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Map of Rivers State Showing Eleme

             Source: Ministry of Land and Survey, Rivers State.



Map of Eleme and its Environs


Source: Town Planning Unit, Eleme and Google Map Modification, 2016.






Background to the Study

Nature is lavish in its endowment of Eleme as indeed other areas of the Niger Delta. Like other communities in the region, Eleme is endowed with an abundance of hydrocarbon, good vegetation for agriculture and arteries of waterways for easy communication, among others.  As Obo Osaro Ngofa rightly notes, ‘several multi-national companies are operating within Eleme territory and some of them are engaged in crude oil production, gas utilization, fertilizer production, oil refining and petrochemical productions. The sprawling Onne Port Complex has over 100 companies operating various services within the area and particularly within the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone’.[1] Some writers refer to the town as ‘Nigeria’s unofficial headquarters of oil and gas’.[2] Among other things, the town houses the oldest refinery in Nigeria, the National Fertilizer Company  (NAFCON) now NOTORE Industries Limited, the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT), and the Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT), to mention a few.

A first visit to the busy Onne Port Complex or the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone easily creates the impression that Eleme Local Government Area which houses these facilities and several multinational companies is developed in terms of infrastructure and human capital. The real situation is a far-cry from what should be expected. The sprawling town of an estimated 200,000 people, located 7 kilometres from Port Harcourt, is endowed with enormous oil deposits and the concentration of over 150 oil multinational companies as well as quite a number of federal government installations. But it has no semblance of a town endowed with such magnitude of mineral wealth and the concentration of several multinational companies.

Rather than improve the socio-economic well-being of the people, the exploration of oil and gas has polluted the environment, destroyed the aquatic life and made the town inhospitable for the rural dwellers to survive on their traditional agricultural economy. It is an example par excellence of an enclave economy where a plethora of industries are clustered at specified locations, cut off completely from the stark poverty and backwardness of the rest of the area. Enclave economy refers to the development of a business or industrial sector in a localized region that shows profound differences from the surrounding areas and economy’.[3]

Except for some parts of the major roads, virtually all the adjourning roads in Eleme are in very bad shapes. The electricity situation in the area has hardly improved in the past two decades. The people go for weeks and sometimes, months, without power supply. The small size generator popularly called I pass my neighbor with its noxious fumes, has become a rather compulsory house-hold feature in the area. Yet, this is a luxury not everyone can afford. Those who are not able to get a generator set, make do with the hurricane lamp with its hazardous fumes. The emission of noxious gases like nitrogen oxides, ammonia and sulfur dioxide by the companies operating in Eleme has severely contaminated the sources of drinking water, leaving the people with no option than to drink from gas-polluted wells and streams.

Late in August 2011, for instance, a group known as the Environmental Justice Crusaders, under the umbrella of the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spillages in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), parceled samples of water from a well at Eleme to government officials in Port Harcourt. The water was found to contain cancerous benzene substances. According to Nyime Ngelale, a member of the compound where the well was located, ‘we started noticing this contamination about ten years ago. When it became unmanageable, we were forced to stop drawing water from the well. Until ten years ago, this used to be our source of drinking water’.[4] The situation in Eleme quite frankly justifies S.O. Aghalino’s view that:

Nigeria, like many other developing countries, is under enormous pressure to over-exploit its natural resources and to put excessive strain on its physical environment in the drive towards economic growth. In the ‘mad rush’ to accomplish this desire, there is absence of an articulate environmental policy towards ameliorating the deleterious effects of oil and gas exploration and production. While the benefits of oil explorations are shared between oil companies and the federal government, the adverse economic and ecological impact remain highly localized in the oil producing communities where they contribute to poverty and destitution.[5]


Plate 1: Showing one of the dilapidated roads in Okerewa community, Eleme.


However, as much as it is largely the duty of government to develop Elemeland, like other parts of the Niger Delta, multinational companies operating in the area have also enormous roles to play in ameliorating the people’s suffering by controlling their operations to limit, if not stop the emission of harmful gases which threaten human and aquatic lives, and improving their corporate-social responsibility in the area. The Nigerian Petroleum Act of 1969, for instance, stipulates that ‘the holder of an oil exploration licence or oil mining lease, shall ensure that he pays fair and adequate compensation for the disturbance of surface or other rights to any person who is in rightful occupation of the licenced or leased area’.[6] Sadly, many oil companies have not been adhering to this regulation over the years. Some observers put the blame on the nature of the Act itself. For Aghalino, ‘the words, ‘shall ensure fair and adequate’, are rather too loose and generalized to convey compliance. The Act neither spells out what is ‘fair’, nor does it stipulate the machinery for ensuring that a fair and adequate compensation is paid. It does not also state if what is to be paid would be determined by the oil companies, the government or a combination of both’.[7]

These issues and more, have kept the people of Eleme at daggers-drawn with the companies operating in the area over the years. Youth protests at the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, the Port Complex, Petrochemical Company and other facilities, have thus become a common feature in Eleme. One of such protests which occurred on 20 September 2012 saw the closure of major roads leading to Onne and Port Harcourt by angry Eleme youths. Okafor Ofiebor reports that:

Business activities in the oil and gas industry in the oil-rich Rivers State were disrupted as thousands of protesting youths from Eleme communities in Eleme Local Government Area of the state, blocked Eleme Junction along the East-West road. This prevented access roads to over 150 multi-national companies and the two Onne Ports in the state. Also, the access roads leading to the Port Harcourt Refinery, Oil and Gas Free Zone, Intels, PRODECO, Petroleum Tank Farms, etc., and into Port Harcourt, the state capital, were also blocked by the protesting youths who took to the streets to complain about marginalization and neglect by the government. The protest was carried out to get the attention of President Goodluck Jonathan who is expected to declare open an oil and gas international conference today in the area. Comrade Isaac Obe, the youth leade said that one of their grievances is the refusal of Integrated Logistics Limited (Intels), concessionaries of Onne Port, to employ Eleme youths while Okrika youths are recruited regularly even though Eleme people are co-hosts to Intels.[8]

