Since the first drop of crude oil was extracted from the deep wells of Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State Nigeria, black gold as oil is also called has often been a trigger of conflict between oil companies, governments and host communities. The same is true of mining companies across Africa and other parts of the world. Oil, gold, copper, diamond, titanium and other precious materials have caused wars, death and acrimony in areas where they abound.
Conflicts between oil giants and their host communities often result from environmental pollution, risk to health and safety, and the lack of opportunities for local communities to have a say on issues and decisions that affect them. John Ruggie, a former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Business and Human Rights from his studies found that non-technical risks accounted for nearly half of the total risks faced by extractive companies and that stakeholder-related risks constituted the single largest category.
When extractive companies and their host communities lock horns, the massive protests, project blockade or abandonment, fatalities and damage to properties usually precipitate huge tangible and intangible losses especially for the companies.
Apart from huge financial losses, loss of time spent trying to douse tension and manage conflict, the emotional stress of litigation, delayed production, depletion of reputation capital, value erosion and the inability to attract and retain top talent are some of the other downturns of extractive company/host community conflicts. One other major disadvantage is the reluctance of project lenders to finance projects of extractive companies embroiled in conflict with local communities as these financiers are becoming increasingly aware of how such could negatively affect their social capital and bottom line as a result.
Moreover, extractive company/host community conflicts are rifer in countries with weak legal and environmental regulatory frameworks as well as high levels of inequality. What this implies is that host countries like Nigeria with weak policies and governance structures have a pivotal role to play in smothering the triggers of frequent conflicts between host communities and extractive companies notwithstanding the fact that conflict is an inescapable phenomenon among extractive stakeholders globally. Nigeria needs to put a lot of work into building capacity and nurturing structures that will enhance transparency and accountability in the extractive sector.
Extractive companies on their own part must put more conscious effort in establishing transparent vertical and horizontal communication channels with their host communities, civil society organisations and the government of their host countries while aligning their environmental and safety standards in tandem with global best practices.
At SITEI 2018, our aim is to bring together private, government, civil society, community, and academia to discuss how best the challenges of security and conflicts can be managed, and what roles the various stakeholders have to play in other to ensure seamless operations and address the high occurrence of company-community strife in in extractive sites. Each of the causes of conflicts will be comprehensively explored and solutions proffered by experts in the field.
To learn more, be at SITEI 2018!!!