Nigeria - Mutual understanding
Chief Oris Uchendu Onyiri is the leader of the EGI communities in Nigeria's Niger delta, where Total has had a presence since 1962. He is the main linj between the group and the local population.
I’m chair of the Egi People’s Assembly, which represents the 16 Egi communities, totaling more than 100,000 people. As such, I act as the interface between Total and the local population. We haven’t always had a good relationship with Total and, in the past, there was deep mistrust between the two sides. This new form of dialogue is therefore essential.
An active contribution to development
In recent years, Total has adopted a radical new approach. They now come to us and engage in dialogue. I’m happy to say that now, here in Nigeria, Total has a better relationship with local communities than any other oil company. Over the last few years we’ve come to understand each other. This mutual understanding was highlighted during the Ibewa incident* in 2012 where we managed to retain ongoing, constructive communication with Total despite the problems.
Total also makes an active contribution to our development in health, education and infrastructures. As well as building roads, a water distribution network and local community and health centers, the Group has also created a gas-fired power plant which has made a real difference to our lives.
Total is now a partner in our economic development. It creates jobs and has introduced training programs to encourage people to set up small, local businesses. The Group will also be providing financial support for a range of projects, including the creation of a palm oil processing center, an industrial bakery and a ceramics factory. The work that Total does in this respect is critical. As the amount of available farmland decreases, our communities are becoming ever more reliant on the industrial and economic activities that Total generates. One of the projects that the Group supports is very close to my heart. The Seed Multiplication Center is designed to guarantee food security for the local population. Nevertheless, the influx of migrants attracted by Total’s presence has caused some security issues that we need to resolve, and there is a need to reduce the amount of gas being burned. Now that both sides trust and understand each other, the future looks very positive. Having said that, I’d like to see members of the local Rivers State population occupying management positions and local, qualified business owners given a greater stake in Total’s activities.
*The incident at the Ibewa field on March 20, 2012 led to water and gas leaking into an uninhabited area.