Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Community Perception and Oil Companies Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative in the Niger Delta

Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Community Perception and Oil Companies Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative in the Niger Delta

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Environmental degradation in Nigeria's Niger Delta is traceable mostly to the operations of the international oil companies in the region. These operations are related to petroleum resources exploitation to meet global energy needs that are leading to "a deep toxic stain" spreading through air, water, and land on a universal scale (Hallowes, 2011, p. 108). Aside the level of poverty and underdevelopment, environment abuse is all too pervasive implicating oil spills and gas flares which continue unabated since the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 1956. Environmental degradation remains the tinderbox of the region and a major source of grievance and disenchantment against the state and the multinational oil companies (Tonwe, Ojo, & Aghedo, 2012; World Bank, 1995). Yearly, there is news of major oil blow-outs that severely damage the environment without adequate remediation measures.

Multinational oil companies' remediation work might be held circumspect if traces of oil spills purportedly cleaned up resurrect to contaminate communities' rivers and farmlands. Several mitigation initiative to clean up oil spills remains 'spade and bucket technology' by which locals scoop oil spills into dug out wells and set it ablaze. Oil companies seem to make up for such operational lapses by social investments through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This paper analyses these aspects of CSR and government's amnesty programme as anti-conflict and development template for the region.

The paper is informed by the on-going resource-conflicts in the Niger Delta and measures to curb them. The crisis of underdevelopment and the ecological devastation of the region have been noted as the root of conflicts in the area (Oteh & Eze, 2012; Okonta, 2006). In spite of some scholarly work in the area (Idemudia, 2009; Ite, 2007; Zalik, 2004), little is known about oil companies CSR practises and how they fit into the overall sustainable development plan of the region. Oil companies' officials and the host communities have been locked in claims and counter claims over the practise of their CSR initiatives. A focusing on this under-researched area will complement a much richer literature and the delimiting of its multiple uses.

This empirical study conducted in 2009 and 2010 covered a cumulative period of six months in four oil-bearing states: Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers. In Edo State, Gelegele and Ologbo communities were visited while Iwherekan and Gbaramatu communities were visited in Delta State. In Bayelsa State, Imiringi and Beniseide were visited while in Rivers State, Rumu-Erushi and Okirika communities were the focus communities. These oil-bearing communities were chosen for their prominence as recipients of oil companies' social responsibility projects as well as being host-communities to important oil and gas infrastructures operated by transnational oil companies namely, Shell Petroleum and Development Company (SPDC), Texaco, ExxonMobil, Total, Agip and a few other indigenous oil firms.

Both primary and secondary data were collected from primary and secondary sources. A total of 100 questionnaires were administered in the communities, however, only 84 of the questionnaires were duly completed and returned. While multiple answers were provided to guide community responses, spaces were also provided to allow free expression. Questions focused mostly on the practise and relevance of CSR from the environment-development perspective drawing from community perceptions. As will be seen, these questions and the analyses of responses from the respondents inform the core finding. Interviews of 22 community members were conducted and covered community leaders, men, women and youths to underscore their perspective on the subject. Due to the difficult concept of CSR, careful selection was made of respondents that have attained a minimum standard in formal education, and this may have added to the informed positions that were canvassed. …

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