The Application of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Subject: Case Studies
Pages: 55
Words: 15134
Reading time:
55 min
Study level: PhD


Of the number of issues that have had an impact on the global oil industry in the latter part of the last century and over the last decade, few have ravaged both ecological and social communities to the same extent as the many conflicts that characterise oil exploration activities. However, for all the coverage of the oil industry in the media, academic research on the conflicts between oil production companies and their host communities remains comparatively scant. Various factors fuel the conflict between oil multinational companies and oil producing communities. One emerging consensus in the academic literature is that natural resources and conflict are positively correlated (Collier and Hoeffler 2000).

As Collier and Hoeffler (2000, p. 2) explain, “empirically, many rebellions appear to be linked to the capture of resources…such as diamonds in Angola and Sierra Leone, drugs in Colombia, and timber in Cambodia”. Thus the control of commodity wealth appears to be a recurrent motivation behind many international conflicts. The model devised by Collier and Hoeffler (2000, p. 2) implies that “what actually happens is that opportunities for predation…controlling primary commodity exports…cause conflict and the grievances this generates induce diasporas to finance further conflict”. Of particular interest and relevance in this line of inquiry is the nature of oil conflict and how various genres of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can be applied to resolving conflicts between oil exploration companies and their host-communities.

Brief Overview of Previous Reports

The year one report, while stating the aims and objectives of the study, opened up the research with discussions on the various forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR, the dynamics of oil conflict, with particular reference to the Niger Delta, and the identified the stakeholders involved in the conflict.

This research as reflected in this report goes further to explore the complex relationship between oil exploration and violent conflict and the role of the state, multinational oil companies as well as armed and civil actors that make up the host-communities. It focuses on the Niger-Delta, a region of Nigeria with one of the largest oil reserve in the world. Apart from its enormous oil and gas reserve, there are extensive forests, fertile land and abundant fresh water habit. In fact, it has more fresh water fish species than any other coastal area in West Africa. These invaluable ecological resources are however being greatly depleted as a result of impact of oil exploration activities.

Structure of the Year Three Report

The report is structured into four chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology and Conclusions.

The Introduction includes the significance of the study, definition of terms, the researcher’s aims and objectives, the statement of the problem, and the background of the study. This chapter also provides a brief overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

The Literature Review will include an in-depth review of selected studies that demonstrate Alternative Dispute Resolution in practice, as well as several studies that show study the conflicts between host communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and the multinational oil companies. Finally, the literature review will analyse several studies that focus on Royal Dutch Shell and its operations and experiences in the Niger Delta.

The Methodology section includes a description of the content analysis methodology that will be used to analyse several key communication texts issued by the Royal Dutch Shell company over the past decade. These include speeches by members of senior management, news reports, annual reports, and investor relations.

The Conclusion section places the research to date in its proper context as it pertains to the project as a whole. This section also delineates future directions for the research.

A lot has been written on construction project management, all of which provide definitions and concepts of project management (Walker 1996). Few offer insight into construction conflicts, and even when they do, discussions are often limited to conflicts arising between project managers and other project staff, or and conflicts arising between contractors and contracting companies. Little is mentioned in project management literatures about conflicts ensuing from discontent by host-communities to a project with the implementation of such project by the operating companies. Hence the gap in knowledge, this research intends to fill. Project conflicts involving host-communities and operating companies tend to be peculiar to construction projects and such have been known to hamper successful project delivery.

Particularly vulnerable to this kind of conflict are oil exploration companies. Because they are essentially construction-oriented organisations, oil exploration companies are continually faced with the challenge of balancing environmental demands with the need to stay profitable on the one hand, and the need to balance peculiar socio-economic demands of their operating area, and the political challenges that go with it on the other. The almost impossible task of juggling these challenges effectively means oil companies are faced with increased challenge of operating in environments fraught with inevitable hostility with their host-communities. This scenario depict the current situation in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where oil companies are tangled in lingering conflict with host communities over the effects of oil exploration on their environment and the lives of the people.

Several authors have written a lot about the comparative benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) over conventional dispute resolution e.g. litigation (Brooker 2007; David 1988; Davis 1994; Mackie 1992; Miles 1992; Treacy 1995; York 1996). However, as of yet, the various ADR methods currently available are not being extensively used in the construction industry, especially with reference to oil-exploration-related conflicts. The dynamics of the oil exploration industry prove especially prone to disputes. As a result of various underlying factors like distortion to lifestyles, environmental damage, misunderstandings and misrepresentations, etc; these disputes do often lead to conflict and litigation with its attendant consequences to all parties. In extreme cases as in the Niger Delta, vandalisations of oil rigs and pipelines have taxed companies’ resources to debilitating levels. Thus, these oil multinational corporations will do well to make expeditious and economic resolution of their disputes a top priority.

