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Analysis
Last Updated: 07/16/2009
Environmental Security and Urban Development
AH Oforibo

THE NEXUS BETWEEN DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS AND CONFLICTS: THE CASE OF THE PROPOSED OGU ENERGY CITY PROJECT. BEING A PAPER PRESENTED BY COMMANDER AH OFORIBO ON THE OCASSION MARKING THE SILVER JUBILEE OF THE LIBERATION CLUB OF OGU ON 11 APRIL 2009 AT ST MARTINS ANGLICAN CHURCH YARD MAIN HALL OGU


The world is undergoing a phenomenal outlook with respect to urbanization and various developmental projects to cater for the ever increasing population trend. Although this trend was more in the urban centers of developed nations, recent population overflow in urban centers of some developing countries has made national and state governments of such countries to resort to massive urbanization of rural communities. Such efforts are often applauded because of the associated benefits to the people and political points scored by initiating governments. While the benefits and score cards look appealing, such projects have been known to catalyze conflicts and undermine the peace of host communities.

This assertion was well captured by a renown peace and conflict impact assessor, Kenneth Bush when he said “a development intervention may not necessarily equal peace, it could generate or exacerbate conflict by challenging traditional values or authority structures, disrupting gender or other socially determined roles, raising the stakes of economic competition, creating ‘winners and losers’ and so on”1. It is safe to add that the issue of loss of livelihood arising from physical alteration of the environment and the associated environmental scarcities which developmental projects could impose is sufficient to cause frustration and grievance among the poor that could spiral into either violent or non violent conflicts.

More so, greed on the part of few elites to get more of the benefits related to developmental projects and community-owned resources could arouse deep grievance and spiral into conflict between the majority poor versus the few elites. Depending on the scale of previous grievances, existing political polarity and inefficacious traditional leadership structures, such conflicts could be very damaging and have lasting negative effects on various growth imperatives of the affected community. One such imperative that could suffer major setback is the human capital. This is the engine that drives real development of any community. It is for this reason that efforts must be made to effectively manage conflicts and reduce them to the minimum.

Further, conflicts that are tied to disagreements and controversies associated with community land acquisition and land conversion into building of new cities or industrial sites could be very complex in nature especially, when such acquisitions or conversions involve relocation of natives and payment of huge compensations. The complex conflicts associated with the citing of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in Finima which led to relocation of the natives and payment of compensations is a case in point. By this example, it does not mean that the proposed Energy City Project in Ogu will come with complex conflicts that would defy possible solutions. A proactive approach aimed at better management of conflicts could be the key. It is instructive to note that the concept of Energy Cities guarantees the creation of more economic and social opportunities for host communities. In this regard, for the Ogu community and her people to draw tangible economic and social benefits, a conscious effort is required to develop human capital in lieu of engaging in complex conflicts. Every effort made in this direction will yield sustainable developmental results for now and the future.

Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it is pertinent to commend the vision of the Liberation Club of Ogu for being conscious of the nexus between development projects (such as the proposed Ogu Energy City project) and possible conflicts. Therefore, the theme and topics of this seminar are quite apt and demand cursory attention during discussion sessions. This is because other communities that suffered complex conflicts as a result of projects cited in their areas may not have had the opportunity to have illustrious and progressive sons like the fine gentlemen in this great club. Ogu is highly endowed and proud to have great thinkers like you. More grease to your elbows. It is with a ‘Liberated’ sense of honour and humility that i hereby stand before this great audience today to present a paper titled, The Nexus between Development Projects and Conflicts: The Case of the Proposed Ogu Energy City. The presentation will first take a look at some concepts before going into issues that had generated conflicts in Ogu in the recent past. Thereafter, I will take a cursory look at possible conflicts associated with the energy city project. Finally, I shall navigate through some conflict management strategies before making recommendations.

The aim of this presentation is to examine possible conflicts that could arise from the proposed Ogu Energy City project.

CONCEPTUAL DISCOURSE

According to Johan Galtung (1996)2, conflict relates to the actual or perceived incompatibility of goals and interests of two or more parties due to how such goals and interest contradicts the attitude and behaviour of the parties involved. Thus, a triangle of contradiction, attitude and behaviour of different parties will lead to a conflict. In this triangle of conflict, contradiction is defined by the parties, their interests and the clash of interests between them, their relationship and the conflict of interests inherent in the relationship. Attitude has to do with perceptions and misperceptions of each other. These could be caused by emotions, like fear, anger, bitterness and hatred. Galtung posits that the behaviour component of the triangle is characterized by cooperation or coercion, gestures of conciliation or hostility, threats or destructive attacks. When the triangle is completed by all three components a full conflict is manifested which may keep changing and with its dynamism drag in secondary parties with time. The involvement of other parties could become nearly unavoidable if the conflict is poorly managed or left unresolved for a long period. When this happens, the secondary conflicts tying other parties to the core conflict may even hamper the ease with which the core conflict could be resolved. Therefore, parties involved in conflict need to make conscious efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict and sue for timely resolution.

