The Akwa Ibom State Government has directed three oil firms operating Marginal Oil Fields offshore in the state, the Oriental Energy Resources Ltd, AFREN Services Ltd, and its sister firm, AMNI to commence the process of signing memorandum of understanding with the host communities over sustainable development and peace in the areas.
The state Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Chief Eno-Obong Uwah, made the call when the three firms jointly presented scholarship grant to 211 students from the two local government areas studying in various universities across the country.
The three firms are exploiting oil in Eastern Obolo and Mbo local government areas of the state.
The commissioner, who was represented by a director in the ministry, Mr. Samuel Akpan, noted while many oil companies operating in the state had signed the document with their host communities, Oriental Energy Resources, AFREN Services Ltd and Amni were yet to do so.
He however lauded the oil firms for the scholarship and urged them to extend the scholarship scheme to other part of the state to ensure their presents are felt in the state in term of erecting permanent structures and offices.
Uwah implored the beneficiaries of the scholarship award to work hard as the scheme was aimed at boosting capacity development in the areas.
Earlier, the oil firms had said the scholarship scheme was initiated as part of efforts by oil companies to improve human capacity development of their host communities.
A breakdown of the 2013 awards showed that 50 undergraduates and 14 postgraduate students benefited from Eastern Obolo local government area, while 157 undergraduates got from Mob local government area.
Community Relations Manager of the oil firms, Mr. Blessing Okpowo, who presented the scholarship grant to beneficiaries, disclosed that the scholarship programme started in 2008 and accordingly tasked beneficiaries to make good use of the opportunity given them.
He said the oil firms would not hesitate to withdraw the scholarship grant from any of them who fumble in the course of study as annual assessment would be carried out to ascertain their performances.
In addition to the scholarship, Okpowo disclosed that the oil firms equally trained 60 youths annually who could not make it educationally in various skill acquisition programmes.
At the end of one-year intensive training, he said complete set of start-up pack and the sum of N200,000 would be given to each of the participant to settle down to practice.
Also speaking, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Joshua Ndoho, said the scholarship grant instituted by the oil firms was in line with transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan under the educational sector, because education is the bedrock of development in the country.
He said the development was not only about infrastructure, but involved people and lauded the communities for the peaceful relationship with the oil companies.
Information from This Day was used in this report.