To this end, alternative dispute resolution appears to be the path worth exploring by all parties to the disputes. ADR is a broad definition covering a variety of processes, which are substitute to the formal litigation system, where the parties prove their arguments in court through an adversarial system of examination, cross-examination and challenge (Bohlman 1996; Carver & Vondra 1994; Ide 1993; Jacobs 1985; Jolowicz 1996; Meyer 1995; Mose and Kleiner 1999). The rising popularity of alternative dispute-resolution (ADR) processes, namely conciliation, mediation, adjudication, and other hybrid processes have been as a result of seeming shortcomings of litigation and arbitration, with their associated escalation in costs, delays, and adversarial relationships (Brown & Marriot 1999; Chan & Suen 2005; Cheung 1999; Cheung, Suen & Lam 2002; Fenn & Gameson 1992). The use of ADR in the construction industry is no doubt fast-gaining interest, and what is yet to be seen is whether the application of ADR to conflicts involving oil multinational companies and their host-communities, for example, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria could be the solution to the lingering violent conflicts that characterise oil exploration activities in that part of the country and offer possible lessons for similar conflicts in the oil industry all over the world. This in fact, underlies the key aim of this research.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research is to establish Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a veritable conflict resolution mechanism for such conflicts arising between oil exploration companies and their host-communities.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is firstly, to gain an insight into the dynamics of conflict involving host-communities and oil exploration companies using the Niger Delta situation as a case study. The second purpose is to explore how the various variants of ADR can be used to stem the incidence of violent conflict that characterise oil conflict. The researcher endeavours to provide research that will not only fill the gap in the academic research outlined above, but also serve the needs of stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on a practical and actionable level.

The Research Objectives

  • To examine the factors causing conflict between oil companies and host-communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria
  • To review the effects of conflict on all parties to oil conflict in the Niger Delta
  • To investigate how oil exploration companies are currently dealing with the conflicts arising between them and the host-communities
  • To analyse the success and failures of the current approaches to resolving the oil conflict in the Niger Delta

To this end, alternative dispute resolution appears to be the path worth exploring by all parties to the disputes. ADR is a broad definition covering a variety of processes, which are substitute to the formal litigation system, where the parties prove their arguments in court through an adversarial system of examination, cross-examination and challenge (Groton 1997; Hibberd & Newman 1999; Jacobs 1985; Jolowicz 1996). The rising popularity of alternative dispute-resolution (ADR) processes, namely conciliation, mediation, adjudication, and other hybrid processes have been as a result of seeming shortcomings of litigation and arbitration, with their associated escalation in costs, delays, and adversarial relationships (Brown & Marriot 1999; Fenn & Gameson 1992; Goldberg, Sander & Roger 1992).

The use of ADR in the construction industry is no doubt fast-gaining interest, and what is yet to be seen is whether the application of ADR to conflicts involving oil multinational companies and their host-communities, for example, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria could be the solution to the lingering violent conflicts that characterise oil exploration activities in that part of the country and offer possible lessons for similar conflicts in the oil industry all over the world. This in fact, underlies the key aim of this research. The aim of this research is to establish Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a veritable conflict resolution mechanism for such conflicts arising between oil exploration companies and their host-communities (Raspante 2001; Shearer, Meas & Moore 1995. These conflicts will benefit greatly from the cost-effectiveness of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) initiatives compared to standard litigation, as well as the cooperation and collaboration that these practices instil between actors in conflict.

Statement of the Problem

Oil, the black gold remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, hence any disruption to its production and export negatively impact on government revenue (Nixon 2002). Nigeria is the biggest country in the continent of Africa; it is also the most complex nation, according to Bisina (2004, para. 1) that supports over “120 million people from over 250 tribes”. The Niger Delta region in particular is a “vast, swampy terrain” that is home to nearly 20 million individuals, most of whom live in communities that boat access only and lack the most basic infrastructure (Bisina 2004, para. 1).

