The Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) launched an extensive media campaign within the first quarter of 2019. The campaign, was aimed at connecting resource governance issues to the principles contained in the Natural Resource Charter principles and by extension, the Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER), as a tool for policy engagement and advocacy. The NNRC focuses on the need to keep calls for reforms in the petroleum sector within the public narrative space across Nigeria so, the thrust of the discourse was on petroleum resource governance. As part of this campaign, media practitioners in both electronic and print media are being engaged effectively by sharing practical tools on how best to apply the Framework and engage the public.
One of such engagements was the with Social Media Influencers on Setting the Agenda for Oil and Gas Reforms which took place in March in Abuja, FCT. The event was in recognition of the growing importance and influence of the social media in charting and changing narratives globally and locally; especially in the successful passage of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill. The NNRC intended to leverage the #FixOurOil hashtag generated during its media engagement with SMI’s in September 2018 and the social media group with 19 SMI’s created on the 19th of September, 2019. In attendance, drawn mostly from online mediums, bloggers, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram influencers, Ms. Tengi George-Ikoli further stated that the engagement was to refresh participants on the Natural Resource Charter and also to share ways by which it can be applied to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. She explained that the NNRC provides policy options for implementing and reforming the oil and gas sector. With this in mind, the engagement will enable social media influencers understand and communicate appropriately the intent of the framework.
The overriding importance of the gathering, according to her, is to help them understand how to use the tools of the NNRC framework to develop contents and employ them using various social media platforms. She pointed out that it behoves on the media to thoroughly interrogate the activities of industry players, especially the governing bodies of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. As well as the data published by the NNPC on oil and gas production.
Furthermore, she shared the profile of oil and gas production in oil producing countries in a bid to give participants a better understanding of the need for transparency and accountability in governing the oil industry. She highlighted that the opaqueness and revenue shortfalls in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria has over the years been categorised by series of negative upstream indices. Also, the continuous reduction in oil reserve replacement rate, has led to the withdrawal of several International Oil Companies (IOCs) from Nigeria. As well as a drastic increase in the value of onshore production and a resultant increase in the cost of petroleum products in the downstream.
In his presentation, Joseph Ishaku of the Centre for the Study of Economies of Africa (CSEA) began by stating that the NNRC framework and the Benchmarking Exercise Report (BER) have the ability to shape policy agenda through reform and policies developed to maximize the utilization of natural resource in Nigeria. The BER, he pointed out, was arrived at using a multistakeholder approach comprising of former government officials, private sector and civil society representatives as well as leading academia. The NNRC’s benchmarking exercise is conducted by using twelve (12) precepts of the NRC along with a set of questions developed using the guiding questions provided by the benchmarking framework.
Using findings from the 2017 BER, Mr. Ishaku noted that government’s approach is suboptimal –usually seeks ways of minimizing impacts and providing compensation where necessary. Enforcement of present regulations aimed at mitigating the environmental and social impacts of resource extraction are weak in practice; partly due to capacity constraints of government agencies responsible for enforcing compliance. These and many more according to him are reasons why the buy-in of the media is essential to help inform the populace, and put pressure on the government to do the right thing.
Mr. David Otu stated that the fact that citizens are not asking the right questions which could be as a result of the failure on the part of journalists to effectively and efficiently propagate the message of the need for reforms. He emphasized the ability of social media influencers to convey the message of reforms to Nigerians and policy makers and continuously keeping the conversation on several social media platforms in order to drive the desired change.
This could be done by consistently sharing challenges bedevilling the oil and gas sector and the entire country; issues around lack of security, discretionary allocation of blocks, violation of procedures and processes as experienced in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), tax evasion and transfer mispricing among others. He further explained that the major duty of SMIs is to communicate to all and sundry using a journalistic approach to tell the story from a human angle in order to appropriately drive home the message of reforms. Hence, making it relatable and using the best format possible at every given time.
Mr. Otu highlighted the need for SMIs to engage in continuous researches as a cornerstone for strong journalism practice. Similarly, conversations regarding oil sector reforms should state details of the NNRC precepts accurately and relatable by all and sundry. This can be done using pictorial tools e.g. info graphs and smart videos, cartoons.
In conclusion, social media influencers agreed to engage using the NNRC Platform under the coined #fixouroil and the #NNRCChats. The social media campaign would be conducted over the quarter and should by the end of it begin to establish the NNRC and its chats as a medium for engaging resource governance issues.