The Positives of Dysfunctional Conflict in Nigeria: A case study of the Niger Delta area from 2009 till 2011

| July 8, 2019


Paper should emphasize on the Niger delta area of NIGERIA from 2009 till 2011, detailing as much as possible the positives (infrastructural and otherwise) that the region has experience since the rise of armed militancy in the region.

Also find below chapter and number of pages to be allotted to each.


Title: The Positives of Dysfunctional Conflict in Nigeria: A case study of the Niger Delta area from 2009 till 2011


This paper explores the positive aspects of the dysfunctional conflict in Nigeria, with the case study of the Niger Delta between 2009 and 2011 being explored. This case study focuses largely on how the violence propagated by militias from local communities forced the foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta area as well as the federal government to address the problem of inequitable distribution of oil wealth and development. The CSR activities of the corporate establishment are explored, along with engagements in community development partnerships (CDPs) and public-private partnerships. In this way, the dysfunctional conflict has effectively coerced various stakeholders into participating in infrastructural development. Moreover, it has made oil companies to participate more actively in CSR activities as well as public-private partnerships.


Abstract 2

Chapter 1: Introduction. 4

Background to the study. 4

Research objectives. 6

Research questions. 6

Research hypothesis. 7

Statement of the problem.. 7

Chapter 2: Literature Review.. 11

Chapter 3: Theoretical framework. 17

Chapter 4: Analysis and interpretation of data. 22

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations. 32

Conclusion. 32

Recommendations. 33

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the study

For many years, the Niger Delta region in Nigeria has been a conflict zone. The armed conflict has pitted armed militias against the Nigerian federal government over the control of oil revenue obtained from the Niger Delta region. However, in mid-2009, the region appeared to be taking a break from the hostilities, mainly because of battle fatigue. This turn of events re-ignited hope that at last, the Niger Delta region issue would be solved amicably.

For many years, the militias in the Niger Delta have been launching attacks against the Nigerian government. These attacks have led to the loss massive amounts of oil revenues totaling billions of dollars. This explains why there was an air of great anticipation both locally and globally as indicators of a lasting solution to peace surfaced. The main indicator of such a solution was the amnesty that the federal government offered most of the leaders of the Niger Delta Militia. The government assured them that they would not be prosecuted. Instead, a gradual process of disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating them would commence, complete with monthly stipend payments.

Nevertheless, it is important to not only look at the losses that were incurred but also the benefits arising out of the conflict. For instance, many people must be wondering whether there were any infrastructural benefits arising out of the conflict. Other than infrastructure, it may be possible that the conflict had some other positive elements to the region as well as the whole of Nigeria.

In order to understand these benefits, it is necessary to highlight the context in which events in the Niger Delta Region have been unfolding since 2009. To start with, the amnesty agreement that was entered into by the then president Umaru Musa Yar’adua was a major boost to the peace process. The president’s personal involvement gave the process the necessary political attention. However, this process suffered a major blow with the six-month absence of the president, during which time he was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia.

In spite of the stalling of progress and the resulting political crisis, the former militants continued enjoying their monthly stipends amounting to $430.50. By the time the president became hospitalized, some 20,192 former militants had been registered and procedures had been put in place for them to receive their monthly stipends. This issue of procedures may be viewed by some as an indication of increased attention directed at the Niger Delta region. Indeed, upon assuming office, Yar-adua’s successor, Goodluck Jonathan, identified the Niger Delta problem as one of the top priorities of his government.

However, in the background, the problems of demobilization and development still persist. For lasting peace to be found the militants have to be fully demobilized and development projects have to be initiated. Although reorientation efforts have been going on, lack of follow-ups have led to ineffectiveness. Moreover, there is no doubt that the militants have not give up all their weapons. Additionally, kidnapping, a crime that is traditionally associated with armed militancy in the region, is still rampant.

Despite these negative signs, the conflict has managed to draw the attention of the international community to Niger Delta’s problems. In many ways, this community has contributed to solutions in the region, both financially and administratively. Moreover, many infrastructural projects in Niger Delta would never have been followed through to completion if the conflict did not attract the international community. The aim of this paper is to highlight the positive side of the Niger Delta crisis. It explores the benefits (mainly infrastructural in nature) that have arisen as a result of the existence of the armed conflict in region.

Research objectives

  1. To explore the infrastructural benefits arising out of the Niger Delta conflict since 2009.
  2. To highlight the positive side of armed conflict across the Niger Delta region between 2009 and 2011.
  3. To investigate the prospects of peace and future infrastructural development in the Niger Delta.
  4. To determine that roles that various stakeholders have been playing in recent times to bring about positive political, social, and economic change in the Niger Delta.
  5. To identify the ways in which oil companies and other players in the oil industry across the region are engaging with the local people and the contribution of these efforts to the achievement of infrastructural development and lasting peace.