This region of Nigeria boasts some of the most impressive oil reserves in the world as well as some of the most severe poverty. As (2004, para. 1) explains, the “Niger Delta serves as the economic nerve center of the Nigeria Federation with its vast oil deposits. Presently, crude oil accounts for about 85% of the nation’s revenue. Oil from the Niger Delta accounts for 20% of oil supply to the US, and has become increasingly important from a strategic perspective as conflicts continue in the Middle East”. However, the impact of violent conflict in the Niger-Delta goes beyond loss of revenue to the state and oil companies but also affect the global price of oil with its attendant consequences on the global economy. It is therefore safe to say oil conflict is in fact a global problem. This assertion is further strengthened and surmised in the words of Daniel Yergin (2008, p. 762):

Over almost a century and a half, oil has brought out both the best and worst of our civilization. It has been both boon and burden. Energy is the basis of industrial society. And of all energy sources, oil has loomed the largest and the most problematic because of its central role, its strategic character, its geographic distribution, the recurrent pattern of crisis in its supply – and the inevitable and irresistible temptation to grasp for its rewards….Its history has been a panorama of triumphs and a litany of tragic and costly mistakes. It has been a theatre for the noble and the base in the human character. Creativity, dedication, entrepreneurship, ingenuity and technical innovation have coexisted with avarice, corruption, blind political ambition and brute force…Much blood has been spilt in its name. The fierce and sometimes violent quest for oil – and for the riches and power it conveys – will surely continue so long as oil holds a central place.

Some scholars and social analysts view these problems as sheer struggle for economic gains and political power which can only be solved using socio-economic or and political solution. While these solutions can be effective to some extent, usually in the short term, they tend to further complicate the conflict in the long run as economic gains have been known to fuel the rise of militias and rebels who see violent criminal attack on the oil infrastructures as a way of gaining wealth. Once armed groups start to spring up, their predatory capacity can reach a certain point where patterns of conflict can change very quickly beyond the control of even the most sophisticated policy interventions. As in the case of the Niger-Delta, there has been a tremendous rise of organised predation through extortion of oil multinationals and this is fast becoming the norm than the exercise of authority by civilian institutions, and government. As Bisina (2004, para. 4) explains:

Economic activities related to oil and gas has placed the government’s security emphasis on the need to produce oil and gas most effectively and efficiently. This type of security consideration ignores the impact on other environmental and human resources such as waters, forests, fish and the climate of the area. The youth of the region, a vibrant and energetic generation who should be supporting the productivity and the future of this area, are instead being continuously cut down by bullets from security operatives under the guise of the war on terrorism. Communities are razed and extra-judicial killings are the order of the day.

This dangerous and lawless environment consequently breeds more corruption and undermines those institutions and government. Hence we cannot overlook the conciliatory element of resolving oil conflict. The challenge then is to explore the possibility of preventing the escalation of disputes or even conflicts to violent conflict. In the light of this, the research seeks to explore ways to fill the vacuum in knowledge. Thus, using the Niger-Delta as a case study, the following questions are pertinent:

  1. What are the overriding causes of these prevalent violent conflicts in the Niger-Delta?
  2. What are the effects on the oil producing communities, the oil companies and the state?
  3. How can meaningful and lasting conciliation be attained via the application of ADR?
  4. What are the benefits that would accrue to all parties to the oil conflicts from the application of ADR?

The fulcrum of this study is therefore an attempt at reviewing the relevant available body of literatures as well as gathering viable empirical data from the field by engaging with members of the parties to the oil conflicts in the Niger-Delta.

The Scope of the Study

This research is primarily concerned with the examination of conflict resolution in the oil conflict-ridden Niger-Delta region of Nigeria between the oil multinationals and the oil producing communities. The choice of the Niger-Delta as case study is informed by the fact that while there are several oil-producing regions and countries in the world, none of these are currently violent conflict-prone like the Niger-Delta. The Niger-Delta region geo-politically comprises of eight states and is home to virtually all Nigeria’s crude oil and gas reserves spanning about 75000 square kilometers and is the largest wetland in the world.

Significance of the Study

This study unlike the various bodies of literatures available offers a unique insight into the causes of the conflicts in the Niger-Delta, and explores the potential solution ADR can offer to resolving disputes/conflicts before they turn violent. The research intends to investigate the underpinnings of the prevalent violent conflict in the Niger-Delta and examine issues that borders around corporate irresponsibility, corruption, and lack of a clear-cut conflict resolution mechanism in handling emerging disputes.

The outcome of this research could be used to develop ADR as a potent mechanism for oil conflict resolution and management of relations between oil producing communities and the oil multinationals.

The findings of this research would provide a guide and education on oil conflict resolution in all conflict-prone resource areas and contribute to the discussions on responses of multinational oil companies to the complexity of contemporary violent conflict.

