Prof. Ebong Eshett, an indigene of Ibeno community in Akwa Ibom, has pleaded with Exxon-Mobil to provide scholarship to students from the community.
Eshett, a professor of soil science, who made the call in an interview in Abuja on Sunday, explained that such support would enable the youths of the community to receive formal education.
According to him, the company provided N10 million in scholarship funding, which 110 persons benefited.
Eshett, the Chairman of Scholarship Board in the community said the first batch benefited from scholarships jointly awarded by ExxonMobil and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He said that such gestures should be continued service to his people, stressing that the community needed more support to enable them to train their youths.
“Ibeno is an oil-producing community; we have large deposits of crude oil, which ExxonMobil has been exploiting for more than 50 years.
“The frequent incidence of oil spillage has caused hardships to the people of the community.
“Tons of fish and other acquatic animals in rivers in my community and in the Atlantic Ocean are destroyed as a result of oil spills from the company’s oil well. Whenever this happens, everybody suffers starvation.
“The fishing industry in my place has been destroyed by the activities of the ExxonMobil. Thousands of our youths are roaming around without jobs,’’ the professor said.
Eshette, a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Federal University of Technology, Owerri, said that the fishermen had also been suffering the same fate in the Niger-Delta.
He said many fishermen from the oil-producing areas had been out of job as a result of pollution.
The professor, however, called for the empowerment of fishermen so as to return to their vocation in the region.
“Many of our fishermen do not have fishing gears; they cannot go and fish in large quantities. We need to look critically at the basic problems and constraints of the local farmers and solve them,” he said.
According to him, government will need to focus on the small farmers and empower them to increase their productivity.
Eshette said that the local farmers were the ones meeting the food requirements of the country.
“We have to be able to empower them to cultivate more land; we have to supply them with the necessary inputs such as fertilisers, improved seedlings and other farming inputs.
“Our farmers in various parts of this country still do not have access to improved seedlings and other planting materials.
“Even when fertilisers are available, they are available at the wrong time. They do not have soft loans to be able to improve their productivity,” he said.