Research questions

  1. Which infrastructural benefits have occurred since 2009 in the Niger Delta region?
  2. What has the federal government been doing to propagate development in the region during recent outbreaks of armed hostilities?
  3. What is the level of success of participation in the peace and development process by the international community?
  4. How has the various stakeholders to the peace process been addressing governance issues in the Niger Delta region? Has the approaches been successful?
  5. What role should oil companies play in hastening the process of infrastructural development and cessation of armed hostilities in the Niger Delta region?

Research hypothesis

Although the Niger Delta conflict has caused havoc in the region, it has also had a positive side. There is a positive side to this conflict, which tends to be neglected in both scholarly literature and policymaking processes and discussions. The main benefit has to do with infrastructural development.

Statement of the problem

The Niger Delta conflict may be traced back to the early 1990s. It arose out of tensions between large foreign oil companies and minority ethnic groups in the region, who felt that the oil companies were exploiting them. This tension promptly escalated into political and ethnic unrest which has continued to be fuelled by competition for oil wealth between different ethnic groups. This state of affairs has resulted in the eventual militarization of the entire region.

However, oil production in the region did not start in the 1990s; it dates back to nearly four decades earlier. In fact by the early 1990s, Nigeria had become highly dependent on oil revenue for economic survival, with 25% of its total GDP being generated by this precious natural resource. However, in spite of this vast oil wealth, the benefits have never really trickled down to majority of the country’s population. Yet as far back as the 1960s, this population started neglecting the traditional agricultural activities upon which they had been deriving livelihoods.

Although the number of skilled, well-salaried Nigerian nationals working in the oil companies has increased, most Nigerians, particularly those in the Niger Delta region, have continued to sink deeper into poverty since the 1960s. At the same time, the population of this region has been rising steadily. These factors have ultimately led to the combined effect of local discontent with the way oil revenue is being shared, leading to the armed conflict across states in the Niger Delta Region.

In response to the Niger Delta conflict, the Nigerian government has been directing a significant portion of the federal revenue to the delta. For instance, the post-amnesty process is set to take up some $400 million. The government has even set up an institution for overseeing the management of funds channeled into the region: the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). In 2010, the NDDC received $1.6 billion, 80% more than the amount it had received the previous year.

Efforts to quell the tensions have also come from the oil companies operating in the region. They have been doing this by increasing development and security spending in a process that entails direct community participation. In most cases, the amounts that are channeled to local communities annually add up to as much as hundreds of millions of US dollars. To put the significance of these contributions into perspective, it is crucial that a brief overview of the delta region is provided.

The Niger Delta region is made up of nine out of the 36 semi-autonomous states that make up the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It covers about 70,000 sq. km. and has a population of 20 million people. The region stretches along two-thirds of the country’s coastline. With the 40 different ethnic groups occupying this region speaking 250 different dialects and languages, this region is undoubtedly one of the most multi-ethnic in the country as well as on the continent. Since the discovery of oil in the region, the Niger Delta has been transformed into the country’s bread basket. Since 1975, ninety per cent of the country export earnings come from oil that is mined from this region. However, the great paradox is that this region remains the poorest in the country.

This sense of neglect is indeed the main cause of the crisis that has plagued this region since the early 1990s. Communities in this region blame both the Nigerian government and oil companies for this marginalization. They argue that the large foreign oil companies deplete their resources, pollute their environment, and yet they do not give anything much back by way of corporate social responsibility. This pollution has had a negative impact on land as well as marine and aquatic life of the Niger Delta communities. The list of grievances expressed towards foreign oil companies is seemingly endless, including CSR standards that fall far below internationally accepted standards, lack of environmental impact assessment during the four decades of exploitation, oil spillage problems, land degradation and depletion, water contamination, and lack of proper infrastructure.

This is the situation in which the Niger Delta people have had to live for many years following the discovery of oil in the region. It is clear that development is a priority, and it is indeed the main reason for the frequent tension, conflicts, and militarization of the region over the last few years. The communities of this region aspire to offset the status quo by agitating for more allocation of resources for the development of local infrastructure.

In the clamor for change in this region, the communities have deemed it fit to form political-military groupings such as Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MOSOP was formed as a platform for campaigning against the devastation and depletion of local environments in the process of petroleum mining. Through MOSOP, the Ogoni people started complaining that local vegetation was being poisoned, their aquatic and marine environments were being polluted, and that the foreign oil companies were not adhering to the internationally recognized environmental impact assessment standards.

MEND, on the other hand, is one of the largest militant organizations in the region. Since accepting the amnesty agreement by the federal government in mid-2009, the group has virtually stopped engaging in military attacks that were previously being aimed at disrupting oil production activities. The last attack from MEND was reported in early 2010. However, in February 2012, MEND announced the start of a ‘new phase’ in militancy across Niger Delta. To drive the message home, the group bombed and completely destroyed a major oil trunk line. Although MEND appeared to take advantage of the precarious security situation in Northern Nigeria, the resumption of violence casts serious doubts regarding the success of the amnesty agreement of 2009. Whereas MEND has largely disintegrated and many senior commanders agreed to observe ceasefire, some factions have refused to heed this call. These disgruntled groups are still a major threat to major economic interests in the region.