Also, this work will stimulate further studies in this area and serve as a source of literature for researchers that may want to embark on a similar venture in the future.

Literature Review

Almost exclusively, the Royal Dutch Shell multinational oil company has pursued litigation as a means of conflict resolution in Nigeria, an expensive proposition (Manby 1999). This section of the report details some of the struggles that the Royal Dutch Shell

multinational oil production company has faced in its history in Nigeria (Rookmin & Herremans 2008; Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2001; Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2008; Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2009; Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2010).

Nigeria supplies roughly 10 percent of Royal Dutch Shell’s global production (Shell admits fuelling corruption 2004). The country also contains some of the “most promising reserves,” particularly in the Niger Delta region (Shell admits fuelling corruption 2004). Royal Dutch Shell has admitted that it has struggled to operate with reliability in areas of constant conflict such as the Niger Delta (Shell admits fuelling corruption 2004). Swartz (2007, para. 1) noted that “Royal Dutch Shell PLC…is looking to axe at least $100 million from its Nigerian operations in the next few years to offset rising costs and prolonged and substantial oil revenue losses caused by forced production curtailments due to security concerns”. In the ensuing five years, the company has struggled with losses and litigation totaling millions of dollars (Strategic Direction 2003a; Strategic Direction 2003a; Sustainability report 2009; Sustainability report 2010). According to the Shell website, Nigeria remains “an important oil and gas producer and potentially an engine for growth in Africa. Unfortunately, that potential is yet to be fulfilled. Not all Nigerians have benefited from the country’s oil wealth. In the Niger Delta, where much of this wealth is created, many people remain poor” (Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2008).

Among the communities in the Niger Delta, frustration has increased as a result of poverty (Dhir 2007; Douglas, Von Kemedi & Watts 2004; Eweje 2007; Henderson & Williams 2002; Von Kemedi 2002; Voser 2011). In addition, criminal gangs and militant have become significant challenges (Ibeanu 2000). “Militant groups attack oil and gas facilities, while criminals steal oil and take it by barge to tankers waiting offshore” (Royal Dutch Shell PLC 2008). Nigeria enjoys the dubious honour of being “traditionally ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index” (Asuni 2009, p. 3; Ezeoha & Ogamba 2010).

In 1995 Royal Dutch Shell’s corporate reputation suffered two serious blows (Idowu & Towler 2004; Ihlen 2008). The first came in the form of environmental protests when the company under fire from the international community, not to mention the threat of boycotts, as a result of Shell UK, one of the company’s subsidiaries, “proposed action to dispose of the Brent Spar, an enormous superannuated oil storage and loading platform, in the deep waters of the North Atlantic” (Livesay 2001, p. 58). The second public relations nightmare occurred later in 1995, in relation to the arrest and subsequent execution of writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. As Livesey (2001, p. 59) notes, as a result of

Shell’s failure to take a high-profile public stance against the Nigerian government, Shell Nigeria’s local business partner, when it executed nine Ogoni environmentalists including Ken Saro-Wiwa, an internationally acclaimed journalist and writer who had spearheaded protest against Shell. These incidents engaged the company and its critics in… discursive contests, over the environment and associated human rights that were played out publicly in a variety of forums.

Royal Dutch Shell essentially operates in a land where the owners of the land do not control their lands, which serves as the root of the conflict between the government of Nigeria and the owners of the land. As Bisina (2004, para. 8) notes, in the Niger Delta, “Federal laws automatically transfer title to any land where oil is found to the federal government without adequate compensation to the landowners. This gives the federal government the right to enter into an unholy alliance with multinational oil companies in the name of joint venture operations at the exclusion of the people”. The people receive no share of the profits generated by the sale of the oil that has been discovered on their land.

What happens therefore is that the government of Nigeria and the “multinational oil corporations share the resulting revenue on a ratio of 60:40 percent with nothing left for the landowners” (Bisina 2004, para. 8). As noted in previous reports, the problem of pollution exacerbates this unjust situation. “Oil spills and other ongoing problems caused by the oil production are not attended to, so the area is left in much worse shape than before the oil reserves were found” (Bisina 2004, para. 8). Not surprisingly therefore, Royal Dutch Shell has suffered from repeated attacks on its installations as well as lawsuits from locals violently opposed to the unfair treatment they have received at the hands of their own government (Izundu 2010; Jahansoozi 2006; Mason 2011). The experience of Royal Dutch Shell therefore is of particular interest and relevance to the current study, as the question arises, to what extent is the oil multinational company responsible for the conflict generated by unjust governmental policies?


