New Nigeria Foundation (NNF), with the support of Ford Foundation, organised a two-day workshop, with the theme “Contemporary Community Engagement Models in the Oil and Gas Sector: Lessons for other Sectors” in Lagos, last Thursday, 2nd and Friday, 3rd November 2017.

The workshop had in attendance, the representative of the Minister of Mines, Steel and Development, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. O’Seun Odewale, Honourable Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources in Lagos State, Mr. Wale Oluwo and his Ogun State counterpart in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru.      Also present at the workshop were the Chief Executive of New Nigeria Foundation, Prof. Obafemi Ajibola; Programme Officers from Ford Foundation, Ms. Eva Kouka and Mr. Paul Nwulu; and the  Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Ford Foundation from its New York office,  Mr. Tony  Chan.

Paul Nwulu (Ford Foundation, West Africa), Tony Chan (Ford Foundation, New York) Prof. Obafemi Ajibola (New Nigeria Foundation) and Ms. Eva Kouka (Ford Foundation), during a two-day workshop, with the  theme, “Contemporary Community Engagement Models in the Oil and Gas Sector: Lessons for other Sectors” organised by the New  Nigeria Foundation (NNF), with the support of Ford Foundation, in Lagos last week.

The Managing Director of New Nigeria Foundation (NNF), Prof. Obafemi Ajibola, in his welcome address spoke about the history of the relationships between corporate organizations and the communities hosting their facilities in Nigeria.    He said the community engagement processes were characterized by being company-driven, placing emphasis only on community leaders, not adopting good and tested practices in development processes, not community-development focused and not focused on enhancing community ownership, involvement or empowerment in any form.

Prof. Ajibola said that the Federal Government of Nigeria and state governments are currently laying a lot of emphasis on the development of the solid mineral sector. The sector can use the lessons learnt from the experience of the oil and gas sector in company-community engagement and avoid the problems earlier experienced in the oil and gas sector.    It was for these reasons that NNF, with the support of Ford Foundation, organised the workshop. The objectives of the workshop were to:

1.Intimate participants with different corporate social investment models adopted by corporate organizations;

2.Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the models for sustainable community development;

3.Provide insights into the impact of the models with respect to reducing inequality and promoting gender equity; and

4.Proffer ways of adapting lessons from the different corporate social investment models to the solid minerals sector.

Companies must involve their host communities in determining what development projects to undertake in the communities.    This assertion was made by the Ogun State Honourable Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, during the opening of the two-day workshop.    He also mentioned that his State government was determined to ensure that mining is done responsible and that mining communities benefit from the resources extracted from their communities.

Mr. Wale Oluwo, the Lagos State Honourable Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, in his remarks opined that for there to be good community engagement and sustainable development, a model that can help is one that involves the government but on a platform that involves all critical stakeholders including companies, communities and non-governmental organisations.    He also mentioned an issue that has a huge impact on the operations of the extractive sector is that of ownership of what is underground being that of the Federal Government while consent is given by State Government.

In his keynote address, Mr. O’Seun Odewale said that the mining sector is bedeviled with enormous challenges, and will require a bulwark of efforts to crush.    Some of the challenges include insufficient funding, lack of geological data, weak institutional capacity, limited supporting infrastructure, limited cooperative federalism, low productivity and illegal mining and community issues among others.

He said that Making Nigerian mining competitive means the government and the private sector have to share the responsibility of investing in key drivers of success such as the availability of (and access to) public geosciences data that investors require, the appropriate infrastructure (e.g. railways, ports, road, power, water, mine security networks), specialized technical talent, and of course, superb regulatory and enforcement capacities”.

Mr. Odewale informed the gathering that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, through the Federal Government, has secured a US$150 Million loan from the World Bank to commence the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification (Mindiver) Project aimed at funding strategic interventions in the sector. Plans are also underway to assemble a US$600 Million investment fund for the sector, working with entities such as the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and others.

The workshop which was participatory was well attended with participants cutting across sectors and representation of all critical stakeholders including communities, corporate organisations, government and civil society.

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