This incident, like many others which occurred before and after it, goes to show that community-company relations in Eleme have been far from cordial, over the years. It was partly for this reason that members of the six host communities of the Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL) heaved a sigh of relief when the company was privatized in 2006 and the Indorama Group took over. The Indorama Group is an Indonesia-based company which manufactures diversified products such as cement, fertilizer, textiles, etc., with bases in Thailand, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Turkey.[9]

Established in 1985, the defunct Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL) was designed to produce a range of petrochemical products from gas and refinery by-products.[10] The products which include polyethylene and polypropylene are basically polymer resins (plastic raw materials) used in the production of plastic equipments of all shapes and sizes for industrial and domestic uses. The company was inaugurated in 1991 and operated as a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) until 2006. It was therefore a full government enterprise. Yet, like other companies in the area, EPCL failed in its social responsibility to the people. According to Mr. James Saloka:

During the time of EPCL the relationship between the company and members of the host communities was nothing to write home about. If you look at the workforce of over one thousand, the number of indigenes among them was less than ten. Every other person came from outside. Meanwhile you find out that the primary receptors of the pollution arising from the company’s activities are Eleme people and especially the host communities. They pollute the water and as at then the only source of drinking water was the Okulu Aleto (Aleto River). Aside that, the OkuluAleto was used for recreational purposes but the operations of EPCL polluted this water. This was so because the Effluent Treatment Plant was just one kilometer away from the recipient water body (Okulu Aleto).[11]

Mr. Mbata Elechi equally lamented that:

Under the EPCL arrangement, what we were given were grass cutting and office cleaning contracts. We had a form of representation then but what our representatives were able to negotiate for us were these two contracts. The quota was distributed among families of the host and neighbouring communities. During Christmas too, they gave us some presents like rice and drinks. There was no direct financial benefit that we derived from the company. The salaries being paid to the cleaners and grass cutters were not enough to sustain one for a month but we took it because we believed we had no option.[12]

This was the nature of community-company relations between the defunct Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited and its six host communities of Akpajo, Aleto, Agbonchia, Njuru, Akpakpa and Okerewa in Eleme Local Government Area until 2006.

A combination of excessive bureaucratic control, corruption, inappropriate technology and gross incompetence, among other things, had crippled several public enterprises. By the inception of the civilian administration of Olusegun Obasanjo in May 1999, it was clear that the public sector was overdue for restructuring. The government decided on privatization and commercialization as ways to solve the problems bedeviling the sector. What followed was the promulgation of the Public Enterprises Privatization and Commercialization Act of 1999. In the same year, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) was established to formulate policies on privatization and commercialization, among other things.

Following, a National Council on Privatization was set up to oversee the activities of the BPE. EPCL was among the many public ventures put up for privatization. Okechukwu Ibeanu states that ‘following the evaluation of core investor expression of interest (EOI), two firms, Indorama Group and Dangote/Transcorp Consortium were pre-qualified to purchase 51% of the company’s share which the government put up for sale out of its 75% share in the company’.[13] The Indorama Group won the bid and from 2006, became the core investor in the defunct EPCL. The name of the company was thereafter changed to Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited (IEPL).

The story of privatization in Nigeria has generated concern and controversy among Nigerians of all walks of life. Proponents of privatization see it as an efficient means of promoting competition and enhancing economic growth. Critics of the system argue that it increases unemployment and reduces the access of the masses to basic goods and services through increase in prices.[14] For the majority of Eleme people, however, especially members of the host communities of IEPL, privatization is, in the words of Chief Mgbigbi Osila Echu, ‘a miracle’.[15]

After the Indorama Group took over EPCL in 2006, the new management began to initiate several community development programmes as part of ways to secure smooth operations. The first step in IEPL’s partnership with its host communities commenced with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the parties on 1 April 2007.[16] The Head, Community Relations and Development, Mr. Fred Igwe, explains that:

Since the commencement of the MoU, the company has embarked on several projects and programmes in the communities aimed at consolidating on the existing cordial relations with the people. These can be classified into two: community relations and community development programmes. The community relations programme include awarding of scholarships to Eleme youths, donation of drugs and medical equipment to the communities and donation of food and other items to widows, among others. As part of the community development projects, IEPL is carrying out electricity extension to new neighbourhoods in the six host communities of Akpajo, Njuru, Okerewa, Agbonchia, Elelenwo and Aleto. There are also arrangements to bring far-reaching improvements to the Nchia General Hospital, Eleme, which has been in a serious state of decay.[17]

It is also instructive to note that the advent of Indorama in 2006 coincided with the period of heightened insecurity in the Niger Delta, following the incessant kidnap of foreign oil workers and attacks on oil facilities by militants. Indorama was not spared. In May 2007, twelve expatriates working for the company were kidnapped by militants in Port Harcourt. According to Irene Chigbue, ‘it was a big blow to the company. Insecurity in the area was so pervasive that the company reportedly shut down its plants for some months’.[18]

Among the community development projects, one which has had tremendous effects on the people is the company’s decision to incorporate the people by making them share holders. Following, the company put up 7.5% of its shares for sale to the host communities and 2.5% to its staff, both indigenes and non-indigenes. This move was a novelty in corporate-community relations in the area and indeed, the region in general. ‘By this acquisition of the shares’, writes Mike Achaziem, ‘the communities have become co-owners of the company and will earn dividends accruable from the shares yearly’.[19] According to the chairman of the host communities’ Project Advisory Committee (PAC), Chief Gomba Okanje:

The shares were given to us in 2009 April. We couldn’t pay for it. It was there until 2012 when we were able to secure a loan facility from Stanbic IBTC Bank. The loan was 2.925 billion naira. From then we automatically became share holders. I must thank Mr. Manish Mundra, the Managing Director of Indorama. He appreciated our efforts to develop our communities through this means. Manish supported us and at some point he was queried by his parent company for going beyond advisory level to even volunteering to use the company as collateral to the bank.[20]

               As a result of the development, members of some of the host communities whether old or young, have been receiving quarterly dividends from the company since 2012.  The dividends are shared based on the size of land that each community made available to the company. The development has had enormous impact on the people in terms of social, economic and physical well-being. It has also raised a lot of concerns and tensions among them. The dynamics of this new development and its effects on the Eleme people both positively and otherwise, is the main thrust of this work.