This report will demonstrate content analysis of a range of communication texts created and disseminated by or about the Royal Dutch Shell multinational oil company and its operations in the Niger Delta. The researcher has chosen to employ select elements of the Royal Dutch Shell construction management history in the Niger Delta as a case study for the larger research goal. In year four, the researcher will extend content analysis to the other multinational oil companies currently operating in the Niger Delta. The texts chosen for this phase of analysis span roughly a decade and include several of the key conflicts that the company has encountered with its host-communities in Nigeria including the Brent Spar incident, the conflict with the Ogoni, the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, incidents of corruption and bribery, and the recurrent acts of theft and vandalism against the company. The texts include several speeches by the senior management of Royal Dutch Shell, press releases, news reports, energy conference proceedings, and op-ed articles.

Content Analysis Research Method

Content analysis refers to any form of organized, methodical and repeatable method of synthesizing a number of words or texts into narrow content categories, according to specific coding parameters (Stemler 2001). Holsti (1969, p. 14) defines content analysis as “any technique for making inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of messages”. Content analysis is an efficient and economical research technique that is useful for synthesizing large volumes of qualitative data such as personal communication or speeches. Content analysis allows the researcher to pinpoint and illustrate the focal point of “individual, group, institutional, or social attention” (Weber 1990, p. 9).

The content analysis research method also permits deductions to be made about the qualitative texts under investigation. These deductions can then be substantiates using other methods of empirical data assembly (Hyde 2000;. Content analysis is also a practical method that allows research to investigate tendencies and models in disparate documents. In particular, content analysis offers an empirical foundation for observing changes in public opinion. Content analysis may be applied to any form of communicative text, including video files, audio files, personal communication, speeches, news articles and website content. Typically the researcher will create content categories or families in order to investigate the relationships between the words and texts. Content analysis is used to elucidate patterns and assumptions that exist within the texts, which in turn speak to larger cultural and political attitudes.

Content analysis began as a research tool associated with the study of mass communications following the Second World War (Marsh & White 2006, p. 22). As Marsh and White (2006, p. 22) explain, content analysis was originally “based on a basic communications model of sender / message / receiver, initially researchers emphasized making inferences based on quantified analysis of recurring, easily identifiable aspects of text content, sometimes referred to as manifest content”.

Content analysis therefore is a research method designed to authorize qualitative researchers to categorize statements without bias and organize these statements empirically, according to unambiguous rules and apparent criteria, with the ultimate goal being to generate legitimate measurements that accurately reflect textual content. As Farnsworth and Lichter (2011, p. 594) note, “the hallmark of success lies in reliability”. In studies that utilize content analysis, reliability occurs when other researchers who use similar research methods to study the same content derive comparable results despite the fact that they interpret the results differently (Farnsworth & Lichter 2011; Guthrie et al. 2004; Weber 1990). The qualitative researcher can solve for reliability by assigning clear criteria and transparent standards for choosing, measuring, and categorizing each text (Farnsworth & Lichter 2011; Guthrie et al. 2004; Weber 1990).

The researcher intends to use content analysis in this study for two main purposes. The first purpose is to point to key biases toward litigation as the sole means available to companies in the construction management industry to deal with problems that arise between the running of their operations and the running of the lives of people in the host-communities for these operations. The second purpose of content analysis research as it pertains to this study is to highlight areas in which Alternative Conflict Resolution may replace litigation in these instances. In content analysis, Weber (1990, p. 73) notes that “content analysts have long assumed that the more a text contains mentions of a particular category, the more it is concerned with it”. In personal communication in particular, content analysts infer that the first utterance of a particular topic, category, word or thematic element entails a greater output of energy than each consecutive mention.

As Weber notes (1990, p. 72) “raising a new topic requires more energy or effort than continuing the previous topic”. This element is of particular interest to the researcher in the present study. Alternative Dispute Resolution can be considered a new topic, whereas litigation an old one. As Weber (1990, p. 73) notes, “some topics may require much more effort to raise than others”. As demonstrated by the construction management experiences of Royal Dutch Shell, litigation is still the go-to practice for multinational oil companies; it may not be effective, but it is known, and as a result of being known, oil multinational decision makers may assume that it is less risky, albeit far more costly, than the newer and less proven method of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Therefore, one of the key lines of research that will be pursued in the fourth year of study will be to monitor shifts in thinking that indicate a movement away from the old topic – in this case, the litigation mindset – toward the new topic, one that considers Alternative Dispute Resolution as a more cost-effective and generative approach to conflict resolution between oil multinationals and host-communities.

