KebetKache Women Development and Resource Centre, with support from Oxfam in Nigeria organized a two-day civil society and community Roundtable on STRENGTHENING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE BUSINESS OBJECTIVES in Port Harcourt Rivers State. The purpose of the roundtable was to sensitize civil society actors, media and community stakeholders on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in order to strengthen relationship between communities and extractive companies in Nigeria for mutual benefits. The roundtable is part of the national programme framework of Oxfam in Nigeria under the global power of voices partnership/fair for all programme, which is part of its global strategic programme on strengthening sustainable reforms in the oil and gas value chain, and strengthening civic space in Nigeria. The programme is being implemented in five six states- Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Imo and Rivers. It incorporates fiscal accountability, corporate social responsibility, business and human rights, citizens’ participation, states accountability and community development.
Mr. Henry Ushie, Dr. Austin Onuoha, resource persons and Chief Constance Meju
The round table brought together leaders of Non-Governmental Organisations, Media practitioners, community based activists, community development committees (CDC), women groups and traditional rulership councils and incorporated capacity development, knowledge, experience sharing sessions on community perspectives and experiences with extractive companies on business and human rights in Nigeria. The roundtable held in the wake of the controversies and citizens rejection of the presidential assent to the Petroleum Industry Law which has generated misgivings and concerns of injustice across oil producing states and communities in the Niger Delta region.
It was observed as follows:
- That although Nigeria is one of the sponsors of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, it is has not fully adopted its implementation and this has impacted on the relationship between companies and host communities infringing on the respect and protection of human rights.
- That extractive companies in Nigeria have not prioritized the practice and incorporation of human rights in their business operations and this has led to massive violations of human rights in host communities
- That the business environment in Nigeria is permissive and has enabled human rights violations by extractive companies due to lack of due diligence and oversight of their operations and programmes.
- Weak community leadership and governance mechanisms in Niger Delta communities is responsible for the myriad of unending conflicts between communities and extractive companies
- Corruption and divisive practices orchestrated by corporations in connivance with community actors have created loopholes in the implementation of corporate social responsibility programmes by extractive companies in Nigeria
- Weak dispute resolution and ineffective grievance mechanisms have played significant roles in the protracted crises between communities and extractive companies in Nigeria
- State unwillingness and inability to protect human rights and hold corporations accountable for human rights violations have resulted in the lack of accountability by corporations and other business enterprises for human rights violations in oil impacted communities.
- Lack of adequate knowledge and awareness of business and human rights principles and extant laws by citizens have created an enabling environment for increasing human rights violations
- Governments at all levels in Nigeria have not done enough to institutionalize human rights principles and practices into the corporate culture and business environment in Nigeria
- Law enforcement agencies have failed to incorporate human rights in their operations and this has been the basis for incessant violations that have characterized law enforcement operations in Nigeria.
- Civil society organizations still lack adequate knowledge and institutional capacity on human rights education and programing to widen civic space for promoting respect for human rights by government and corporations in Nigeria.
At the end of the deliberations and based on the above observations, participants recommended the following to respective stakeholders:
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA
- Adopt the National Action Plan to promote and prioritise respect for human rights by extractive companies in line with the provisions of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- Ensure that extractive companies practice due diligence and operationalize human rights in their business policies and services through a ‘do no harm policy’
- Ensure law enforcement agencies abide by all national and international human rights and principles
- Create effective grievance mechanisms to foster dialogue and mediation between communities and companies on human rights for sustainable dispute resolution
- Protect the rights of citizens and ensure compliance with UNGP by corporations and law enforcement agencies.
EXTRACTIVE COMPANIES AND OTHER ENTERPRISES
- Incorporate human rights policies into your operations to ensure human rights are respected and protected
- Undertake adequate due diligence and oversight of all business operations to minimize disputes and human rights violations in host communities
- Create enabling environment for dialogue and peaceful dispute resolution with host communities
- Take responsibility for human rights violations and ensure adequate remedies in all areas of operations
- Ensure that corporate social responsibility programmes promote development and social inclusion in their host communities.
- Ensure that their operations do not foster conflict or promote instability in their host communities
- Adequately train law enforcement agencies and personnel working for their establishments.
- Ensure that their service providers ‘do no harm’ in their services and operations.
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
- Reinforce civic actions, engagements and advocacies that will improve human rights education, knowledge and awareness to Nigerian citizens and communities
- Build synergy and increase momentum on human rights education, sensitization and awareness to ensure compliance with the UNGPs.
- Create holistic programmes to increase advocacy and institutional engagements with governments and corporations to deepen and institutionalize respect for human and business rights by government, corporations and law enforcement institutions
- Monitor, research, document and disseminate information on all cases of human rights violations by extractive companies and state law enforcement institutions
- Build community capacity to demand for their rights and engage government and extractive companies to protect and respect human rights
- Build collaboration with international partners for stronger advocacy on UNGP.
OXFAM IN NIGERIA
- Strengthen civil society organizations capacity in advocacy and institutional engagements to foster commitment and compliance by government and business corporations.
- Strengthen and support dialogues between civil society, government and corporations on business and human rights to enhance the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- Support knowledge development and information dissemination on business and human rights to improve knowledge and awareness on extractive industry operations in Nigeria.
- Identify and develop the capacity of focal organizations and civil society actors to cascade impact and sustain results of existing interventions.
- Support and develop capacity of the media to document and report information on business and human rights in the industry in Nigeria
- Build capacity on Business and human Rights for more skills on ensuring company compliance with UNGP.
- Create practical and innovative ways of expanding compliance with UNGP.
- Monitor, engage with and participate in governance to make States and Local Governments accountable to communities.
- Be more proactive and assertive in demanding for their rights from corporations and law enforcement institutions.
- Work with credible civil society organizations in their engagements and negotiations with extractive companies operating in their domains.
- Promote non-violence and peaceful dispute resolution in their engagements with extractive companies and governments.
- Demand for compliance and due diligence on human rights, social and environmental impacts assessments from extractive companies in their communities.
- Monitor, document and report all cases and incidents of human rights violations by oil company operations on their lands and waters.
Participants expressed gratitude to Oxfam in Nigeria for supporting the project; the implementing organisation, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre and the facilitators, Dr. Austin Onuoha and Mr Henry Ushie for an excellent facilitation.
- KebetKache Women Development and Resource Centre
- Centre for Media, Environment and Development Communication
- MacJim Foundation
- Pius Dukor Foundation
- Citizens Trust
- Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
- Kallop Humanitarian and Environmental Centre
- Okwuzi Women Forum
- Eastern Obolo
- Centre for Leadership and Development
- Peace Point Development Foundation
- Ala-Uchi Women Development Initative
- Niger Delta Development Initiative
- League of Queens International
- Community Rights Development Initiative
- African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFESD)
- Women Initiative for Climate Change (WICC)
- Society for Women and Youth Affairs
- Gbobia Feefeelo
- National Point Newspapers/Foreword Communications Limited
- Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Rivers State
- Centre for Justice, Empowerment and Development
- Greater Hands Foundation for International Development
- Eedee Ladies
- Niger Delta Women for Environmental Justice