A few weeks ago, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu paid an unscheduled visit to Owaza Community in Ukwa West LGA of Abia State to see for himself the massive injustice meted to the people of this community by oil prospecting companies since 1958 when the search for crude oil started in that community.
The Governor’s visit was followed up 24 hours later by the Governor’s Media Team and a group of pressmen from different media organizations in the country.
There has also been follow up write ups on the injustice done to the people of Owaza and Abia State.
Today, at the Executive Council Chambers, Government House Umuahia, Governor Ikpeazu received in audience, a high powered delegation of the Management of one of the biggest oil prospecting companies both in Nigeria and the world, the TOTAL EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION COMPANY LIMITED, who also operates in Owaza. The delegation also included traditional rulers and leaders of Owaza Community.
The visit led by the Deputy Managing Director of the Company, Mr. Francois Le Cocq is the first of its kind in the history of Abia State. Before today, no major oil producing company has even visited Abia State officially, let alone come to discuss with the state government on the way forward in their relationship. All they do is drive into Owaza, do their work and return to PH.
This visit was therefore historic in all ramifications and signals a brand new vista in the relationship between the company, the people of Owaza and the state government.
Leader of the TOTAL delegation, Francois Le Cocq told the Governor that they were in the state to establish a new relationship with the government for the overall interest of both the community and the people of Abia State. He stated that TOTAL has a global reputation for integrity and community development. They said that their full operations began few months ago and they are ready to have a fruitful relationship with all stakeholders. He pleaded with the Governor to prevail on the community not to disrupt their activities since they mean well.
Governor Ikpeazu, in his speech welcomed the delegation and informed them that Abia people are naturally peace loving which explains why despite the decades of neglect, the people of Owaza have never for one day engaged in any militant activities. He however asked the oil companies not to give the impression that those communities that do not take up arms are better ignored.
He harped on the need for synergy between the companies, the community and the state government asking the company to set up an Owaza Community Relations Liaison Unit to be manned by an Owaza indigene to act as a link between the company and the community. He challenged the company to embark on projects that will directly touch on the lives of the people and then ensure that their staff who work in Owaza pay their income tax to the government of Abia State in accordance with the law.
He tasked the company to make it a policy of employing indigenes of Owaza who are qualified and help train young people in welding and other skills, adding that all of these will give the people a sense of belonging in the activities of the company and help build stronger strategic partnerships.
This is indeed a new day for the people of Owaza and our state. Better days are ahead.
Make no mistakes about it, Governor Ikpeazu is a trail blazer.
Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, members of the State Executive Council, Executive Chairman of the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue and other key aides of the Governor were at the meeting.