This paper sets out to determine whether any benefits have been realized in the Niger Delta region as a result of these armed conflicts. The paper also explores the possibility of future benefits with the continuing threat of resumption of armed resistance and economic sabotage by various military groupings in the Southern states. It is hoped that this study’s findings will shed light on the positive happenings in the region that would never have been experienced were it not for the dysfunctional conflict.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The dysfunctional conflict in Niger Delta has been triggered by neglect, degradation, and marginalization. The armed struggle for a fair share of the oil wealth obtained from the region has greatly undermined Nigeria’s oil production capacity. The conflict has caused disruption that has led to the closure of many oil wells. There is abundant literature on the dynamics of the conflict in this region. In recent years, scholarly interest in the dysfunctional conflict has increased tremendously, particularly since 2009. This is largely because of the hope that was triggered by the mid-2009 amnesty agreement between the Niger Delta militant fighters and the federal government. In this literature review, focus is on literature between 2009 and 2011 particularly the one that focuses on the positive side of the dysfunctional conflict. The core aim is to analyze the benefits associated with this conflict.

In conventional discussions, there is a tendency to dwell too much on the negative sides of the conflict in the Niger delta region. A lot is normally said regarding the unlawful activities of the militants in the region, including vandalism of oil facilities, kidnapping of oil workers, and inter-ethnic clashes. Many analysts lament the negative impact that these social ills tend to have on the country’s oil output as well as long-term plans for this industry, which has become the backbone of Nigeria’s economy.

Many oil companies continue to count losses incurred because of production shut-downs triggered by incursions by Niger Delta militants while the government has continued to incur losses because of foregone revenue. These losses data back to the early 1990s when the early signs of resistance started emerging. Naturally, in areas where there are dysfunctional conflicts, further investments tend to stall. Many investors feel that it is not wise to engage in high-risk business activities.

Nevertheless, there are some instances where the existence of armed conflict and insurgency has helped further the economic interests of the communities living in the Niger Delta. Indeed, as Okoh (2010) points out, whenever human beings exist together in an environment of interaction, conflict is inevitable. In some cases, conflict is even considered a crucial aspect of relations among people in a community. From this perspective, conflict is viewed as a crucial means through which opportunities for personal aggrandizement and development are created and social values of security, welfare, and justice created.

However, it is not wise to fail to put into consideration the destructive dimensions of conflict. The reality is that whether conflict leads to positive or negative impact depends on how it is managed. In order to manage conflict well, the causes of this conflict have to be understood well. In the context of the present paper, the main question is on whether the Niger Delta conflict has been properly understood. Evidence of an in-depth understanding of the nature of violent conflict in the region can best be established through the analysis of the measures that have been put in place to address them.

One positive aspect of the conflict in the Niger Delta region is that it has created increased awareness on the continuing degradation of aquatic environment through pollution. Without the conflict, oil companies would never have posed to take a closer look at the negative effect that their activities were having on the environment. Most of these companies have been forced to defer production in the wake of violent encounters with armed militiamen from local communities (Badmus, 2010). Although this deferred production has resulted in unrealized revenue targets, it has led to a renewal of consciousness regarding the dangers of water pollution, land degradation, and endangering of aquatic life as well as the entire ecosystem.

Today, people in other parts of Nigeria as well as the rest of the world are more aware of the dangers posed to the environment by oil production activities than they did before dysfunctional conflict erupted in the region. There is abundant scholarly and media coverage on the way oil continues to damage important fish species, indigenous mangrove forests, and water bodies. Similarly, there is increased awareness on the extreme level of poverty experienced by the people of this region in spite of the fact that the region’s resources form the backbone of Nigeria’s economy.

Today, there is a high likelihood of policymakers coming up with policies and measures that will redeem the region from the vicious cycle of poverty, destruction of the environment, and the ugly scenes of blackish water swamps where people were once used to magnificent scenery dotted with numerous sources of fresh water. After more than four decades of oil production, the region still had nothing to show for the exploitation of this crucial natural resource. Instead, all they were experiencing was disruption of the traditional agricultural economy, deforestation, pollution, and unemployment. The eruption of violence, therefore, acted as a crucial wake-up call for the federal government, oil companies, and international lobby groups and human rights activists to treat the problem of the Niger Delta with the urgency it deserved.

Indeed, the human rights dimension has emerged as a crucial aspect in seeking a lasting solution to the Niger Delta conflicts. Whenever there is wanton destruction of water and forest resources upon which communities have traditionally been relying for livelihoods, it is proper to talk about human rights violations. This is precisely what foreign oil companies have been doing in the region for the past four decades of oil production. Numerous sources of food and drinking water have been contaminated rendering them unfit for consumption by human beings. At times, the pollution has gone on to affect ground water.

If the pollution of the environment was not enough proof of human rights violations, one may have had to look at the long-term effects that have started emerging in terms of people’s health. For example, Ndifon (1998) observed oil acne among respondents, caused by long-term exposure to oil. Other health problems reported in Ndifon’s study include decreased fertility, cancer, abdominal pain, cough, fever, and diarrhea. Moreover, for 85% of respondents in the study, all these symptoms were reported (Ndifon, 1998).

