At the invitation of Nigerian senior government and business leaders, Dr. Stephen Roberts, Senior Social and Economic Scientist at Watts, Griffis and McOuat Limited (“WGM”), was invited to travel to the West African nation to speak on methods for resolving the ongoing conflict in the Niger Delta Region (“NDR”). Though the region is rich in oil and gas resources, the local population is one of the poorest in Nigeria. This disparity has fuelled an increasingly violent local insurgency movement.
Dr. Roberts is a member of an international project team proposing that Nigeria adopt a multi-stakeholder consultation process similar to that used in the successful Whitehorse Mining Initiative (Canada) and KWAGGA programme (South Africa). Speaking to audiences in the cities of Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, the Nigerian process termed the “Ogula Initiative” received overwhelming support. Organized and funded as a public-private partnership, Ogula would finally give host communities a real voice in determining how the benefits from oil and gas development are distributed.
Dr. Roberts cautioned against those in government who are advocating for an immediate resolution to the problems in the NDR. “Conditions in the Delta today are the direct result of over fifty years of failed policies,” remarked Dr. Roberts, continuing “it would be both unrealistic and potentially counter-productive to believe that a simple quick fix is possible. Peaceful solutions are within reach, but they require the sustained and patient commitment of all of the parties involved, including such groups as women and youth who have historically been denied a voice.”
Following the meeting in Lagos with representatives from the Oil and Gas Policy Commission, the Ogula Project Team was instructed to develop a formal project proposal that would then be presented by the Commission to the Government of Nigeria for adoption.
Dr. Roberts is scheduled to return to Nigeria later this summer to discuss the Ogula Initiative with representatives attending the upcoming Niger Delta Stakeholders Summit in Abjua, Nigeria.
The Project Team currently consists of Ms. Lois Hooge, WGM Associate and former Head, Secretariat of the Whitehorse Mining Initiative and Canadian Advisor for the KWAGGA Mining and Minerals Programme; Mr. Joe Hinzer, President, WGM; Dr. Stephen Roberts, Senior Social and Economic Scientist, WGM; Dr. John Gammon, President, John Gammon Associates Inc; and Dr. Ikenna Nwosu, Chief Executive Officer of Mooregate Limited, Nigeria.