Statement of the Problem

Very few regions in the world have attracted as much attention as Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The issues of environmental degradation and minority agitations which characterize the region, have by the late 1990s become matters of international concern, especially after the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1995. Consequently, there is a plethora of literature on issues relating to the Niger Delta from various disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. However, virtually all the works centre on the wider Niger Delta discourse. Only a handful identifies and discusses in detail, the experiences of distinct groups in the area. In most cases, these few departures revolve around the Ogoni struggle and the execution of the Ogoni Nine. Yet the Niger Delta is home to over 40 ethnic nationalities which suffer the devastations of oil exploration and government exploitations in different forms.[21] As a result, the experiences of most groups in the region such as the Eleme, remain unnoticed and unexplored. This work hopes to be a departure from the popular trend in Niger Delta historiography. It attempts to bridge the gap by focusing on the new partnership between IEPL and its host communities in Eleme as a model for lasting peace and progress in the Niger Delta.

Purpose of the Study

From 1956 when oil was first struck in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa state, the oil from the Niger Delta has remained the single major source of income for Nigeria. Thus, the region’s continued underdevelopment irks the people to the point where they resolved on armed struggle and even secession to save their lives and environment. Findings have however shown that the Niger Delta problem is solvable through sustained dialogue and improved corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the part of oil companies operating in the area. This study therefore aims at presenting a workable model for peace in the Niger Delta, using IEPL’s partnership with the Eleme people as a case study. The work is also undertaken to assess the company’s operations as it concerns environmental, social and economic well-being of the people. Though not undermining government’s efforts or those of oil companies at restoring peace to the Niger Delta, the study will show that increased corporate-social responsibility on the part of companies is imperative to promoting peaceful relations with the people which to a large extent, will solve the problem of insecurity prevalent in the region.

Significance of the Study

The work will contribute immensely to the growing literature on the Niger Delta. It shows a vital approach for achieving lasting peace and development in the region. Moreso, by assessing the operational system of IEPL in terms of its relations with the host communities, the study provides useful insights into the activities of oil multinationals in distinct communities in the region, using Eleme as a case in point. The study will perhaps stimulate further discussions and research on corporate – social responsibilities of companies operating in the Delta region in particular, and the country in general. As such, the work will be vital for future academic discourses, a quality which makes it meaningful to historians, political scientists, sociologists and economists, among others.

Scope of the Study

           The study covers the six host communities of IEPL in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, namely, Akpajo, Aleto, Agbonchia, Njuru, Akpakpa and Okerewa. It focuses on the effects of the partnership of these communities with IEPL, covering a period of eight years spanning from 2006 to 2013. The work starts in 2006, a date which marked the end of EPCL following its privatization and the beginning of IEPL as core investor in the moribund EPCL. The terminal date of 2013 is quite significant as it commemorates the signing of the third edition of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between IEPL and members of the host communities; an agreement which spells out the modus operandi of the company and its relations with the people.




Sources and Methodology

           It is true that the Niger Delta issue has accumulated a volume of literature over the years. But the majority of these works concentrate on the wider Niger Delta question, thus cutting out specific groups such as the Eleme, whose experiences with oil companies and successive Nigerian governments go largely unnoticed. The result is that there is paucity of written records on the Eleme both in terms of their history and their experiences with oil multinationals. As a result, this work extensively employs the use of oral evidence obtained by means of interviews conducted across the six host communities. The oral testimonies were vigorously scrutinized to ensure their validity. Other primary records for the work include company documents, newspapers, magazines and community records. The study also employs the use of secondary sources such as books, journal articles and scholarly papers in edited works as well as unpublished projects on the Niger Delta.

The work is interdisciplinary in nature, as it draws from data supplied by other disciplines such as Geography, Political Science and Economics. The aim is to ensure a combination of descriptive and critical analyses in the interpretation of the data collated. The study adopts both the qualitative and quantitative research methodologies which will furnish it with a holistic narrative on the Eleme people and a fair amount of statistical analysis of the quarterly dividends disbursed to the people with its focus on how this has affected their lives within the period under study. The work is thus, descriptive and analytical in style, with the results of data gathered, presented thematically and chronologically.

Theoretical Framework

This study is anchored on two related theories. These are the theories of conflict and consensus. Although a number of scholars have put forward some aspects of the conflict theory, the work of Ralf Dahrendorf presents a striking connection with the central focus of the present study. Dahrendorf, like other conflict theorists, sees conflict as an integral part of every society and a major element or determinant of change. Drawn largely from the Marxian dialectics, the conflict theory supposes that changes in the society are products of the interactions between groups; a phenomenon which produces conflict and in the end, presents solutions to the problem.

