Residents of Ikot Akpan Okop, host community of St. Gabriel Coconut Refinery in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State have appealed to government to employ its youths and women in the factory.
Speaking in Mkpat Enin, Akwa Ibom on Tuesday some of the residents said that in spite of the location of the refinery in the area, the state government had refused to employ indigenes of the host community in the refinery.
Mr Saturday Thompson, the youth President, Ikot Akpan Okop village, explained that since the commencement of the St. Gabriel Coconut Refinery in 2017, no member of the host community had been employed.
“Since the refinery was built, it has not favoured us in this community in any way. No youths and women have been employed to even do menial work in the refinery.
“Though I learned that once the refinery begins operations, people would be employed.
“Unfortunately, we have no one in government that can speak for us or present our grievances before the government.
“We plead with the governor to forgive us in any way we might have offended him as a result of the controversy that arose concerning the building of the refinery,” Thompson said.
He called on the state government to come to their aid, saying that government should give them their rightful slot as host community of the refinery.
Thompson also appealed to the state government to restore the village Head of Ikot Akpan Okop, who was dethroned six years ago over Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), adding that a village without a head would always have problems.
Another residence, Chief ThankGod John, a member of the village council, Ikot Akpan Okop community, Mkpat Enin LGA said that when menial jobs were given, no one from the community was employed.
“When work started on the site, nobody from this community was employed to work there.
“All those who worked on the site until the refinery was built are from neighbouring communities.
“As for me, I have not even entered the factory before not to talk of, or see how it looks like. No employment, nothing has been done for members of the host community.
“It took a protest from the people before a borehole was built here because a gutter was channeled from the factory into the village stream.
“People protested that the chemicals in the water channeled into the stream would pollute our drinking water. That is the only thing that has been done for the community.
“The government didn’t even sign an MOU with the community before the refinery was built. The state government has not dealt well with us as a village,” he said.
Also speaking, the ousted Village Head, Chief Obot Thompson, said that he was removed as Village Head of Ikot Akpan Okop because he asked the state government to sign MoU before building the refinery.
“I am on suspension for insisting that the state government ought to have signed MOU with the community before proceeding with the project.
Thompson revealed that though the compensation was finally paid to the affected landowners, he was still on suspension.
Efforts to reach the Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Ini Ememobong, proved abortive as text messages and phone calls to his phone were not answered.
Efforts to reach Mr Frank Archibong, Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. were also abortive as text messages and phone calls to his phone were not answered.