Oliver Ramsbotham et el (2005)3 view conflict as an intrinsic and unavoidable part of social change which is a manifestation of the heterogeneity of interests, values and beliefs. It is the pursuit of incompatible goals by different groups. In this regard, our habits and choices are the main factors that determine how we deal with conflict. Parties in conflict typically have the habit of defending their interests. According to the same authors, there are five approaches to conflict: contending (high concern for self and low concern for other), yielding (more concern for the interest of others than self), and withdrawal (low concern for both self and other). Others are, compromising (balancing of concern for both self and other), and problem-solving (high regard for the interests of both self and other). The problem-solving approach is highly recommended because it provides for the consideration of one’s interests while being conscious of the aspirations and needs of the other.

Conflicts are better and easily managed or resolved when care is taken to distinguish between positions held by the parties and their underlying interests and needs. This is because positions are dynamic (they keep changing) and may be difficult to be met while interests are easy to reconcile. For example, two communities may lay claim to a particular parcel of land but their underlying interests could vary. One’s interest may be to expand her territory while the other wants it for security reasons. Therefore, identifying and addressing the areas of interests of both parties becomes vital to resolve or manage the conflict. It is therefore needful for people vested with the responsibility to resolve conflicts to look deeply into issues to carefully identify the interests with a view to applying strategies to meet such interests of parties in conflict. Easy identification of the interests would guarantee a quick and successful management of the conflict. However, some conflicts which may arise from development projects such as the proposed Ogu Energy City could be slightly complex due to the multiplicity of parties ranging from multinational investors, government, local community actors and others.

The Energy City concept is quite unique. It is a concept born out of necessity as the global energy needs continue to outstrip current provisions due to increase in population and consumption. The concept involves the master planning and construction of an integrated business centre that specializes in the provision of complete business infrastructure for leading oil and gas producers, both local and international, downstream refiners and producers, support services, shipping and energy trading businesses. An important component of the Energy City concept is the International Mercantile Exchange (IMEX), which will provide a platform for electronic trading of energy contracts and derivatives. According to Mr. Peter Panayiotou, “Energy City is a new concept - that of being able to work and live in one holistic environment so that employees will not spend valuable personal time commuting to work. It is a project that requires a substantial amount of land dedicated to providing accommodation, leisure, medical and shopping facilities to people working at Energy City”4.

Presently there are four major energy cities in the world. Three of these are located in the Middle East and Asia while the fourth and most recent is in North Africa. The hosting countries are Qatar, India, Kazakhstan and Libya. Gulf Finance House (GFH) is the principal investor in most of these energy city projects. The GFH understands the volumes of profits associated with energy city investment and had always taken steps to partner effectively with State governments and local actors to address other developmental issues of host communities. This point supports the argument that the proposed Ogu energy city project is a developmental project that will come with benefits as well as conflicts associated with such projects. It is therefore vital for the people of Ogu to be prepared in all respect. Now is the time to develop human capital. This is not the time to be at conflict. This is not the time to engage in blackmails or pulling down of illustrious sons and traditional structures. It is indeed the time to build and enlarge ourselves in preparation for the common good that is coming. It is the time for self searching to correct wrongs by submitting to means aimed at settling existing conflicts.

RECENT SOURCES OF CONFLICTS IN OGU

Ogu is a peaceful town that had continued to follow the path of peace within and with her neighbors. This is not to say that the community had not experienced conflicts in recent times. Painfully, most of the conflicts revolve around chieftaincy matters and political power struggles. These structures which are expected to unite the community have become the channels or sources of conflicts. Reminding ourselves of these realities could help us to avoid or minimize frictions in the same areas.

