Public Relations as a Tool for Conflict Management in the Niger Delta Region (a Case Study of Niger Delta Development Commission)
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major objective of the study is to investigate the role of public relations in the management of the crisis in the Niger Delta.
SPECIFICALLY THE OBJECTIVES ARE
- To asses the role of public relation in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta region.
- To investigate the cause of the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
- To identify the social responsibility of the multination companies in the area.
- To make an appraisal of public relation’s tolls used in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta
- To make recommendations that will bring solution to the conflict in the region
This chapter deals with the review of literature relating to the major and sub-themes of he study.
The primary ideas are organized under the following subjects.
THE CONCEPT OF NIGER DELTA
The Niger Delta is a political construct used to describe the oil producing states of Nigeria. The Niger Delta is perceived as a geographical area that stretches from Edo State to River State and includes Ondo State.
Omoweh (2001:5) described the Niger Delta as a Geographical expression of oil producing communities of Nigeria which includes Abia Akwa Ibom Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and River State of Nigeria.
These States constitute the political entity of him Niger Delta.
Oladipo and Eyong (2004:1-2) pointed out that the Niger Delta constitutes a unique region in the development process of Nigeria because it is the world’s third largest wetland covering a vast coastal plain of about 70,000km in the central southern part of Niger.
Nigeria derives over to percent of its foreign exchange receipts from oil exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta despite its contributions to the economy of the country paints a vivid picture of an area with pervasive poverty environmental degradation and neglect and general under devolvement.
The Niger Delta youth movement and militant group more often than hold the staff of the multi national oil companies in the area hostage over alleged oil spillage environmental degradation and neglect. Oil pipeline vandalization are common in the Niger delta. The conflict in the Niger Delta has led to the setting up of various commissions in the region for the development of the area.
CONTEMPORARY CONFLICT IN THE NIGERIA DELTA
Following the devastating effects of ethic militia in the Niger Delta on July 13,2004 the federal government of Nigeria deployed the military to Amadiama and Tarima communities at the suburbs of port Harcourt to control the arms conflict in the area. The deployment was made at the instance of the governor Peter Odili of River State.
The military operation was made up of the policy army, nary and air force
War broke out between the military and the Niger Delta volunteer force led by Alhaji Dokubo Asari (Okafor 2004:32)
Odi in Bayelsa State and Ogoni in River State have suffered in the hands of combined military operations of the federal government against the Niger Delta youths agitating against economic deprivation and marginalisation through violent protests.
The Dokubo and the tom vigilant group claimed marginalization by the federal government and environmental degradation of the Niger Delta by oil exploitation vandalize oil pipeline attack multinational oil companies and hold the expatriate hostage.
Okolo (2001:73) reported that oil spillage is rampant in the Niger Delta causing environmental pollution and ecological problems which affects agriculture productivity in the area
Ubanna (2001:51) supported the above view when he stated that Imeh Okopido, the minister of state in the ministry of environment has made it compulsory of new oil and gas field to show their work programme towards the achievement of Zero flare in the Niger Delta by 2004.
In November 4, 2003, Niger Delta militant group operating in the Ofeia along the river in Bayelsa state killed six mobile policemen. In November 2003 a total of 10 policemen were killed by pirates in Bayelsa state.
On august 19 2003 three policemen were killed by sea pirates at the Bomadi/ Ekerema axis of the River Forcados ( Agbo 2003:33)
MANAGEMENT OF THE CONFLICT IN THE NIGRE DELTA
Three (3) approaches have been used by the federal government in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta. These include:
- Military combat or force
- Social responsibility approach and;
- Public relations tools
According to Yusuf (2005:3) the cases of Ogoni Odi and River state paint a negative picture of mismanagement of conflict in Nigeria by political leasers. Yusuf further stressed that the conflict in the Niger Delta demands mediation and consensus with the traditional ruler’s political offices holders and the militant group of the Niger Delta.
