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Background to study
The Niger Delta regions of Nigeria have in recent years become a hot-bed of explosive crisis and conflicts that often leave some deaths and mindless destructions in their wake, all resulting mainly from sour relationship between the oil producing companies operating in the areas and their aggrieved host communities.
In fact, this problem was heightened and even internationalized by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, the then leader of the movement for the Survival of Ogoni People
(MOSOP), who propounded what he termed “the Ogoni Bill of Rights” in which he claimed about $25 trillion as reparation from the Federal Government and the
port harcourt refinery, not only for committing the “unforgivable sin” of mining oil from
Ogoni-land, but for also destroying their agricultural lands and aquatic culture (Newswatch, March 5, 1996).
Meanwhile, Ken Saro-Wiwa succeeded not only in winning the ears and sympathy of the international community, including world leaders and the United Nation, but also in marketing what the Federal Government saw as a “Weird and bizarre” idea to Niger-Deltan Youths, especially in Ogoniland. These youths, we were told, were sold the line by Saro-Wiwa that if he gets the S25 trillion reparation, every man, woman, youth, children and even babies in Ogoni would receive at least $5 million or about N600 million, which would transform them automatically to instant millionaires and banish poverty forever from their lives. With this, the youths lent total unalloyed support and invested all their energies to the Ken SaroWiwa project and were prepared to move down anyone who opposes this “Messiah” that has come to save them from the economic subjugations and exploitations of the oil Companies and the Federal Government, hence, the killing of “the Ogoni 5, ”whom the Youths passed death penalties on their heads, for either harbouring or being perceived to harbour contrary views to that of Ken
Sasro-Wiwa. This in turn, culminated into what some people term the “judicial murder” of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight other colleagues called “the Ogoni 9”, by the Abacha regime, followed by a heavy military occupation of the area.
Meanwhile, in spite of the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, has continued to be synonymous with restiveness, crisis, conflicts and problems. Fresh in our minds are the “Odi Massacre”, in which a whole community were razed down by a heavy federal military might and the Jesse fire incident arising from burst oil pipeline, in which over 1000 people were burnt to death.
On the other hand, governors of the core Niger Delta states have been calling incessantly for a “resource control” of the revenue accruable from their states, instead of the current Federal control. So, what could be done to finally bring peace to the troubled Niger Delta region of Nigeria?
It is the views of Sam Black (1989:15), that, “every conflict in life arises from either lack of communication, inadequate communication or poor communication and their solution lie in effective two-way communication between the publics or parties involved.” While Adirika et al (1987:86) also advised that a company must adequately communicate its good works, products or services to its target publics (internal and external), in order to gain their confidence and goodwill.
Other Public Relations experts and social commentators have variously given a catalogue of recipes for dousing this problem and restoring peaceful working climate in the area. For instance, port harcourt refinery‟s Public Relations Manager, Enyia (2000:49) enjoined oil companies “to be sensitize to the needs of their host communities in order to operate safely and remain welcome in the oil-bearing communities – committed to continually assess environmental degradation and reduce it to a level as low as practicable”.
On his own part, the one time Corporate Affairs Manager of Chevron, Sola Omole (1999:77) advised that, “the new public relations managers in our oil companies should be issues managers, staying ahead of the emergent issues that have potentials of impacting on the fortunes of their companies.”
In her own piece, Ajala (1993) said that “to be of help to the community, an organization must know the community, that is, its people, its needs, its problems, its interests and its attitudes. It is only when community people are favourably disposed to an organization that they can cooperate with her” while Nwosu (1996:143) says that, “the Public Relations Manager in Nigerian port harcourt refinery should understand air pollution, and problems, which includes air and water pollution, environmental sanitation, oil spillage, wildlife and sea-life destruction, deforestation, marine and coastal systems management, environmental problems created by mining, drilling, which leads to the degradation or destruction of environment, depletion of its resources and endangering of the human being and other living things that exist in these environments. He should also have good knowledge of global air pollution and problems.”
Bearing all these claims in mind, the main thrust of this study is therefore, to undertake a critical evaluation of the effectiveness of public relations employed by oil companies in managing environmental problems/conflicts Nigeria oil and gas industry region, with special focus on Port harcourt refinery Development Company (port harcourt refinery) of Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The face-off between Port Harcourt refinery and their Host Communities in our Niger Delta region have oftentimes resulted in the stoppage of operations by the companies in those areas, bringing untold economic losses to the nation. It has also engendered a climate of hostility which makes working in the areas very unsafe for the oil workers. Again, the deliberate destruction or vandalization of oil pipe-lines in forms of protests or sabotage, have sometimes left a tale of woes, blood and lives being lost by those communities.
