Stakeholders in Nigeria’s extractive industries have said there is a need for extensive community engagement to resolve “interminable” issues facing the sectors.
At the 8th Sustainability in the Extractive (SITEI) conference, organised by CSR-in-Action, stakeholders were offered a platform to articulate their perspectives on the operations of the industries and subsequently, agree on a blueprint for sustainable development based on the adoption of the innovative Community Engagement Standards (CES).
According to a statement by CSR-in-Action, Nigeria has a history of conflict in its extractive industries resulting from the antagonism between host communities and companies.
The eighth SITEI conference themed, ‘Community Engagement: A Panacea for Peace in Extractive Operations’, discussed various issues challenging the sector, reaching a unanimous decision that deeper consideration should be paid to the subject for the long-term growth of the country.
Key stakeholders such as the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, through the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Olalere Odusote, advocated for the adoption of Nigeria’s first extractive industries engagement framework, the CES developed by CSR-in-Action and funded by the Facility for Oil Sector Transformation and Reform (FOSTER II).
Odusote said, “We encourage the private sector to adopt the community engagement standards as it provides a base for engagement for everyone and it makes for an absence of confusion.”
Continuing, he noted, “It is incontrovertible that the exploitation of high-value natural resources has always been cited as a key factor in sparking violent conflicts across the world. By so doing, host communities should be involved in community projects from inception and it will be in our best interest for our extractive industries to be catalysts for economic growth and development. Hence, the CES is a standardized tool for engaging communities in order to prevent conflict among stakeholders.”
Similarly, the convener of the conference, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, said in her address: “Marginalisation is a major cause of oil theft. Therefore, host community members need to be satisfactorily compensated, so they can take charge of securing the communities/pipelines with the knowledge that any insecurity might adversely affect them. Sensitization and employment of youth within the communities will help take their focus away from the immediate gains and understand the effects of their actions on the land.
“With the adoption of the CES, businesses will enjoy higher profitability through theft and vandalization reduction. In relation to the government, the CES will provide cohesion in government accountability and enhance equitable development of host communities.”
In his welcome address, the chair of CSR-in-Action Advocacy and former vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Wale Omole, harped on the need for a rejigged status quo with special emphasis on community inclusion.
“There is the outright or indirect exclusion of communities perceived to be less important in critical development dialogues. Consequently, the CES aims to address defects in the social structure of the propensity for resource-induced insecurity and conflicts, and to enhance stakeholder participation in decision-making,” Omole stated.
The conference’s panel discussions featuring Joseph Yobo, Omawumi Megbele, Harrison ‘Harrysong’ Okiri, and Celestine Akpobari, shared various perspectives on the sector and proffered solutions to the challenges facing it with inclusion being a major theme.
In her contribution, the Programme Officer, Ford Foundation, Eva Kouka said: “Persistent and continued engagement is imperative for the entire duration of operations in the sectors. Hence, it is critical to have a standard that evaluates the process with roles clearly spelt out to all stakeholders.”
In the same vein, the Head, Legal Resources, Environmental Rights Action, Chima Williams, said: “We can create more jobs when companies know that their host communities are committed to protecting their assets and facilities in their environment. The CES looked at ownership from the perspective of inclusiveness because companies cannot leave out the host communities from the business.”
The conference also witnessed the inaugural Community Engagement and Human Rights Awards (CAHR Awards) in the extractive industries.
Birthed by CSR-in-Action in conjunction with Growing Business Foundation, with support from Global Rights, the CAHR Awards recognized exceptional individuals and companies in six categories.
The award categories were named after illustrious Nigerians. Accordingly, the descendants of those individuals were present at the venue to hand over the awards to recipients.
Popular human rights advocate and Twitter influencer, Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya, emerged winner of the Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti Human Rights Award (individual) while Unilever Plc emerged corporate winner of the same award.
Likewise, Nigeria LNG Limited scooped the Hajiya Gambo Sawaba Community Impact Award, while Nigerian Agip Oil Company was the recipient of the MKO Abiola Community Engagement Award.
The last two categories, the Apostle Hayford Alile Humanitarian Award and the Josephine Nkedilim-Bertram Ekenanye Equal Rights Award were bestowed upon Aliko Dangote and Mrs. Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, respectively. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede was voted winner of the Ahmadu Bello Award for Leadership.
A seventh category, the Ken Saro-Wiwa Award for Environmental Management, was not given to any company due to the lack of nominees in that category. Winners emerged following an online voting system and a rigorous screening exercise.