Most of the chieftaincy conflicts are connected to splitting of war canoe houses and new names chosen by the break-away houses. A few of such conflicts include Kune and Owiya-Kune, Amabipi Ogu and Okekeya Ogu , Abeji Opu-Ogu and Ogbelekpiki Amabinbo chieftaincy matters. Chieftaincy matters could be very hot and damaging if not handled timely and with care. A case in point is the popular controversy over Kune and Owiya Kune chieftaincy stools which spiraled into causing division in the Ogu council of chiefs and nearly caused a damaging effect on the entire community. But for the wisdom of some well meaning community leaders and the parties involved that conflict would have left severe scars on Ogu. Perhaps, the lessons learnt from that conflict has helped in shaping our approach to handling the other chieftaincy conflicts that followed. If the lessons learnt could be sustained we can beat our chest and say there is no chieftaincy conflict that can undermine our peaceful coexistence. However, there is need for the community to constitute a body of community elders and youths that will look into chieftaincy conflicts. This could take the shape of the former ‘Ogu Assembly’ or a committee of some intellectuals to act in advisory capacity to the Amanyanabo-in-council. This position became necessary as more chieftaincy matters continue to emerge and each of them having the propensity to disunite the community. In recent times such chieftaincy matters have become politicized.

When community issues dovetail into politics, conflicts arising from them could be very complex. Such issues could easily drag in outsiders of similar political inclinations and create secondary conflicts. We are aware that secondary conflicts have the capacity to obscure the issues surrounding core conflicts thereby hampering the easy and timely resolution of core conflicts. For example, a mere disagreement between two chiefs over a community matter if politicized could cause factions in a political party and bias the sense of judgment of political leaders at state or even national levels, over issues affecting the welfare of the entire community or people of the community. Another example was the way some civil servants earned their sack or were ill treated by some chiefs who were in high offices in the civil service, merely because of differences in political inclinations. This is quite disappointing. In civilized societies, spouses could be in different political parties or factions without harming or demeaning themselves. Political settings are dynamic-they keep changing while community issues are distinct and based on certain traditional norms and values, mixing these two without particular caution could be unhealthy for the peace of the community. There is therefore the need to separate community matters from politics; any attempt made to manage or resolve existing politico-community conflicts need utmost care and wisdom by leaders and conflict resolution bodies.

Furthermore, lack of a clearly defined leadership structure has been a source of conflict in recent times. This could cause confusion amongst the people as any perceived disregard or disrespect to their known leadership structure could lead to conflict. If a group recognizes a particular person as their leader and such a leader is humiliated by another group, conflict is bound to emanate. This kind of situation is made worse when leaders are appointed without the acceptance of all. Or when appointed/elected leaders are not fully installed to function but tend to assume some leadership responsibilities reserved for a fully installed leader. Here, it behooves on the community to clearly spell out what roles such leaders could play while awaiting full installation. A long wait period is not healthy for the potency of the affected leaders. However, with the understanding of all parties, elected leaders in a long wait period could function effectively without being subjected to any form of ridicule. In Nembe kingdom, elected chiefs are empowered to function and play immense leadership roles. It is needful for us to borrow a leaf as recent happenings and restrictions may make some elected community leaders to wait for an unnecessary long period. If their people have elected them, they need not suffer any hindrance to represent their people in any capacity. We may need to talk more on specific cases during discussion session.

Misjudgment or poor handling of routine issues had also been source of conflict between the community and neighbouring communities in recent times. Some of our leaders had made poor analysis of issues and taken decisions that had put us at conflict with other people and brought state government blames/displeasure to us. For example, if a neighbouring community decided to destroy a police barrack/post for any reason, it was not our place to fight for the police by going to fight with such a community. Let the police rise to the occasion and mobilize to fight for itself and regain its facilities. Painfully, misjudgment of the situation on the part of leadership led us to be at conflict when the Ekporo community waged war against members of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) in Ogu, in 1999. This spiraled into a violent conflict between Eleme and Ogu. A careful management of the core conflict would have stopped the spiraling of the conflict.

Also, in April 2001 we played into the hands of devil by over reacting and not willing to forgive when we allowed a mere personal issue between two girls to put the entire community into the worst violent conflict ever experienced in recent times. This again could be attributed to misjudgment on the part of both political and community leaders. It was the climax of deep-rooted distrust, humiliation, anger and power tussle. Here political power tussle and traditional leadership squabbles combined to obscure our vision. Otherwise, it is inexplicable how an ordinary issue of a missing sum of little value could lead to bloodshed, destruction of houses and the exiling of some members of the community. We need to learn from this ugly error and ensure better ways of settling personal conflicts without making them to swallow the entire community. Matters of personal conflicts need to go through the appropriate traditional channel: house chairman, house chief, council of chiefs before getting to the Amanyanabo-in-council. The Community Development Committee (CDC) may also be contacted for the resolution of certain conflicts. When the appropriate conflict management mechanisms are put in place, we can be sure that possible conflicts associated with the proposed energy city project will not be potent enough to obstruct community peace and development.

CONFLICTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ENERGY CITY PROJECT

Clearly, development projects such as the proposed Ogu Energy City will have some associated conflicts due to their nature. As mentioned earlier, energy city projects involve the use of large expanse of land which suggests that some natives will be relocated and compensation payment dynamics will come in. Issues that revolve around payment of large sums of money to community members could be pregnant with some greed and grievance. Social analysts have identified these two elements to generate conflicts among parties. The lingering issue of Ogu/Onne Port Complex is a case in point. Our grievance over the greed of the Onne community regarding payment of compensation led to a long conflict between us and the Onne-Eleme people. Our inability to locate our interest in the matter had over time put us in a more disadvantaged position. Our share of the compensation is still pending and the Onne-Eleme people seemed to be gaining more from the opportunities offered by the Port. We are not represented in the Joint Community/Company Relation Committee of the Port Complex. Onne is well represented by two gentlemen. This is the committee that proposes and implements the various community projects for host communities. The same thing may be happening to us in the Ikpokiri/Onne Gas Free Zone. For example, since 1997 Ogu or Ikpokiri had not produced any Managing Director (MD) for the Gas Free Zone whereas Onne (Lexy Mghor) has occupied the position for two tenures, and currently, another Eleme-Ogoni son (Mr Abe) is the MD. The grievance from such injustice could arouse conflict if not well managed by the appropriate authorities. Therefore, it is vital for the elites of Ogu to take up such issues with relevant government authorities.

Furthermore, for the proposed Energy City project, issues related to payment of compensation may cause internal and external conflicts. The issue of greed may still come to play as few people may manipulate things to their favour at variance with the interests of the entire community. Internally, issues bothering on greed could easily be identified and efforts made to correct them as a way of averting unnecessary conflicts. A simple way of doing this could be the setting up of a monitoring group made up of some intellectuals with high credibility. Such a group may be tasked to carry out covert investigations on issues related to compensations and other benefits. It needs be stated that sharing financial compensations to various war canoe houses may not be in the best interest of the community, on the long run. It may be instructive to invest such financial benefits in tangible and lucrative ventures that could provide employment to community members. Part of such sums could also be used to sponsor some brilliant students in various fields. This approach of appropriating compensations would reduce unnecessary conflicts that may emanate from the largesse of the forthcoming project.

Another conflict that may arise is that of environmental. Environmental conflicts are often latent but could be devastating if poorly managed. In projects such as the proposed Energy City project, the area to be reclaimed will suffer immense environmental damage due to loss of biodiversity. The food chain of the area would be badly damaged and disrupted. Fishes, birds, insects and animals living in that vast mangrove will loose their lives or natural habitat. The mangrove itself which provides vital ecosystem services to both humans and other living organisms would become a victim. This will translate into loss of livelihood to some fishermen and merchants of mangrove firewood. Women and girls who depend on periwinkles and oysters from the affected area will suffer immensely. These groups of people could be hostile and become agents of conflict as a result of environmental stress and scarcities imposed by the project. This was well captured by Norman Myers, “In short, there is a growing linkage between environment and conflict. Environmental deficiencies supply conditions which render conflict all the more likely. They can serve to determine the source of conflict, they can act as multipliers that aggravate core causes of conflict, and they can help to shape the nature of conflict”5.

Similarly, the vast benefits of the ecosystem which include protection of coastal features, moderation of storm impacts, recycling of nutrients, absorption and breakdown of wastes would be lost in the affected areas. Researchers have discovered that such physical alterations of coastal areas could increase outbreak of diseases related to marine contamination such as hepatitis and algal toxins. If such disease outbreaks are confirmed to come from the effects of the project, there is likelihood that community members may confront local leaders, government officials and multinational investors at the Energy City. This sort of environmentally related conflicts could be managed or resolved by providing necessary medical facilities and ensuring a minimization of further pollution of the already damaged environment.

Another area that could cause conflict is the allocation of certain appointments that may be ceded to Ogu as the host community. If interested individuals do not sue for a problem-solving approach, conflict is likely. Such conflicts may involve both political and traditional leaders since both groups may want to field their candidates. However, with a clear traditional leadership structure and a group of political elites loyal to such structures, it could be easy to manage this kind of conflict. Therefore, there is need to have a robust traditional leadership structure as early as possible. The quick burial of the late Amanyanabo would fast-track an early coronation.

