Federal Government has approved Nigeria’s first-of-its-kind community relationship management tool, the Community Engagement Standards (CES), developed by CSR-in-Action, which serves as the acceptable framework for engagement between extractive companies and oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta and other oil-producing communities across the country.
In Nigeria, the oil and gas industry contributes more than 80% of GDP. And according to Goldman Sachs, 73% of project delays the world over are due to ‘above ground’ or non-technical risks, including community resistance.
The CES was developed following empirical research findings of poor or inadequate and ineffective communication and engagement with communities as the major factor responsible for the lack of mutually beneficial relationship between companies and communities, which in turn have contributed to insecurity and retrogressive development in the sector.
Research feedback stemmed from a comparative analysis of international best practices, which looked at ways in which companies in two mature (Canada and Russia) and two emerging (Ghana and Peru) markets have managed conflicts within indigenous oil and gas communities – rigorous visits to the communities of the nine oil-producing states, discussions with government staff at local, state and federal levels within the legislative and executive arms, and a workshop for businesses; by CSR-in-Action consultants.
During a two-day CES Presentation Workshop to government ministries and agencies to adopt the CES in Abuja, Folashade Yemi Esan, permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR), described the CES as a “decisive tool towards the restoration of peace and stability in the Niger Delta”. She was ably represented by Dorcas Arekhamhe, deputy director, Oil Services, MPR.
Participants at this session included director-level representatives from Office of the Vice President, MPR, Federal Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Department of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative who were very elated at the novelty of the tool and who reiterated that it was necessary to embed such commitment and sincerity of purpose across all government functions.
Following this meeting, the Standards and its indicators were adopted and the ministry expressed its commitment to codifying the process. While underscoring the relevance and benefits of the CES, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action, expressed her happiness in seeing her company being in the forefront of delivering solutions for an industry that has been responsible for both national growth and challenges. She stated that ‘’the first of its kind Community Engagement Standards is an operational tool that outlines a set of procedures and guidelines for enhanced community management which can be used from the inception in exploratory activities, in negotiation and decision-making in order to protect the interest of all parties.”
In his remark, Charles Achodo, special adviser to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources on Niger Delta Affairs, Ibe Kachikwu, stated that the principal goal of the CES aligns with federal government’s ‘7 Big Wins’ for the industry. He opined that the CES will change the narrative from “Communities are polluted and ravaged because of the companies operating in them (to) communities fare better because of the companies operating in them” when operationalised by companies. He further suggested that at operational level, the CES should be a criterion companies must meet for social development.
The CES was funded by Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER II), an initiative of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK, and was conceived following recommendations from CSR-in-Action’s 7th Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference funded by Ford Foundation. The Standards aims to improve the relationship among key stakeholders, deliver tangible and sustainable benefits and foster peace, security and progress in the oil-producing communities of Nigeria, and aptly captures the views and interests of all critical stakeholders.