The human rights dimension in the conflict has attracted many international actors who are keen on ensuring that there is economic, political, and social stability across the region. These international actors have been steadfast in maintaining that it is the interest of the country and the foreign oil companies ensure that the human rights of all the communities living in the Niger delta are protected.

Another positive side of the conflict is that it diverted attention to a common enemy, that is, foreign oil companies. In a highly multi-ethnic region such as the Niger Delta, it is easy for civil strife to erupt as one ethnic group wrestles with another for control of the exploitation of oil resources as well as the management of oil revenue. It appears that when the conflict is targeted at an external corporate player, it is can be managed more easily than in the situation where one community rises up against another. In conventional situations where the installations of foreign oil companies are invaded and vandalized, the companies simply bring to a halt their production activities and the violence eases off. This would not be the case if one ethnic group was attacking another simply for being seen to be the biggest beneficiary of the region’s oil wealth.

The conflict has also created impetus for all the externalities associated with the activities of exploring, producing, and transporting crude oil. With this information in mind, various stakeholders in the development of the region have been able to figure out which infrastructure projects are most crucial. However, whereas some externalities are quantifiable, others are not. For instance, it is easy to quantify externalities such as the size of tracks of land where crops have been destroyed and trees cut down in order to put up giant oil rigs and pipelines. The impact of these activities can easily be quantified and expressed in monetary terms. However, it is not possible to determine the potential output that could have been realized if land and water resources were not polluted. Similarly, it is not easy to measure the level of increase in hazards arising from a rise in the level of hydrocarbons in air, water, and land.

Nevertheless, this difficulty does not stop strong-willed stakeholders from seeking peace across the region. In most cases, such stakeholders tend to put most of their energies on quantifiable externalities. Incidentally, such information goes a long way in helping in decision-making as far as the choice of infrastructure projects in the region is concerned.

Additionally, the conflict has brought the local people closer to the table of decision making in the region’s development agenda. The eruption of violence triggered a break from the traditional practice in which the development needs of the people of the Niger Delta region were dictated by outsiders. For instance, after the eruption of the violence, it became clear that the problem of unemployment had become persistent because of the preference by foreign oil companies to employ only a few high-salaried local people and then bringing in many expatriate workers.

Moreover, the inter-community conflicts over compensation and land ownership have been resolved after intervention by the federal government. Similarly, uproar over poor road transportation network the rising cost of fuel, high rates of crime, as well as moral decay have compelled the federal government to adjust its fiscal policies as well as policing mechanisms in order to ensure that social order prevails across the region. The underlying goal has been to create an environment that is conducive for development. On the overall, these problems have best been addressed by making changes to the principles of revenue-sharing as well as the fiscal practices of the federal government. For instance, since 2002, the Nigerian federal government increased the share of national revenue set aside for the Niger Delta states. Moreover, the infrastructure of the region has been improving dramatically because of the activities of the NDDC.

Chapter 3: Theoretical framework

The issue of the Niger Delta conflict has a lot to do with conflict management. With conflicts are managed properly, positive effects are realized. In contrast, improper management of conflicts leads to deterioration of these conflicts. In the case of the Niger Delta, it is imperative to explore various theoretical conceptions on the positive impact arising from the dysfunctional conflict. Different scholars use different approaches in exploring the positive dimension in conflicts of Niger Delta region’s magnitude.

To start with, Okoh (2010) uses a participatory approach in her analysis of the way different stakeholders have attempted to come up with a resolution to the Niger Delta conflict. Okoh highlights various principles underlying the use of the participatory approach. Some of these principles include the tendency to embrace complexity, recognition of multiplicity of realities, prioritization of the realities of the poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged, and empowerment at the grassroots level.

The principle of embracing complexity entails acknowledging the existing complexities with the aim of understanding them instead of simplification on the basis of conventional theories. In the case of the Niger Delta region, there are indeed many complex variables to be put into consideration, key among them rivalry among ethnic groups, a vicious cycle of poverty, and historical relationships between various communities.

On the principle of multiplicity of realities, the problem of Niger Delta appears relevant once again. There are some problems that policymakers shy away from, thereby failing to attempt to derive solutions for them. The main problems in this regard include high levels of poverty among the people of the region, the need for control of local oil resources by local communities, and unhealthy competition among the ethnic groups inhabiting areas that produce the highest proportion of the country’s crude oil output.

The participatory approach is also founded on the prioritization of the realities of the most disadvantages, the marginalized, and the poor. This principle is acceptable because the core cause of the Niger Delta conflict is economic marginalization of local inhabitants in the enjoyment of the resources that are exploited in their region. Without taking these marginalized groups as equal partners in conflict management, it is not possible for a long-term amnesty and resolution to be achieved. Ideally, all stakeholders: the host communities, the federal government, and the oil companies, ought to be involved in the process of analyzing problems and creating knowledge for use in conflict resolution. The involvement of other participants such as the civil society, NGOs, institutions such as the NDDC, and community-based organizations is also necessary.

