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The degree of violence in Nigeria’s Niger Delta has become endemic, characterized by 33 cases of kidnapping recorded between January 2006 and February 2007, with over 200 victims being mostly expatriate oil workers (Africa Masterweb, 2007). There were also about 12, 770 cases of vandalism, particularly of oil pipelines and installations, recorded in Nigeria between 2000 and 2007 with most of them occurring in the Niger Delta (Nwankwo and Ezeobi, 2008).
The implications of the Niger Delta crises are too far-reaching to be ignored: for the inhabitants of this area, there are constant environmental hazards and security threat, while for the Nigerian government, over
N150.5bn in revenue was lost in eight years (Nwankwo and Ezeobi, 2008); there was also a drop of more than 20% in oil exports between April 2006 and October 2007 (BBC News, 2007). The concern of the research was why the escalation of conflicts rather than abatement between host communities and oil companies while the companies had in place community relations strategies to manage the conflicts in the communities?
The study, therefore, examined the community relations strategies used by oil companies in managing the crises in the Niger Delta. The study population comprised the community relations units of oil companies in the Niger Delta (among which Shell, Chevron and Agip were selected) and the indigenes of Omoku and Obrikom communities in Rivers State and Eruemukohwarien, Tisun and Kolokolo communities in Delta State. Though the communities studied were somewhat peripheral to the crisis, they still reflected the true situation of things in the Niger Delta.
Both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (key informant interview and focus group discussion) methods of data collection were employed. The respondents for the survey were randomly selected while those for the interviews and focus groups were purposively selected. The study established that conflicts between oil companies and host communities had serious implications for the two parties and that the community relations strategies adopted by the selected oil companies were not adequate in preventing and resolving conflicts in the Niger Delta. That was because there was a lacuna between the strategies the oil companies believed host communities preferred for conflict resolution and the ones actually preferred by those communities.
The research, therefore, suggested that to reduce conflict between oil companies and host communities in the Niger Delta, companies should be mindful of conflict propelling factors identified by the respondents and stated in the work, they should improve on their community relations strategies in order to impress the community and most importantly, they should introduce grassroots approach to the implementation of their strategies, particularly the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU), for optimum results.
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