Dahrendorf identifies authority and interest as major determinants of conflict in society. Central to his thesis is the idea that various positions within society have different amounts of authority.[22] Authority in this vein implies both superordination and subordination. Those who occupy positions of authority are expected to control subordinates; that is, they dominate because of the expectations of those who surround them, not because of their own psychological characteristics. What this implies is that society is structured into two categories, namely, subordinates and superordinates. Within every society or association, however, those in dominant positions seek to maintain the status quo while those in subordinate positions seek change. This phenomenon presents the second element of Dahrendorf’s conflict analysis which is interest. Those in positions of subordination hold certain interests that are sometimes, contradictory in substance and direction from those of superordinates.[23] Groups on top and at the bottom are defined by common interests. Thus, a conflict of interest within any association is at least intent at all times which means that the legitimacy of authority is always precarious.[24]

This analysis of the conflict theory helps present the theoretical framework for understanding the Niger Delta question. It explains that the need to exert authority on one hand and the desire of the masses or subordinates to maintain their interest in the polity on the other hand, are basic causes of conflict in any society or among groups.  Over the years, the need by successive Nigerian governments to enforce peace in the Niger Delta by the use of state instruments of control such as the Police, Army and Navy, has pitched the government against the people who seek to protect their interest in terms of environmental, social, political and economic rights, a situation that has turned the region into a hotbed for violence. The basic interests of the two groups (super ordinates and subordinates) have thus resulted in severe conflict which seems intractable. The sacking of several Niger Delta communities, including Umuechem, Choba, Ogoni and Odi, are cases in point. The Niger Delta conflict can thus be described in Margaret Peil’s words, as ‘the product of human self-interest rather than of some atavistic, visceral rivalry of the type that some outsiders lazily and insultingly describe as the sources of conflicts in African countries’.[25]

Various writers on the Niger Delta issue, including Ben Naanen, Cyril Obi, S.O. Aghalino, John Wangbu, O.M. Ifeanyi, Okechukwu Ibeanu and Tekena N Tamuno, among others, condemn the use of force by government to maintain ‘peace’ and ensure the smooth operation of oil exploration activities in the Niger Delta. According to Engobo Emeseh, ‘a holistic solution engendering lasting peace requires the government to engage in genuine dialogue with local people. Such a process will ensure legitimacy and acceptability for any agreement that will ensue.[26] Uwafiokun Idemudia, on his part, advocates that oil multinational companies must prioritize addressing the social and environmental cost of oil production by internalizing such costs through investment in environmental pollution reduction strategies and in alternative sources of livelihood in host communities. This would ensure that fewer are displaced from their traditional sources of livelihood and that those displaced have alternative sources of livelihood.[27]

These recommendations and more, sadly remain unimplemented in most of the communities. Even where they are carried out, the measures taken either by government or the companies are in the main, grossly insufficient. The result is that the face-off between the people, oil multinationals and Nigerian governments has assumed an intractable nature. Each group insists on their respective interest and the region continues to be unsafe for foreign nationals and even residents whether indigenes or not.

But conflict does not always end in violent conflagrations. It could lead to some compromise which would eventually help in bringing warring parties together. This is perhaps why Dahrendorf proposes the theory of consensus. According to this theory, value integration rather than coercion is the major factor which holds society together.[28] Dahrendorf recognizes that society could not exist without both conflict and consensus, which are prerequisites for each other. The theory of consensus thus sees conflict as an aspect of human society. As George Ritzer puts it, ‘we cannot have conflict unless there is some prior consensus.[29] We may also add that while conflict may be seen as an integral part of human existence, consensus remains the most vital aspect, for without consensus, there will not be an end to conflict and if conflict is left unabated, the entire human race would be at the risk of extinction. It is not surprising that Dahrandorf refers to conflict and coercion as ‘the ugly face of society’.[30]

A particular case which buttresses this point is the community-corporate partnership existing between IEPL and its host communities in Eleme. After long years of crisis between the moribund Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL) and the host communities, the Indorama Group which took over EPCL in 2006 after the company was privatized, designed a new system of peaceful relations with the host communities, part of which was making the people co-owners of the company by offering them part of its shares. According to Chief Mgbigbi, the paramount ruler of Okerewa community:

When the company came, we watched them for a while and when we saw that they were ready to carry our people along, we decided to give them our support. This we did by pledging to secure the company from any attack by kidnappers and things like that. When they did their turn around maintenance, many of our youths were engaged and while it lasted, they made some money. So we said, it is better to encourage this company and we did.[31]

It is on the bases of these theories of conflict and consensus that this work relies.

Literature Review

Not so much is known about the Eleme people, except for a few indirect references in a handful of discourses on the Niger Delta and in some colonial records. Obo Osaro Ngofa’s The Complete History of Eleme came only about a decade ago. As important as the work is, however, it has hardly circulated in Eleme. Writers have continued to submerge the people’s history and experiences with oil multinationals in the context of the wider Niger Delta discourse. As colonial District Officer in charge of Degema District in Owerri Province which Eleme was part of, the colonial anthropologist, Percy Amaury Talbot undertook a long survey of the Niger Delta and produced two classic works, Peoples of Southern Nigeria and Tribes of the Niger Delta. Talbot discusses in these accounts, aspects of the history, cultures and traditions of the different groups in the Niger Delta. Yet, he had very little to say about Eleme. In Tribes of the Niger Delta for instance, he mentions Eleme in only four pages of the three hundred and forty four paged work. According to him:

The Mbolli or Eleme or Nchia as they are known among themselves – some 20,000 strong, dwell to the extreme east near Okrika. In language, physical type, customs and beliefs they differ absolutely from any other of their neighbours in the Division and at first presented a puzzle which was difficult to solve.[32]


The paucity of written records on the Eleme notwithstanding, there are a number of works which discuss issues relating to the experiences of the Eleme people with oil multinationals over the years.  As we have noted, there have been quite a number of studies on the Niger Delta region. Indeed, very few regions of the world have attracted as much literature as the Niger Delta in recent times. These studies cut across the issues of environmental degradation, minority agitations, human rights abuses and socio-economic as well as political marginalization in the region. They provide essential, but often general views on the Niger Delta question.

