ANGELA NKWO-AKPOLU reports how stakeholders organize workshop to sensitize youths in oil-producing communities on how to maintain sound host/visitor relationship with oil companies in order to avert conflicts.
Youths in Oguta, oil producing area in Imo State; have been admonished to shun conflicts and crime in order to attract good projects to their community.
Ifeanyi Anyanwu of CLEEN Foundation, made the call while speaking at a sensitization workshop on “Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights” in Oguta.
Oguta is notorious and considered volatile due to the activities of militants who go on rampage over perceived abandonment by oil companies.
Disturbed by violence in oil producing communities, CLEEN Foundation, organized the workshop to reach out to all aggrieved groups.
Anyanwu, while speaking on “Conflict Management and Crime Prevention Skills: Key Tools to Promoting Peace and Security in Oil Bearing Communities”, noted that certain factors contribute to crime and criminality.
According to him, some of those factors include upbringing and childhood experience, poor value system, lack of transparency and accountability in our society, inequality, and greed.
He said crimes prevention is of different types: primary crime prevention, secondary crime prevention, and tertiary crime prevention.
While primary crime prevention, according to him, is preventing the crime from occurring in the first instance, secondary crime prevention is preventing the crime from escalating, while tertiary crime prevention is the act of punishing offenders to deter others and is considered the last option.
Anyanwu noted that conflict which is a major cause of problem is a situation where one party thinks that their interests, values, or identities are being or about to be negatively affected by another party’s actions.
According to him, causes of conflict are perception, resources (economic conflict), value-based, power, and conflicts over roles.
He regretted that community conflicts thrive due to competition over scarce resources, different interests/needs/objectives/perspectives, perception, rumours, exploitation, threatening position of power, and attacks on personal characteristics.
Anyanwu counseled that the youths should handle conflicts by being accommodating, avoiding crises, collaborating, competing, compromising, confrontation, and joint problem-solving.
He noted that effective communication prevents rumours which are a major cause of conflicts. Some includes active listening skills, prevention of rumours, negotiation, and mediation.
According to him, “A mobilized community is a community that has the capacity to prevent crime and manage conflicts. Such community is well positioned for development as investors can embark on developmental projects knowing that it will not aggravate the already tensed atmosphere…”
The CLEEN Foundation Programme Officer opined that rather than take to arms to press home their demands, the youths should adopt negotiations wherein parties involved can reach a decision amicably, adding that certain activities like constructing roads, etc are the responsibilities of the Government while oil companies can support as their Corporate Social Responsibility.
He admonished the participants to take cognizance that conflict is not a crime as it is the result of seeing issues from different perspectives, but that when it progresses to crises, it leads to violence, then it amounts to crime.
Speaking on “Promoting Respect for Human Rights in Security Management”, Emeka Ononamadu, said everybody and organizations need effective management of security to realize their rights.
He noted that human rights are rights a person has simply because he or she is a human being or those basic standards without which people cannot live in dignity.
He said the key stakeholders in the community include the Government, companies, communities/NGOs, and advised that all the stakeholders should proactively assist to ensure the success of any agreement.
Youth leaders had complained that the area is abandoned by Government and oil companies, saying that they are not given employment opportunities as host communities, but rather are always tagged militants, a trend they said has become worrisome.
According to different youth leaders who spoke during the event, oil companies rather than embark on corporate social responsibilities to improve their host communities, prefer to sideline them, and carry on as though the host community does not exist.
But Ifeanyi Anyanwu, while addressing the issue, said many oil companies consider confrontation dangerous and would rather take measures to avoid it. He admonished the youths to send representatives to dialogue first, that way, he said, both parties can reach peaceful agreement while the community moves forward.