In the participatory approach it is possible to use visual techniques in the process of communicating various ideas on conflict resolution. In the context of the Niger Delta, this may involve surveying the participants’ opinions, holding discussions with different groups, identifying problems faced by local people, analyzing a wide range of situations, and making proposals on solutions.

An alternative theoretical framework in the analysis of dysfunctional conflict in the Niger Delta region is the use of cross-sectional survey (Asawo, 2011). In Asawo’s (2011) study, the relationship between conflict management and corporate integrity is examined through the analysis of respondents’ data and testing of hypotheses with the use of regression analysis. The main issues arising include communication competence and corporate integrity capacity. These issues are addressed in the context of the establishment of a viable conflict management model. Ideally, such a model should address the increasingly complex challenge of a face-off between local communities and oil companies in the Niger Delta region.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) theories are also appropriate in the analysis of the positive aspects of the dysfunctional conflict. The main question in this regard is on whether the conflict has compelled the oil companies operating in the region to engage more in CSR activities. In Raimi’s (2010) words, ‘it helps a lot to use CSR and entrepreneurship development as strategies for resolving conflict in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. Through CSR efforts, oil companies would be contributing greatly to the development of local communities. In other words, the companies would be giving back to the local people after exploiting the natural resource that sits on their land, making huge financial gains, and polluting the local environment. Alternatively, efforts to conserve the environment and to bring pollution under control would also make up for a highly appropriate CSR undertaking. The CSR approach is also a great way of reversing the traditional trend of deliberate neglect of the needs of local communities by foreign oil companies as well as local and federal governments.

In his theoretical framework, Raimi (2010) reviews literature on CSR and entrepreneurship development in search of insights on the matter. The outcomes of the review were complemented with a survey technique was used, whereby 600 Nigerians were requested to provide research-related information. The research results, which were analyzed using regression analysis, showed that entrepreneurship and CSR theories are ideal for creation of conflict resolution strategies across the Niger Delta region. Indeed, the findings arrived were used to derive recommendations for use by the multinational oil companies, as well as other stakeholders in the Nigerian oil industry.

According to Cole (2004), there are two key theoretical approaches to CSR that can be applied to organizations to compel them to respond to all their social responsibilities, namely voluntary/laissez-faire and state intervention. The third theoretical approach, which was derived by Ogundele (2010) from the Nigerian experience, entails coercion from the local community.

The voluntary approach is based on the assumption that either altruistic motives or selfish interest will compel an organization to undertake activities relating to social responsibility. In reality, though, it is not possible for an organization to be motivated solely by either altruism or self-interest alone. This explains why in most cases a middle-of-the-road approach always appears more realistic hence readily acceptable.

The state intervention approach succeeds because the force of the law is normally used. In this case, the argument is that the state has the power of intervention simply by enacting regulations that compel companies to fulfill all their corporate social responsibilities by contributing to the development of the regions in which they conduct their business.

In contrast, coercion by local communities arises from failure by the government to persuade or coerce corporations operating in a certain region to carry out social responsibilities that are commensurate with the extent of damage that they cause to the environment. In most cases, the local people resort to extra-judicial measures of ensuring compliance. In the Nigerian Niger Delta region, local communities have resorted to coercing oil companies into accepting to carry out their social responsibilities. Some of the strategies adopted in this regard include vandalizing oil installations, kidnapping oil staff, and forceful habitation of the companies’ premises.

Many questions linger on whether it is possible for these multinational companies to fully compensate the host communities for the lost livelihoods, death, health hazards, destruction of forests, aquatic environments, and wildlife. In situations where the companies have attempted to adhere to the demands by local communities, cost analyses are normally carried out as a way of determining how the enormous responsibilities are going to be allocated to the oil companies in a fair manner.

Most of recent literature appears to focus on the CSR approach to conflict resolution in the Niger Delta region. On the same note, the CSR theory best explains the ways in which oil companies can and have been participating in local development projects. It is also quite clear that using this theoretical framework, it is possible to carry out an analysis of the role of the federal as well as local governments to compel multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to give back to local communities by undertaking social responsibilities. This framework is also appropriate in determining the level of success of the coercive strategy of local communities as far as the participation of the government and oil companies in development projects is concerned. In this analysis, the responses of various oil companies and the relevant government agencies to the development demands of local communities will be explored.

Chapter 4: Analysis and interpretation of data

The perennial corporate-community conflicts in the Niger Delta have in recent times led to increased rhetoric by transnational oil corporations about adherence to corporate social responsibility. The conflict and the resulting rhetoric has had the effect of bringing the issues of poverty reduction and community development to the heart of long-term strategic thinking among corporate leaders within the country’s oil industry. This change of tact in the Niger Delta may be attributed largely to persistent conflict and coercion by local communities.