Of particular relevance to this study, is Uwafiokun Idemudia’s ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and the Niger Delta Conflict: Issues and Prospects’, in Cyril Obi and Siri Aas Rustad (eds.), Oiland Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro-Violence. Idemudia’s work examines the nexus between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and conflict management in the Niger Delta. It offers an appreciable insight into ways of strengthening CSR as a strategy for managing corporate-community conflict.[33] The author identifies a salient point in corporate community relations which is that the resolve by oil multinational companies to undertake community development was an after-thought. According to Idemudia, ‘after decades of initially rejecting CSR, oil multinational companies (MNCs) have sought to secure their social license to operate, legitimize their position and respond to local and international criticisms by adopting CSR initiatives as a strategy for responding to and managing conflict in the region’.[34]

Unlike majority of works on the Niger Delta, Idemudia’s study discusses distinct communities in the region such as Ikot Edidang, Inua Eyet and Ikot Abasi, all in Akwa Ibom State. Apart from other salient issues which he raises in the work, the author also points out two core factors which hinder corporate social responsibility in most parts of the Niger Delta. These include lack of required technical skills for most jobs in the oil industry and the issue of low manpower in-take by oil companies. This is because of the capital-intensive nature of the oil industry as a result of which only a small number of jobs are created.[35]

The author observes, and quite truly too, that despite the widespread adoptions of CSR in the Nigerian oil industry, violence in the region has increased both in intensity and in scale and oil MNCs continue to be held responsible for a range of infractions by local communities. This situation suggests that there are gaps in the quality of CSR initiatives aimed at changing the hostile attitude of local communities towards oil companies in the Niger Delta.[36] The work is undoubtedly a veritable source material for the present study, as it discusses issues relating to corporate community partnership in the Niger Delta. However, Eleme and IEPL were not part of its focus. Most of the issues raised, border basically on the general Niger Delta situation. The present work aims at situating Elemeland and IEPL in the context of CSR, thus filling the gaps inherent in earlier literatures.

Another vital material for this study is Ben Naanen and Patrick Tolani’s Private Gain, Public Disaster: Social Context of Illegal Oil Bunkering and Artisanal Refining in the Niger Delta. The authors undertook a broad survey of the Niger Delta to assess the origin, dynamics and effects of artisanal refining and illegal bunkering in the region. The purpose is to chart the course of a new sustainable development paradigm in oil-bearing communities. The work condemns illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta, highlights some of the economic, health and social effects of the practice and proposes among other things, ‘the involvement of the local communities particularly where oil pipelines pass through, as part-owners along with the other stakeholders in the oil industry’.[37] This suggestion is central to the major thesis of the present study. Community participation in the oil industry has proven to be a major avenue for curbing the perennial conflict which has characterized the Niger Delta for half a century, beginning from the Isaac Adaka Boro Revolt of 1966.

Although Naanen and Tolani did not consider Eleme as a case in point in their study, their description of the deplorable situation in Bodo community and parts of Ogoniland is quite representative of what obtains in the Eleme area which is less than 25 kilometers from Ogoni. The present study is undertaken to situate Eleme in the mainstream Niger Delta discourse and using their experiences and cordial relations with IEPL as a case in point, it affirms that peace is achievable in the region through corporate-community partnership.

Charles Ukeje’s, ‘Changing the Paradigm of Pacification and Militarization in Nigeria’s Delta Region’, is another study which presents issues closely related to the present work. The study analyses the factors driving and exacerbating the militarization of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government and its connections to violent resistance.[38] The author explains that the practice of deploying heavy presence of soldiers and a plethora of security agents to the Niger Delta region is reminiscent of the colonial system of ‘pacification’ whereby resisting people were brought to subjection by the use of the maxim and machine guns. He avers that militarization or ‘pacification’ cannot abate or solve the biting crises in the Niger Delta. According to him, ‘what is particularly instructive is that under the prevailing atmosphere of militarization, the Nigerian state seems to be revealing its inability to exercise  non-coercive and legitimized authority to address the festering crisis in the Delta region’.[39]

Ukeje’s assessment reveals, among other things, that the poor handling of previously minuscule pockets of community grievances over the inequitable distribution of oil wealth could degenerate into full blown insurgencies. He notes that ‘a vicious logic of brute force is feeding on a convoluted system of oil-based accumulation in Nigeria that can only be sustained ironically with the deployment of greater coercion and unbridled militarization’.[40] His work also examines the role of multinational oil companies and their home governments in the militarization of the Niger Delta. Ukeje, like other writers on the Niger Delta, decries the use of force by Nigerian government to suppress the people’s protests against the adverse effects of oil exploration in the region. He thus proposes, among other things, that the first major step towards sustainable peace is to repudiate the paradigm of military ‘pacification’ and pursue a comprehensive project of demilitarization, peace and sustainable development of the Niger Delta.[41]

Ukeje’s work is important as it highlights the roots of Niger Delta crisis and proposes possible solutions to the problems facing the region and its peoples. However, the work does not specify what sort of non-coercive measure which would be most appropriate in solving the problem. Although he mentions that key donor agencies such as the World Bank, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been keen to support a range of social, economic, technical, environmental and capacity-building intervention programmes for the Niger Delta, he does not specifically identify corporate-community partnership as the basic solution to the Niger Delta problem. The present study attempts to fill this gap

S.O Aghalino’s two volumes of Delta beyond Oil: A Quest for Sustainable Development present also relevant data for the present work. The volumes were the initiative of the past Governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel E. Uduaghan to restructure the economic base of the state and by extension, the Niger Delta in general. The works were intended to serve as a means of institutionalizing and entrenching the initiative of Delta beyond Oil in the minds of Deltans especially, and the diverse peoples of the Niger Delta region. The idea was for the state to prepare for a post-oil economy by impressing in the minds of the people that oil is a finite resource; that they should be independent and creative in thinking outside the box, knowing that the economic potentialities of Delta State transcend oil and gas.[42] The series were also designed to transform Delta State from a mono-cultural economy tied to the apron strings of the volatility of the fluctuation of international prices of oil and rent seeking.[43] Thus, emphasis was on the return to agriculture and agro-based businesses.

