Nigeria’s foremost sustainability outfit, CSR-in-Action, joined other industry stakeholders at the inaugural Badagry Youth Oil and Gas Conference organised by Lagos State Government on Thursday, 6 February 2020, in the oil-rich Badagry region of the state. The conference was conceptualised to engender first-hand engagement with the youth of the region to discuss the challenges and opportunities connected with the discovery of oil in the area, and foster development dialogue aimed at promoting peace and enhancing sustainable extractive operations and community development.
Various speakers took turn to emphasise the need for effective and meaningful community engagement as a panacea for peace and equitable relationships among stakeholders and for sustainable development led by Engr Olalere Odusote. In his remarks, the Honourable Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources reiterated the state government’s resolve to work for the communities. He said that he had heard and noted their thoughts and that the state government had invited foremost community engagement and sustainability consultancy firm, CSR-in-Action to facilitate the formation of a framework towards ensuring meaningful community engagement practices that align with the aspirations of the youth and people of Badagry and that would bring about the desired development of the Badagry and the oil and gas sector in the state.
He added that he would present the main points of the discourse to the Executive Governor and reassured the people of the state government’s willingness to work with all stakeholders in order to achieve favourable outcomes for all parties involved. He further encouraged the youth to be peaceful and law-abiding, promising that there will be continuous engagements with the youth, where issues and concerns will be discussed with a view to addressing them on priority basis.
The Chief Executive of CSR-in-Action and GRI Amsterdam, Board Member, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, in her keynote address themed ‘’Youth Engagement in Oil and Gas Producing Areas as a Panacea for Community Development’’, expressed gratitude to the state government for organising this all-important event and for the opportunity to speak to the community that she shared a bond with starting from when her team came to Badagry as part of documented research into the psyche of community members in oil and gas producing areas in 2018, and stated that her aim is to inspire the youth to become a better version of themselves.
She underscored the significance of the youth conference which provides government the avenue to actively engage the people of Badagry in line with the recently launched Community Engagement Standards (popularly called the CES), a tool that is aimed at guiding engagement among stakeholders to foster peace, end insecurity and conflicts and bring about sustainable development of the extractive (oil and gas and mining) industries.
According to her, the mixed feelings by the people over recent developments in the area – particularly the discovery of oil in Aje and the planned establishment of a seaport in Badagry was due to years of shallow engagement by successive governments both at federal and state levels and warned all parties to take decisive steps in order to avoid a repetition of the crisis in the Niger Delta. She advised the government to take advantage of the resources in a responsible way, use the accruable financial resources to plan for the long-term without reliance on oil reserves and have continuous and meaningful engagement with the people, especially the youth, adding that having the right tool to guide the engagement process is vital because, according to a research conducted by Goldman Sachs, about 73% of project delays were due to ‘’above ground’ or non-technical risk, including community resistance.
Other conference attendees and speakers include Mr Hakeem Popoola Fahm, Honourable Commissioner for Science and Technology; Prince Olanrewaju Anofiu Elegushi, Honourable Commissioner for Home Affairs; Mr Solomon Saanu Bonu Solomon, Special Adviser to the Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture; Mr Mustapha Abdul-Ahmed Olorunfemi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources; Engr Sesan Odukoya, Director, Oil and Gas, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Dr Olanrewaju Onala, Youth Leader, Badargry and past and present permanent secretaries, executive council members, royal fathers, community leaders and other representatives of women and youth.
Furthermore, in his speech, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Olorunfemi lamented the lack of noticeable development in the area and assured of government’s commitment to ensure that Badagry benefits from the oil and gas activities in the state. He hinted that there are lots of opportunities coming to Badagry but that it will depend on the resolve of the people, especially the youth to remain peaceful and law-abiding, adding that no troubled area can receive any government’s attention because of the expected hindrance that it would cause. He also reiterated that the Lagos State government would work with CSR-in-Action to develop a roadmap for community engagement with the people aimed at ensuring meaningful development in Badagry.
On his part, Solomon Saanu Bonu Solomon listed some ongoing human and infrastructural development projects in different parts of Badagry and encouraged the youth to be patient as this administration has Badagry youth in mind and would do everything within its reach to develop Badagry. He however, advised the youth to look beyond the oil and gas resources in their communities because the world is gradually shifting to clean and sustainable energy alternatives, stating that dependence on oil and gas resources will not be in the interest of the youth. He encouraged the youth to rather embrace ongoing agriculture initiatives by the state government, which according to him will bring long term benefits to the youths and keep more people engaged than over-dependence on oil and gas which is a finite, non-renewable resource and can only employ a few people.
The conference ended with a panel session comprising Hon. Odusote, Saanu Bonu, Abdul-Ahmed Olorunfemi and Masade-Olowola. During the panel session, the youth lamented the fact that the operator, Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Limited, were not in attendance and demanded that the state government bring them to the table for inappropriate engagement so far. All the panelists, speakers and the various community and youth leaders affirmed to the need for a guiding framework for community engagement with the people of Badagry, especially the youth, and were happy to adopt the principles of the Community Engagement Standards for the framework.