Residents and indigenes of Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have expressed their concern over the alleged abandonment ExxonMobil airstrip by the oil firm.
Until recently, the airstrip popularly known as Mobil Airstrip, was the only aviation facility which catered for not only Mobil but also the state government’s aviation needs.
But the facility appears to have been abandoned as the oil company now prefers to patronise Victor Attah International Airport in the outskirts of Uyo to ferry its staff offshore.
Mr Assam Abia, a resident of Okopidi, where the airstrip is located, lamented the inconveniences caused by ExxonMobil to their staff, disclosing that the airstrip seized to function almost a year ago.
He said that all the flights and choppers used by ExxonMobil staff now take off from Victor Attah International Airport which is located far away from Eket LGA.
“I think ExxonMobil is trying to register their grievances over incessant blocking of roads by the youths of the core communities,” he alleged.
Abia however, said that the closure of the airstrip had caused economic backwardness to the core communities in Akwa Ibom.
“When the airstrip was functional, petty traders used to do businesses with the staff before they boarded the aircraft, but now, everything thing is at a standstill.
“I have brothers whose flights take off to offshore every two weeks from the airstrip, but now they depart from Victor Attah International Airport at Oron which is an inconvenience to them. The transportation from Eket to Oron airport is very expensive and clumsy because each of them carry their luggage on their back to take off to offshore and Bonny,” he said.
Abia said that the staff working at the airstrip were redundant because they go to work and close at night doing nothing.
Mr Joseph Idiok, another resident of Eket, expressed dismay that the airstrip no long works in Eket, saying that his friends who worked offshore now travel to Victor Attah International Airport on their way offshore.
“I’m really concerned that aircrafts no longer land at the airstrip more than one year now and as a result, the staff pay a lot on transportation to travel from the airport to Eket main town,” he said.
He alleged that the airstrip abandonment had caused untold hardship to the people of Eket in particular and Akwa Ibom in general.
Another native of the area, Mr Okon Utibe, expressed dissatisfaction with the management of the company, saying that no aircraft had landed or taken off in the past one year.
Utibe who lamented that there were no signs of the rehabilitation of the runway or the airstrip itself, also expressed his worries over the inconveniences caused by the management of the company on the economic well-being of the people.
But in his reaction to the issue, Mr Ogechukwu Udeagha, Manager, Media and Communications ExxonMobil said; “this decision is part of our overall efforts to improve our operational efficiency.
“Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) is committed to working with our communities and other relevant stakeholders to agree on the best alternative use of the property.”
We operate “in a way that contributes optimally to the economy of Akwa Ibom in general and Eket area in particular. We seek the understanding and cooperation of our communities as we make this transition,” Udeagha said.