One of the responses of most of these oil companies to the challenging a social license to operate in the Niger Delta has been the adoption of partnership strategies. These partnership strategies are aimed at reducing poverty. Although these community development partnerships (CDPs) tend to have their benefits, they also have drawbacks as well. Some of the companies that have jumped into the CDP bandwagon include Total, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. According to Idemudia (2009a), these CDP initiatives have a huge potential to contribute to the development of host communities. The main problem, though, is that negative injunction duties have not been integrated into the existing partnerships. The impact of this fundamental operational omission is that no fundamental difference occurs with regard to the core business operations of these oil businesses. This perhaps explains why the host communities are not yet satisfied by the engagement efforts of the transnational oil companies.

Idemudia (2009b) stresses the desire of the foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to obtain a social license to operate in the region. This desire would never have existed were it not for the continued violence from local militia formed as a result of perceived exploitation of their resources without any consideration to the development needs of the local people. In his argument, Idemudia (2009) draws on qualitative and quantitative data collected from various host communities in the Niger Delta. The two corporate-community development strategies assessed using this data are in-house community investment and corporate-community foundation models. Idemudia (2009b) faults both models for limiting the impact of oil companies in involvement with local communities. Other than the subject of shortcomings and comparisons between the two models, Idemudia conveys the all-important message regarding the success of coercion strategies by host communities in compelling the oil companies to undertake the social responsibilities in response to the failure by the federal government to do so.

Without the violent conflict, the debate on resource control would never have been brought closer to the host communities. Instead, oil extraction activities would have continued unabated and the local communities would have to live with the awful feelings of dispossession and exploitation. The exploiters of the Niger Delta oil would have continued to thrive while all along hiding under the cover of the ambiguities and contradictions of local resistance politics (Omotola, 2009).

With the attacks by ethnic minority militias being highly publicized both locally and internationally, the ambiguities surrounding the problems of the Niger Delta people have largely been unraveled. It has become clear without resistance taking a changing form from non-violence to violence, it would have been impossible for the local people to be taken seriously by both the local stakeholders in the development process and by the international community. It is through violence that inequitable distribution of the benefits of oil resources across the region has started being addressed (Obia, 2010).

The potential for success for this renewed consciousness among the Niger Delta people should be viewed against the backdrop of the challenges that are being encountered today. Following the amnesty agreement of 2009 with top militia commanders, the federal government has set out to not only provide stipends to the former militiamen but also engage oil companies operating in the region in the community development agenda (Idemudia, 2010). This goal is being pursued mainly through CSR advocacy. Although the CSR strategy has had its limits, it has marked a key step in the process of reuniting the people of Niger Delta with the rest of the country.

However, Idemudia (2010) is not very optimistic about the future of CSR strategies in bringing multinational oil companies on board in the development agenda. Although Idemudia, acknowledges that oil companies have finally been successfully coerced into accepting to adhere to CSR ideals, they continue to face accusations of familiar misdemeanor. Idemudia attributes the continued corporate-community conflicts to this continued violation of the provisions of CSR. The underlying cause of this problem is the systemic and structural deficiencies of the existing CSR practices. Idemudia contends that as long as these deficiencies continue to exist, it is impossible to expect CSR activities to lead to reduced conflicts in the Niger Delta region.

On the issue CDPs, the example of Exxon Mobil is highly relevant.  Exxon Mobil is the largest oil MNC in the world, with its operations extending to nearly 200 countries (Osaghae, 2010). In the Niger Delta, the company has three fully operational subsidiaries: EEPL (Esso Exploration and Producing Nigeria Ltd), MPN (Mobil Producing Nigeria), and Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc. Oil production by MPN is largely off-shore, along the coast of River State and Akwa Ibom state. The main host communities of MPN include Onna, Eket, Ibeno, and Esiri Eket. Most of the community development activities of MPN are directed at these communities.

The main areas where MPN has been contributing to development since 2009 include electricity supply, water supply, road construction, education, and healthcare (Osaghae, 2010). In the area of healthcare, MPN has been actively involved in the construction of health centers, renovation of the existing health facilities, and donation of medicines and medical equipment. In education, support has largely been in the form of construction of classrooms and renovation of the existing learning facilities. The subsidiary has also been providing incentives for teachers who reside and teach in riverine areas.

Since 2002, Exxon Mobil appeared to shift its CSR activities from the provision of social infrastructure to economic empowerment and capacity building at the local level (Olufemi, 2010). This shift was triggered largely attributed to local coercion, and community demands. However, MPN offered other reasons for its paradigm shift, one of them being that the government at that time had managed to obtain all the resources needed to build infrastructure following the establishment of the NDDC. Secondly, MPN claimed that it did not have the expertise and resources to trigger development all on its own, thereby implying that there was need for other non-governmental organizations to chip in and contribute to the process of development. The third reason posed by MPN was that real development in local communities could only be guaranteed through wealth creation efforts rather than the redistribution of the existing income and assets.

Transnational oil companies such as Exxon Mobil understand that a stable Niger Delta means that their interests are safeguarded. There are enormous economic stakes as far as peace in the region is concerned. This explains why Western nations have been seriously paying attention to the dysfunctional conflict. In fact, the economies of many of these countries are partially dependent on successful day-to-day operations of oil companies that have ventured into Nigeria. An excellent example is the fact that once field rich in liquefied natural gas reserves have been fully operationalized for commercial use, many countries of the West, including Britain, the US, Turkey, Portugal, and Spain will start depending largely on a steady supply of natural gas from the Nigeria’s Niger Delta region for industrial activities as well as heating their homes.