For Duru (2003:17) the Ogoni episode was one of the greatest mistakes of our political leaders during the military era. He also pointed out that the Odi killing and combined military attack against the Dokubo group was not an ideal approach to conflict resolution in the Niger Delta both the military and the present democratic dispensation have used extra legal approaches in setting the conflict in the Niger Delta without success. This has often resulted in extra judicial killing and aggravation of the problem in the Niger Delta.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
INTRODUCTION THE STUDY
This study is concerted with public relations as tools for conflict management in the Niger Delta using the Niger Delta development commission as a case study. This chapter deals with the method adopted by the researcher in carrying out the study.
RESEARCH DESIGN METHODOLOGY
The research design is a questionnaire survey. Survey research operations enhance the gathering of information from the study area in a realistic and natural setting. (Olakunori 1997:109)
Questionnaire survey involved drawing a set of questions on various aspects of the research topic or subject under investigation. The respondents react to the question through the filling of the questionnaire.
AREA OF STUDY
This subject area of investigation is public relations as a tool for conflict management in the Niger Delta (a case study of he Niger Delta development commission NDDC). The area of study is restricted to the headquarters of the Niger Delta development commission, River state and its major braches in Abia, Imo Akwaibom and Bayelsa state
POPULATION OF THE STUDY
The population of the Niger Delta development commission (NDDC) is 180 member of staff the population includes the staff strength of the commission in the nine states that make up the Niger Delta region namely: rivers, Bayelsa Imo Cross River, Edo Ondo Abia, Akwa-Ibom and Delta State.
DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
This chapter has to do with the presentation and analysis of all the data collected during the research process. The relevant data fro the research project were gathered from the survey.
The result and analysis of the survey are presented based on specific questions put forward in the questionnaire.
DISCUSSION, RECOMMENDATION AND COLCLUSION
DISCUSSION OF RESULTS FINDINGS
From the study the researcher identified the cause of the conflict in the Niger Delta such as economic deprivation marginalization of the Niger Delta, oil spillage and unemployment of the Niger Delta youths in the oil compares at management levels.
However, the empirical study shows that the major cause of the conflict in the Niger Delta is ecological degradation.
Finally have also revealed that public relations play a major role in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta. This is clearly seen in table 2.
The social responsibility of the oil company and the government include institutional development ecological protection, human resource development and giving employment to the youths.
The result of the study indicated that public relations tools used in the management of the conflict include press release and conferences dialogue with the host community as well as public opinion poll based on these public relations approach in the management of the conflict, the respondents agreed at 100% response rate that public relations plays a major role in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta.
The review of relevant literature and from the analysis of data it reveals that various public relations tools like films publications press release special events public opinion among others have been used in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta. The degree of effectiveness of these public relations tools in achieving the set goals was subjected to empirical test.
Ninety seven respondents or 85 percent of the sample said that the public relations tools are very efficient while twenty three respondents representing 15 percent said that are efficient. None of the respondents said that the tools were not efficient.
Therefore public relation is a vital aid in the management of conflict.
This work has showed that public relations have really been effective tools in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta region.
Over the years there has been alarming conflict in the Niger Delta which was as a result of ecological degradation lack of social responsibilities by the oil company, unemployment of the youths of the area by the oil companies among other. But with the use of public relations tolls such s press conference public opinion poll dialogues the conflict has been reduced drastically.
The government and the oil companies in the area should not relent in the area of social responsibilities and should avoid ecological degradation which is the major cause of conflict and also they should try to identify the wants and needs of the people in the area and solve them to an extent that is possible in order to avoid further conflict.
The following recommendations are made based on the findings of the study.
- Oil spillage environment pollution and ecological degradation of the Niger Delta region should be avoided.
- Public opinion poll should be conducted by the oil company and the government (the three tiers-federal state and local) in order to know and address the needs and wants of the Niger Delta.
- The people of the Niger Delta should be given adequate employment in the multinational oil companies at a management level.
- The oil companies operating in the Niger Delta should liase with the government on how to dialogue with the Niger Delta (using public relations as the major tool)
- The use of force should not be used the management of the conflict
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY
The following suggestions are made for further study.
- The role of the presidential task force (PTF) on the management o the conflict in the Niger Delta should be investigated.
- Subsequent researchers should investigate the recommendation of the international conference 2001 on the development of the Niger Delta.
- Future researchers should evaluate the public relations tools adopted by international quarters in the management of the conflict in the Niger Delta.
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