The summary of the volumes as Ehimaka Ifidon puts it, is that owing to the deterioration of physical infrastructure, incapacity to respond to new needs occasioned by demographic changes and pervasive insecurity among others, the promise of oil-driven industrialization and social stability in Nigeria has failed. In the context of Nigeria’s desire and effort to ‘catch up’ with the developed economies, the very idea of oil driven industrialization is a contradiction in terms. Oil revenue dependence has not led to industrial development.[44] An aspect of the two volumes of Delta beyond Oil which is of considerable significance to the present work is the central theme which is an attempt to solve the long- drawn conflict in the Niger Delta without force. The idea of looking beyond oil and focusing on other aspects of the economy is in itself a pointer to a possible solution to the region’s troubles. However, the work does not emphasize the need for oil companies still fully operating in the region to seek ways of ending hostilities against them from members of host communities.

The suggestion that Delta state, like other states in the Niger Delta and indeed in the country at large, needs to look beyond oil to other aspects of the economy is quite undebatable. But this does not erase the fact that the state at the moment, has considerable economic potentialities and resources in oil and gas. The state is only next to Rivers State as the leading producer of oil and gas in Nigeria, accounting for about one quarter of the daily volume of oil produced in Nigeria.[45] As such, there is still need to curb youth restiveness, community-company conflict, inter-communal conflict as well as confrontations between government and the people.

           The complete history of Eleme by Obo Osaro Ngofa is, in many respects, about the most important written source material for the present study. As the title implies, the book encompasses the history of the Eleme people from their early migrations to the present. In his foreword to the book, Elechi Amadi notes that ‘the title of this work, The Complete History of Eleme is an understatement because the author goes far beyond merely recording events. He also delves into traditional administration, religion, education, culture and traditions and even the animals, fishes and birds of Eleme with astonishing attention to details’.[46]

The book also gives account of the advent of multinational oil companies to Eleme and the people’s responses to them. Of particular importance to the present study, is the aspect which discusses the reason for the establishment of Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL). The author explains that the decision of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to engage in the utilization of Nigeria’s abundant hydrocarbon resources for the production of petrochemical intermediates informed the concept of the Eleme Petrochemicals Complex.[47] Beyond this, the author gives a clear picture of Elemeland, its people, resources, political system and more. He notes that ‘several multinational companies are operating within Eleme territory and some of them are engaged in crude oil production, gas utilization, fertilizer production, oil refining and petrochemical productions. The sprawling Onne port complex has over one hundred companies operating various services within the area and particularly within the Onne oil and gas free zone.[48]

Ngofa’s work can be said to be a ‘one-stop’ for any researcher on Eleme and its people. However, the work does not go beyond establishing the rationale behind the establishment of the defunct EPCL. Its focus is mainly on the general history of Elemeland. Thus, it gives very little information on the relations between the people and EPCL. The present study hopes to analyze among other things, the pattern of relations that existed between EPCL and members of the host communities, in order to better understand the people’s reaction to the current IEPL arrangement.

Another work with quite significant importance to the present study is Sam W.E. Ibodje’s ‘Oil and the Niger Delta’ in Sam Oyovbaire (ed.), Governance and Politics in Nigeria: The IBB and OBJ Years. Ibodje tries to compare the regimes of Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasajo in Nigerian governance and politics with specific focus on their roles in the handling of the Niger Delta question.[49] The author gives his rationale to be that ‘rather than regime stereotypes, public patterns in Nigeria under IBB and OBJ would be better understood through a peep into the country’s political economy and the personal idiosyncrasies of the two statesmen’.[50] The work draws some similarities and differences between the two regimes, especially as regards their policies on the Niger Delta debacle. Apart from comparing the two regimes and their policies, it also draws attention to the role of oil in the political economy of Nigeria and how this tries to determine government actions and reactions towards the people of the region whether during military or civilian administrations.

Ibodje decries the use of coercion by the government to silence the agitations of oil-producing communities against the devastations caused by oil exploration activities. He observes that the Nigerian state does not really play a productive role in economic activities. Rather, it appropriates economic surplus and distributes same bureaucratically in a non-value-added fashion. It is in this regard that the Nigerian state has been generally regarded as a rent-collecting state. Thus, since the 1970s, when the sector of the produce marketing boards declined in importance, the rent collecting activity of the country shifted to the oil mineral resources from the Niger Delta.[51]

Ibodje proposes that part of the solutions to the factors hampering peace and development of the region, is the creation of conditions for a stable and peaceful environment for economic activities through the resolution of conflicts between  the oil-bearing communities on the one hand and the Nigerian state and its multinational partners on the other. However, the author did not specify what line of action is best suitable for the creation of conditions for a stable and peaceful environment in the region, even though he accepts that the policy objective of attaining a stable and peaceful environment for economic activities is still far from being realized as the relations between the oil-producing communities and the Nigerian state have taken a turn for the worse between the days of Babangida and Obasanjo.