At the height of the armed conflict, the economic interests of major companies were seriously threatened. The major companies in this list include Exxon Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Total-Fina, SASOL, and Statoil. Since 2009, many of these companies, with Exxon Mobil providing an excellent example, felt the compulsion to engage in community development partnerships in order to put an end to resistance politics in the region.

Indeed, the peace process in the Niger Delta is no longer a domestic issue. In an eventuality of full-blown instability, the ripples would spread as far away as the home countries of the foreign oil companies. This is something that militia leaders are increasingly becoming aware of, hence the use of violence as a platform of coercion. A disruption of oil exports by the major oil companies would most likely contribute to the devaluation of stocks in the US, Britain, France, Holland, Japan, Italy, and many other Western countries. For stock owners, such setbacks may translate into an economic setback or recession of sorts. Moreover, continued violence will make these Western countries stare a sudden increase in oil prices in the face.

Indeed, a key positive side of the Niger Delta conflict is that it compels the leaders of world’s most powerful countries such as Britain, France, the US, Japan, Italy and Holland to scramble for lasting solutions. Since the main source of oil for the world, the Middle East, has remained highly volatile for decades, the leaders of these countries would not want a situation where the Niger Delta becomes volatile as well. Such an eventuality would make issues extremely complicated in the global oil market.

Against the backdrop of the economic interests of the countries where the major oil companies operating in the Niger Delta come from, it is easy to understand the motivation for their community development projects. One such project is the ICDP (Integrated Community Development Project) which MPN entered into through a partnership venture with the government of the Akwa Ibom state. The program kicked off after the state government received an endowment fund of 15 million naira. In this program, both the HDF (Human Development Fund) and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) pledged contribute some 20 million naira into the partnership. The biggest contribution to the project, 50 million naira, came from MPN.

Regarding the ICDP program, the Ministry of Economic Development announced that the reason for initiating the public-private partnership program was to avoid duplication of communication development projects. The ministry said it did not know the rationale behind MPN’s efforts and it felt that the efforts of MPN were not bringing about enough impact in terms of community development. Instead of duplicating development projects, the public-private partnership created an opportunity for different stakeholders to how to create synergy for community development.

MPN’s generosity appears to be a response to past coercion efforts by local militia. For instance, in early 2000, a militia group by the name Afigh Iwaad Ekid closed all the operations of Exxon Mobil in Akwa Ibom State. This surge of violence also affected other foreign oil companies. For example, during this same period, some 115-line-breaks were reported along the Warri-Port Harcourt pipeline. Two years later, movements that were initially non-violent in nature started adopting explicitly militant postures.

The main ethnic groups living in the Akwa Ibom State are Ibeno and Eket. According to an Ibeno chief, before the eruption of the violent crisis of 1993, the community had not had any conflict with any ethnic group, not even the Eket (Leton, 2010). The local chief continued to point out that the arrival of Exxon Mobil created a big problem for the Ibeno people (Leton, 2010). The problem had to do with oil and claim of land ownership. The chief accused Exxon Mobil of contributing to this problem by taking away the Ibeno peoples’ fishing life (Leton, 2010).

Reflecting on this background of Exxon Mobil’s encounters with complaints and subsequent violent conflict, it is easy to understand why MPN gave out the biggest contribution in the ICDP project. Clearly, the strategy of coercion by the host communities worked in compelling the company to participate more in CSR activities. Moreover, it stimulated the coming together of government and private entities under the auspices of the ICDP public-private partnership (Mähler, 2010). The main areas of capacity building that the ICDP has participated in include micro-credit and the provision of a wide range of social infrastructures, notably tap water. In the area of micro-credit, the support agreement has facilitated the creation of a scheme where individuals and corporate are able to embark on small-scale enterprises involving activities such as agriculture, hair dressing, and masonry.

On the bigger picture, the contribution of oil companies, notably Exxon Mobil, is becoming clearer now that an amnesty agreement is in place and violence in the Niger Delta has largely abated. Today, the Ibeno people can look back at the violent confrontations with oil companies and notice that it was not in vain. For example, the presence of Exxon Mobil becomes clear simply by looking at the infrastructural developments that have taken place. The main infrastructure projects attributed to Exxon Mobil include a road connecting Eket to Ibeno, an excellent road network across Ibeno, free water, and free, uninterrupted connectivity to the country’s electric power grid.

Other benefits in the area include new water transformers, new healthcare centers, and an increase in the number of resident doctors. Most of these doctors are recruited from among the host communities. The same case applies to nursing staff, who are all in the payroll of the Akwa Ibom State government. In other words, the Ibeno people have in recent times received substantial infrastructural investments as well as social provisions. Moreover, these benefits are obviously exclusive of benefits relating to cash payments and contract work targeted at the host communities. All this has been in an effort by Exxon Mobil to obtain a social license to operate in the area. This approach has borne fruits for the company, since there is now a widespread sentiment in the Akwa Ibom state that the Ibeno people are ‘fairing quite well’ from the region’s oil business.