CONCLUSION

In a bid to address the core issues of the presentation, I had navigated through an array of conceptual discourse on conflict and energy city. Conflict was seen through the lenses of Johan Galtung and Oliver Ramsbotham et el mainly as a disagreement between parties with incompatible positions, interests and needs. Galtung clearly came up with a triangle of conflict represented by contradiction, attitude and behaviour. All these are expected to be complete for conflict to emerge. For Ramsbotham et el, a manifestation of the heterogeneity of interests, values and beliefs are vital in an issue for it to be a conflict. They came up with five distinct approaches such as contending, yielding and withdrawing. Others are compromising and problem-solving approaches. The unique nature of the problem-solving style made it the best approach as it guarantees a more peaceful resolution of conflicts. It is therefore instructive to adopt the problem-solving approach when managing interpersonal and community-based conflicts. This approach will guarantee fair deals in handling conflicts associated with the proposed Ogu Energy City project.

Similarly, the paper highlighted the ingredients of the Energy City concept by saying that it revolves around provision of various oil and gas related infrastructures on a dedicated land mass. The concept ensures the operability of the International Mercantile Exchange (IMEX) which permits electronic trading of energy contracts and derivatives. These are vital business imperatives that would provide vast economic and social developments to host communities and their natives. Any conflict that may threaten the smooth flow of businesses in an energy city could undermine the associated benefits and opportunities. Consequently, the people of Ogu are required to eschew attitudes and behaviours that may generate conflicts. The right action for the community is to concentrate on human capital development efforts in preparation for the immense benefits and opportunities associated with the proposed Energy City project.

To avert possible sources of conflicts, I took a cursory look at recent conflicts in Ogu. This was to remind us of the key chieftaincy and political squabbles that threw the community into darkness. With this reminder, we are expected to be remorseful and repentant of our individual and collective errors with a view to averting them. I mentioned that mixing political and traditional issues could cause damaging consequences. Community matters that are politicized often spiral into complex conflicts. I had suggested the need for us to constitute a body similar to the erstwhile Ogu Assembly or elect/select some highly credible intellectuals to serve as advisers to the Amanyanabo-in-council. Furthermore, clearly defined leadership roles need to be spelt out for leaders who are elected/selected but yet to be installed. This is to sustain the respect and potency of such leaders. Long wait periods before installations are not healthy for our cherished traditional norms and values.

Further, greed and grievances that may emanate from payment of compensations on account of the proposed project could cause serious conflicts if not well managed or quickly resolved. Here, it was opined that financial gains from the Energy City project could be invested to create employment and develop human capital instead of shared amongst the various war canoe houses. The hope of sharing money may have led to some blackmails and conflicts. Recent blackmails and happenings are not unconnected to the so-called compensation to be shared amongst various war canoe houses. A panacea for an end to this is, to channel it into an investment venture managed by highly credible personalities.

Finally, I brought out the issue of environmental conflict often associated with such developmental projects. I succinctly analyzed the nexus between developmental projects and environmental conflict. The damaging effects which the reclamation of the proposed site will impose on the environment would lead to loss of biodiversity, destruction and disruption of the food chain and migration of surviving species. The anticipated environmental damage could cause immense loss of livelihood and exacerbate the outbreak of certain diseases. All these conditions possessed the propensity to provoke conflicts. A viable medical infrastructure and sustainable measures aimed at minimizing further environmental damage could be needful.


1 Bush, KD. 1998. A measure of peace: peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA) of development projects in conflict zones. Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Program, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Working paper 1.

2 Johan Galtung. 1996. Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization. Sage. Galtung is the father of peace and conflict studies

3 Ramsbotham.O, Woodhouse. T, Miall.H. 2005. Contemporary Conflict Resolution. Second Edition. Polity.

4 Mr. Peter Panayiotou is the Deputy CEO of Gulf Finance House (GFH) and Chief Investment Officer. Available online at http://www.energycity.com

5 Myers, Norman. 2004. Environmental Security: What’s New and Different?, Institute for Environmental Security. Available online at: http://www.envirosecurity.org/conference/working/EnvironmentalRefugees.pdf


Cdr AH Oforibo fss, psc, BSc (Bus Admin), MA candidate (Environmental Security & Peace). Offshore security and Environmental security assessment consultant. Presently working for Addax Petroleum Corporation as their Offshore Security Supervisor in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.
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