Therefore, continued conflicts and crisis Nigeria oil and gas industry region is an evil wind that blows no one any good. Neither the oil companies, nor their host communities nor the Federal Government gains from that. Hence, what has been the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the public relations strategies/techniques so far employed in managing these environmental problems/conflicts in our Niger Delta region?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is therefore to find answers to the following pertinent research questions:
1. To determine how effective the air pollution damage function regulation and implementation of the Port Harcourt refinery and the Federal Government in managing environmental problems/conflicts Nigeria oil and gas industry region have been.
2. To determine if the Port Harcourt refinery and the Federal Government have employed adequate two-way communication in relating with the oil-bearing community publics.
3. To ascertain whether the air pollution damage function regulations so far in addressing air pollution Nigeria oil and gas industry are enough.
4. To find out whether qualified and competent public relations managers are being used by the port Harcourt refinery in fashioning-out and or executing those Air pollution damage function regulation .
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following are the research questions
(a) How effective are the air pollution damage function regulation and implementation of the port Harcourt refinery and the Federal Government in managing environmental problems/conflicts Nigeria oil and gas industry region?
(b) Have the Port Harcourt refinery and the Federal Government employed adequate two-way communication in relating with the oil-bearing community publics?
(c) Are the air pollution damage function regulations so far in addressing air pollution Nigeria oil and gas industry enough?
(d) Are qualified and competent public relations managers used by the port Harcourt refinery in fashioning-out and or executing those Air pollution damage function regulation ?.
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
To find answers to the research questions posed, the following hypotheses are hereby formulated for tests by the researcher:
1. The air pollution damage function regulation and implementation of the oil companies in managing environmental problems/conflicts Nigeria oil and gas industry have not been effective.
2. The oil companies have not employed adequate two way communication in relating with the oil host communities.
3. The air pollution damage function regulation employed so far in addressing air pollution Nigeria oil and gas industrys are not adequate and right.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study would be restricted in scope to Port Harcourt in Rivers state, While the Air pollution within industrial environment will also be used as our case study or sample representative of other oil companies/operating in the Nigeria Delta.
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The significance and importance of this research lie in the following scores:
§ It would help the government to stem the incidence of social unrests, crisis and conflicts that have come to characterize the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
§ It would also unearth some facts that could aid the government in its policy and decision-making formulation that will be mutually rewarding to all the parties involved in this conflict.
§ It would help to engender a climate of peace, friendliness, goodwill and cooperation between the oil companies and their host communities.
§ It would help to arrest the acts of vandalism of oil pipelines, kidnap of oil workers and general acts of violence and restiveness Nigeria oil and gas industry.
§ It would help the port harcourt refinery to establish what they have wrong in the past in their Air pollution damage function regulation and implementation and how best to do it now and in future in order to earn and sustain the confidence and goodwill of their host community publics.
§ It would aid the host communities to better appreciate the realities of the situation and the genuine efforts being made by the port harcourt refinery and Government to better their lots.
§ It will serve as a reference material for students and practitioners of public relations and other related fields.
§ It would provoke further studies on this subject matter from other students and researchers alike.
Adirika, E.O., Ebue, B.C. and Nnolim, D. (1996): Principles and Practice of Marketing II; Enugu: Jamoe Enterprises (Nigeira).
Ajala, V. (1993): Public Relations in Search of Professional Excellence; Ibadan: Afrika Link Publishers.
Black, S. (1989): Introduction to Public Relations; London: Modino Press Ltd.
Enyia, N.T. (1999): “The Imperative of Planned Interactive Community Relations for Prevention of Anarchy in Oil Producing Communities: Port harcourt refinery Company Experience”; NIPR Journal of Public Relations, Lagos.
Mites, Ledum (2001): “ How Government and Shell Destroyed Ogoniland”; Newswatch, Lagos: Newswatch Communication Ltd.
Nwosu, I. E.(1996): Public Relations Management: Principles, Issues, Applications; Lagos: Dominican Publishers.
Omole, S. (1999): “New Dimensions in Community Relations”; NIPR Public Relations Journal, Lagos, p. 5 – 9.
Onosode, G. O. (1996): “NDES: Our Journey So far”; Thisday, Lagos.
Saro-wiwa, K. (1996): “Issues in the Ogoni Bill of RIGHTS”; The Guardian, Lagos.
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