Okechukwu Ibeanu’s ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures: Oil politics in the Niger Delta’ is another work which has enormous information for the present study. It centers on the despoliation of the Niger Delta by oil companies and government’s use of force to ‘calm’ resisting communities. Like Ibodje, Ibeanu analyses the policy dimensions of Ibrahim Babanida and Olusegun Obasanjo in terms of resolving the Niger Delta problem. He notes that nowhere are the paradoxes of the IBB and OBJ eras better expressed than in the Niger Delta. Notwithstanding that it was a military government, the Babangida government showed more finesse and humanism in dealing with the Niger Delta problem. Obasanjo was a hawk, with his invasion of Odi, Choba and many other communities and the unending military siege his administration laid on the Niger Delta communities for eight years.[52] The writer concludes that comparing the IBB and OBJ governments would seem like comparing apples and oranges. Evidence suggests that both governments did not in any fundamental way change the conditions of the Niger Delta.[53]

Of particular interest to this study is the aspect of the work which looks at privatization. The area examines the rationale behind the massive privatization of government run businesses especially under Obasanjo. Ibeanu notes that:

The privatization exercise carried out by the OBJ administration beginning from 2006 is traceable to events in Nigeria’s political economy from the early 1980s. As early as 1977, signs of serious fiscal difficulties were already visible. By 1982, the silhouette had become a very clear picture and the Nigerian economy was already deep into a tailspin. Biting fiscal crisis, pressure from International Financial Institutions (IFIs), growing domestic discontent and decline in foreign investment in the oil sector and a reprisal for policies of the indigenization period led to partial deregulation and commercialization of various operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).[54]

The work also outlines all the government enterprises slated for privatization including EPCL, giving the physical structure (fixed assets), aims of the company and private firms that took over their operations after privatization. Notwithstanding, Ibeanu’s study does not consider corporate-community partnership as a veritable means of solving the problems of the Niger Delta. Although he mentions the roles of the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and Obasanjo’s Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as some of the instruments or strategies initiated by the two regimes to end the crises in the region, the author virtually concentrates on the comparison of the two governments in terms of their policies on the Niger Delta. The present study is undertaken to help fill in some of these missing links.

Another work on the Niger Delta that is crucial to the present study is S.O Aghalino’s Crude Oil Business in the Western Niger Delta: 1956-1995. The book, which is a synthesized version of the author’s Ph.D thesis, examines the evolution and consequences of the exploration and production of crude oil and gas on the people of the Western Niger Delta. Aghalino’s work tries to identify and analyze the impact of oil and gas production on the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta as well as the reactions of the people to the situation. The work also assesses government’s efforts and those of oil companies to redress the problems facing the people. The author concludes that:

In spite of the starkly apparent state of affairs in Isoko-Urhoboland, the oil companies go priding themselves as having provided so much for the communities. When first aid clinics are built, they styled them health centers. What is worse is that most of these amenities which these oil companies claim to have provided are apparently inadequate. Besides, they function only for a few months after the fan-fare of the initial opening ceremonies.[55]

Though his focus is on the Isoko-Urhobo area, Aghalino’s account presents a clear picture of the situation in many communities of the Niger Delta. It thus relates to the present study especially in terms of host communities’ reaction to oil companies and some measures put in place to assuage them. Of particular interest to the present research is the author’s suggestion that oil companies’ activities should be carried out in accordance with international standard practices whereby oil producing communities are allowed to participate in the oil industry by way of joint venture with the government and oil companies.[56] It has to be noted, however, that the work centres on the Isoko and Urhobo areas in Western Niger Delta, even though its assessment reveals the situation in other parts of the region. The present study goes to show that

the community-company joint venture arrangement which Aghalino suggests above has taken effect in Eleme with enormous benefits and consequences for the people.

Eddy Obi’s ‘Environmental Justice and the Quest for an Equitable and Sustainable Economic World Order: Reassessing the Engagement of Multinational Corporations in the South-South of Nigeria’, is another important source for this study. The work centers on oil exploration and production in the Niger Delta, its effects on the people and ways to salvage the problems faced by the region. The author also touches on other aspects such as the issues of exploitation and dependence, population concerns, growth and sustainable development, among others. The study, like many others on the Niger Delta, asserts that Nigeria’s South-South region is a classic example of an indigenous region whose natural endowments have brought them untold woes in the denigration of their economic and social rights, natural human rights and for humanity as a whole, the destruction of a pristine environment and vital source of climatic equilibrium and greenhouse effect.[57]

Unlike many studies on the region, however, Obi strongly advocates the adoption of adequate corporate social responsibility measures by oil companies as a veritable recipe for the Niger Delta problem. This, as the work suggests, does not overrule the responsibility of government to ensure that oil companies and other multinational business concerns comply with stated environmental regulations and standards that apply in other civilized nations but it remains one of the tangible ways in which oil-producing areas can directly benefit from the resources of their lands.

The studies reviewed above, show part of the many attempts which have been made to place in some perspective, the Niger Delta question and the need to ensure peace in the region. Undoubtedly, the works are useful and even vital in places and do provide great insights into the present study. However, none identifies the situation in Eleme as one of the areas which houses several oil companies in the Niger Delta and which therefore needs special attention. The present study hopes to expand on the frontiers of our knowledge of the Niger Delta problem, by assessing the corporate community partnership between IEPL and its host communities in Eleme, as a model for ethical business practices by oil multinationals in the Niger Delta region.







Map of Eleme and its Environs




Source: Town Planning Unit, Eleme and Google Map Modification, 2016.

[1] Obo Osaro Ngofa, The Complete History of Eleme (Ibadan: Freedom Press, 2006), 217.

[2] Chris Agunweze, ‘A New Vista of War as Eleme Battles Ogoni’, (2012), (accessed 20) January 2016).

[3] Eric Dontigney, ‘Enclave Economy’, (2010), (accessed 22 January 2016).

[4] Steven Obodoekwe, ‘Niger Delta Activists Take Contaminated Water to Government for Launch’, The National Point, 30 August 2011,8.

[5] Samuel Ovuete Aghalino, Crude Oil Business in the Western Niger Delta: 1956-1995 (Enugu: Rhyce Kerex Publishers, 2009), 89.

[6] Aghalino, Crude Oil Business, 130.

[7] Aghalino, Crude Oil Business, 130.

