far, he hails from the same place as the wife of the NDDC MD and whatever his job prescription is, truth will prevail. Akwa Ibom people will resist every line of falsehood and deceit, including this one from Mobil. Akwa Ibom people will only encourage its democratically elected government to continue to provide good governance.
Finbarr is a Public Affairs Analyst