Apart from infrastructure, the Niger Delta conflict has brought to the fore the deep-seated land-related conflicts between local ethnic groups. As resolutions to these conflicts continue to be sought, local communities learn to view land issues from the perspective of development and not tradition. A case in point is the conflict between the Ibeno and Eket communities. The land in question is the so-called QIT area, where Mobil’s operations are based. To begin with, tension between the two communities arose because of intense competition for the benefits that were being derived from the operations of Exxon Mobil. There were claims that major oil companies in the area were favoring the Ibeno people at the expense of other host communities. The main reference point was the manner of distribution of contracts, rents, and largesse.

At the heart of the tension between Eket and Ibeno, though, is the question of land ownership. Ibeno people being predominantly fishermen, do not engage in farming a lot. However, with the discovery of oil and the coming of foreign oil companies, the issue of land became extremely important for the Ibeno, in spite of the fact that the size of land in question was very small. However, the Eket people, being predominantly a farming community, started developing some kind of monopoly in the ownership and selling of land. This explains why today’s Mobil housing estate sits on Eket land. This trend towards a monopoly created a scenario where the Eket started encroaching onto Ibeno land with an aim of selling it to oil companies.

For purposes of this paper though, the most important thing is determining how the inter-ethnic conflicts have been averted by the entry into the region of a common antagonist, the foreign corporate establishment. With the continued exploitation of their land by this corporate establishment, the local people have come to realize that the greatest good can be achieved by directing their coercive approach towards the foreign oil companies. This strategy appears to have largely paid off, particularly since the signing of the amnesty agreement in mid-2009.

Rather than delve deep into the land question, which has remained a matter of dispute since the pre-independence days, the local people would rather direct their anger at the foreign corporate participants who have offset the traditional economic balance that existed among local communities. This strategy has appeared to be paying off dearly, considering that these host communities are not out of touch with modernity by virtue of agreeing to the public-private partnership projects proposed by the oil companies, state governments, and non-governmental organizations.

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations


Between 2009 and 2011, the Niger Delta conflict has largely experienced a cessation of armed conflicts, courtesy of the mid-2009 agreement between militia commanders and the federal government. Prior to this amnesty agreement, the region had experienced so much instability and violence that the foreign oil companies operating there now understand what it feels like to be threatened by host communities. In an ironic twist of events, the much frowned-upon conflict has turned out to be a seemingly indispensable bargaining platform for host communities. Where the federal government has failed to distribute oil wealth equitably in the region, local communities have been steadfast in rising up in arms as a way of coercing the oil companies to take up their social responsibilities.

In essence, one may easily assume that without the violence that has descended on the Niger Delta region over the last two decades, most of the infrastructural development that has taken place there would not be visible today. At the beginning, oil companies were simply providing host communities with funds for use in development. However, with time, the stakeholders of the region’s corporate establishment realized that for the development to be sustainable, the companies needed to provide capacity building for creation of wealth instead of the redistribution of the already existing wealth.

Indeed, a key positive aspect of the dysfunctional conflict in the region is that the potential of community development projects has been tapped into in a very great way. Community development partnerships have proven to have a huge potential of contributing to the development of host communities. A careful assessment of the rationale behind the foreign companies’ engagement with the host communities shows that the withdrawal would threaten the economies of the countries of these companies’ origin.  At the height of the armed conflict, the economic and financial interests of both the foreign companies and their countries of origin were seriously threatened. Without the violence, coercion, and economic sabotage, the people of the Niger Delta would never have realized the power that they wield over the foreign companies and their respective home countries. This realization greatly improved their bargaining power in the development agenda.


  1. In order for further violence to be avoided, corporate stakeholders need to continue embracing CSR and public-private partnerships in efforts to ensure that all host communities are always satisfied with the engagement efforts of various transnational oil companies.
  2. There is need for various operational omissions relating to the way foreign oil companies engage with host communities to be addressed. Key among these omissions is the failure to integrate negative injunction duties into the existing public-private partnerships.
  3. Oil companies operating in the Niger Delta need to endeavor not to be seen to be violating the provisions of CSR whenever they are contributing to the development of the region. This would entail addressing all the systemic and structural deficiencies that exist in the companies’ CSR practices.
  4. Communities living in the Niger Delta need to continue focusing on the development agenda instead of quarrelling over which ethnic group has taken up the greatest share of proceeds from oil production. For other stakeholders, notably the federal government and the oil companies, focus should be on capacity building instead of redistribution of the income that has already been generated from oil production.
  5. It is imperative that local militia commanders adhere to the amnesty agreement that was entered into between them and the federal government. The commanders should base the agenda of their resistance politics on the theme of development and not traditional heritage. For the government, the main responsibility lies on honoring the provisions of the amnesty, particularly with regard to the provision of stipends and continued engagement in capacity building for sustainable development.



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