[8] Okafor Ofiebor, ‘Eleme Youths Block Onne Ports’. Accessed 12 December 2015.

[9] Irene Chigbue, ‘Eleme Petrochemicals : Privatization Success Story’, Indorama – Nigeria Impact, October – December, 2008, 5.

[10] Okechukwu Ibeanu, ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures: Oil Politics in the Niger Delta’, in Sam Oyovbaire (ed.), Governance and Politics in Nigeria: The IBB and OBJ Years (Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd, 2008), 197.

[11] Interview with Mr. James Saloka, b. 1978, Akpajo Eleme, 14 November 2015.

[12] Interview with Mr. Mbata Elechi b. 1975, Okerewa Eleme, 28 August 2015.

[13] Ibeanu, ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures’, 197.

[14] Elijah Nnamani, ‘IMF and the Crisis of Development in Africa: The Nigerian Experience’ (M.Sc. Project, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 2011), 32.

[15] Interview with Chief Mgbigbi Osila Echu, b. 1954, Okerewa Eleme, 14 November 2015.

[16] Chigbue, ‘Eleme Petrochemicals’, 5.

[17] Fred Igwe, ‘Our Community Relations: So Far, So Good’, Indorama – Nigeria Impact, September – December 2010, 13.

[18] Chigbue, ‘Eleme Petrochemicals’, 5.

[19] Mike Achaziem, ‘Excitement, as Host Communities Acquire 7.5% Shares’, Indorama – Nigeria Impact, 27 March 2012, 10.

[20] Interview with Chief Gomba Okanje, b. 1961, Port Harcourt, 19 November 2015.

[21] Chioma Elizabeth Abuba, ‘MOSOP and the Struggle for Resource Control in Ogoniland: 1993 – 2011’ (B.A. Project, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 2012), 5.

[22] George Ritzer, Sociological Theory (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 266.

[23] Ritzer, Sociological Theory, 267.

[24] Ralf Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1959), 163.

[25] M. Peel, ‘Crisis in the Niger Delta: How Failures of Transparency and Accountability are Destroying the Region’, quoted in Cyril Obi and Siri Aas Rustad (eds.), Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro Violence (Sweden: Zed Books Ltd, 2010), 86.

[26] Engobo Emeseh, ‘The Niger Delta Crisis and the Question of Access to Justice’, in Cyril Obi and Siri Aas Rustad (eds.), Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro Violence (Sweden: Zed Books Ltd, 2010), 55.

[27] Uwafiokun Idemudia, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and the Niger Delta Conflict: Issues and Prospects’, in Cyril Obi and Siri Aas Rustad (eds.), Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro Violence (Sweden: Zed Books Ltd, 2010), 167.

[28] Ritzer, Sociological Theory, 226.

[29] Ritzer, Sociological Theory, 226

[30] Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict, 163.

[31] Interview with Chief Mgbigbi Osila Echu.

[32] P.A. Talbot, Tribes of the Niger Delta: Their Religions and Customs (London: Frank Cass & Company Limited, 1967), 16.

[33] Idemudia, ‘Corporate Social Responsibiity’, 167.

[34] Idemudia, ‘Corporate Social Responsibiity’, 168

[35] Idemudia, ‘Corporate Social Responsibiity’, 173.

[36] Idemudia, ‘Corporate Social Responsibiity’, 173.

[37]   Ben Naanen and Patrick Tolani, Private Gain, Public Disaster: Social Context of Illegal Oil Bunkering and Artisanal Refining in the Niger Delta (Port Harcourt: Niger Delta Environment and Relief Fund (NIDEREF), 2014), 15.

[38] Charlse Ukeje, ‘Changing the Paradigm of Pacification: Oil and Militarization of Nigeria’s Delta Region’, in Cyril Obi et al (eds.), Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta, 83.

[39] Ukeje, ‘Changing the Paradigm of Pacification’, 89.

[40] Ukeje, ‘Changing the Paradigm of Pacification’, 90.

[41] Ukeje, ‘Changing the Paradigm of Pacification’, 87.

[42] S. O. Aghalino, Delta beyond Oil: A Quest for Sustainable Development (Benin: Mindex Publishing Co. Ltd., 2014), xiii-xiv.

[43] Aghalino, Delta beyond Oil, xiii-xiv.

[44] Ehimika Ifidon, ‘Delta State Beyond Oil: Anatomy, Context and Possibilities’, in S.O. Aghalino (ed.), Delta beyond Oil: A Quest for Sustainable Development (Benin City: Mindex Publishing Co. Ltd., 2014), 31.

[45] Aghalino, Delta beyond Oil, 12.

[46] Ngofa, The Complete History, vii.

[47] Ngofa, The Complete History, 223.

[48] Ngofa, The Complete History, 217.

[49] Sam Ibodje, ‘Oil and the Niger Delta’, in Sam Oyovbaire (ed.), Governance and Politics in Nigeria: The IBB and OBJ Years (Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd., 2008), 148.

[50] Ibodje, ‘Oil and the Niger Delta’, 150.

[51] Ibodje, ‘Oil and the Niger Delta’, 160.

[52] Ibeanu, ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures’, 177.

[53] Ibeanu, ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures’, 225.

[54] Ibeanu, ‘Doves, Hawks and Vultures’, 184.

[55] S.O. Aghalino, Crude Oil Business in the Western Niger Delta: 1956 – 1995 (Enugu: Rhyce  Kerex Publishers, 2009), 89.

[56] Aghalino, Crude Oil Business, 130.

[57] Eddy Obi, ‘Environmental Justice and the Quest for an Equitable and Sustainable Economic World Order: Reassessing the Engagement of Multinational Corporations in the South-South of Nigeria’, in John Wangbu (ed.), Niger Delta: Rich Region, Poor People (Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd., 2005), 75-76.




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