But with Cohesive Leadership, Nigeria’s Industries Can Thrive
Author ~ Bekeme Masade-Olowola
The management of land and natural resources is one of the most critical challenges facing developing countries today. The exploration and exploitation of valuable natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals, and the accompanying environmental degradation and poor socioeconomic development have often led to violent conflicts in most resource-rich developing countries. It must be admitted that thus far, the narrative about the extractive industries in Nigeria has not been encouraging for the nation’s economy, business expectations and citizen satisfaction.
This is because the extraction of oil and mineral wealth has environmental, social, economic and political impact on host communities. In many instances, these communities do not derive significant sustainable developmental benefits from the wealth extraction activities in their area. The benefits that they do get have much less positive impacts than the negative impacts felt. This has fuelled resistance and confrontations which have transformed into conflicts between the key stakeholders- host communities, extractive companies and government, suggesting the lack, weak or poorly implemented legal framework for extractive industries host, access and impacted communities’ development.
Unlike the narratives of past years, during which freedom fighters like Ken Saro-Wiwa lost their lives for the cause, in today’s oil and gas sector, blame can hardly be left at the doorsteps of established multinationals, who in fact have learnt hard lessons from the past and now have entire departments in the tens of personnel devoted to community relations and impact assessment. Now, in addition to less-than-scrupulous members of staff of big business, misguided sons of the soil have resorted to oil theft, vandalism and kidnapping, royal ‘fathers’ continue to divide and rule whilst amassing large sums through arm-twisting of legitimate businesses, government agencies tasked with investment within the communities have turned rouge and indigenous businesses who in line with local content and indigenisation policies of the federal government have been given oil mining licenses, have yet to impress as they appear unprepared and ill-equipped with the appropriate internal structures to deal with their host communities. The attendant result is a chaotic order, what with the amnesty programme of the federal government, a ticking time bomb of poor governance.
While many resource-rich countries have adequately harnessed the wealth obtainable from their natural resources for the benefit of its citizenry, especially their host communities, the same cannot be said to be true about Nigeria, unfortunately. Critically the lack of commitment by business and government to proactively negate environmental degradation which translates to human rights violation, poor health and shorter life spans for the indigenous peoples, and corruption leading to inadequate infrastructure and poor living conditions in the region, are a major cause for concern.
The blame game typically centered around the ill-behaviour of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has continued. Industry players have likened the NDDC conduct to that of a wolf put in charge of sheep. The vile levels of corruption in that commission needs extensive auditing and a purposefully determined head of service, who would have the will and the ability to use that institution for solving Nigeria’s big problems.
Nigeria is the third largest exporter of crude – also known as liquid gold – in the world, yet World Data Lab’s Poverty Clock places Nigeria’s population as one of the world’s poorest, despite increasing emphasis on capacity building and establishment of policies and strategies such as the Revenue Allocation Formula for Oil-Producing States, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (NMMA) 2007 and the 7 Big Wins Roadmap, amongst others.
A Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) report themed ‘Security, Theft, Sabotage and Spills’, affirms that security remains a high priority due to continued crude oil theft and criminality in parts of the Niger Delta. The global oil giant maintained that illegal refining of stolen crude and third-party interference are the main sources of pollution in the Niger Delta today and that third-party interference was responsible for about 90% of oil spills from SPDC pipelines in 2018 alone.
While companies lament the billions of dollars spent on community development projects, a visit to many of these communities will leave you wondering where the monies went. Consequently, militancy in the form of pipeline vandalism and resource theft, is still a huge challenge in the Niger Delta till date, despite efforts by the government and other stakeholders to foster peace in the region.
A lack of effective communication and meaningful engagement among stakeholders have been identified as a major cause of the problems in the industry. Therefore, a way to go would be to pursue a participatory development model with a wider range of stakeholders, beyond communities. Such model should be designed through open, transparent dialogue among stakeholders, guided by industry experts, globally recognised thought leaders, civil society organisations and the media, with the key objective to create awareness on the nexus between effective communication, community engagement and peace building on the one hand, and secure stakeholders’ commitment to promote mutually beneficial relations that will lead to an end of insecurity in the industry.