In addition, the lack of mention of Alternative Dispute Resolution as a viable method of dealing with conflicts between oil multinationals and host-communities deserves equal attention in this research. The practice of litigation enjoys a long and prosperous history in the Western economies, and there are likely numerous vested interests engaged in keeping this enterprise going, whether or not it still meets the needs of the companies it serves. As Weber (1990, p. 73) notes, “keeping issues from being mentioned may also require much effort…Under circumstances that have yet to be explored systemically, the lack of mention can therefore be of great significance”. Therefore, this researcher will also be observing the lack of mention of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the texts under investigation.

Case Study Research Method

The case study method of research is the one chosen to pursue the current line of investigation. For the purposes of this third year report, the case study approach to research allows the researcher to focus on a single entity – the Royal Dutch Shell multinational oil company – and its experiences with the host-community of its operations in the Niger Delta. The case study research method was chosen as a means to investigate a single example of this particular type of conflict closely and thoroughly. As Yin (1994, p. 6) notes, the “case study shows the explanatory and not descriptive or exploratory functions of single case studies…the lessons from the case study are intended to be generalizable…[and] the basis for significant explanations”.

The case study research method refers to an explicit example or occurrence that is often designed to epitomize a more universal assumption or theory (Qi 2009, p. 23). The methods applied in a qualitative case study remain for the most part “the methods of disciplining personal and particularized experience” (Qi 2009, p. 25). The case study method is the chosen method for researchers that seek to investigate “contemporary events…when the relevant behaviors cannot be manipulated” (Yin 1994, p. 11). The case study method facilitates both “direct observation of the events being studied and interviews of the persons involved in the events” (Yin 1994, p. 11).

A number of disciplines employ the case study research method. As one of the most useful research methods, the case study approach has defined a variety of different studies over many years across a wide array of academic disciplines. The case study research approach, labelled as one of the three approaches to the problem of verification and accumulation of educational knowledge, seeks to understand and interpret the world in terms of its actors and may be finally described as interpretative and subjective (Qi 2009, p. 24).

Case study research can bring us to an understanding of a complex issue or state. As Yin (1994, p. 11) notes, the “case study’s unique strength is its ability to deal with a full variety of evidence – documents, artifacts, interviews and observations – beyond what might be available in a conventional…study”. The case study research method can also extend insight or add context to what is already known through previous research (Qi 2009, p. 24). Case study as a research technique involves the thorough background analysis of a limited number of states, events, and conditions and their associations.

In this regard, the qualitative research method combined with the case study research method thoroughly investigates present day relationships in the construction management industry, and provides the foundation for the treatment of ideas and the application of methods particular to this industry (Qi 2009, p. 23). When the separation between the boundaries and the relationships of the research and the impact of the phenomenon are not clearly defined – in this case, construction management conflict resolution practices, host-community dissatisfaction, recurrent conflict and violence, and the inherent invasiveness of oil exploration and production –, the case study research method helps to clarify the study intent and unite all of these disparate variables. The qualitative case study is best defined as an “intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single entity…[that] are particularistic, descriptive, and heuristic and rely heavily on inductive reasoning in handling multiple data sources” (Qi 2009, p. 24).

The researcher chose the case study research method as a means to “illustrate a decision or set of decisions: why they were taken, how they were implemented, and with what result” (Qi 2009, p. 24). As such, the case study method allows the study researcher to focus on a “bounded system” (Qi 2009, p. 24). In addition, the proximity of the researcher to the nature of the investigation prompts the choice of the case study research method. This fact is especially relevant to the current study. As Qi (2009, p. 25) notes, the case study research method can be a viable research method that allows researchers and readers alike “to understand how ideas and abstract principles can fit together”. One of the distinctive features of the case study approach is its suitability for in depth study. The case study approach supports the investigation of “human systems [that] have a wholeness or integrity to them” (Qi 2009, p. 25). This method supports the aims of the current study in that draws connections between seemingly disparate elements. As Qi (2009, p. 25) explains, “rather than being a loose connection of traits,” the case study method allows deep penetration into a phenomenon that the researcher feels requires close examination.

Robson (2002, p. 178) defines case study as “a strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence”. The case study research method allows the study researcher to ground his or her research in “temporal, geographical, organizational, institutional and other contexts that enable boundaries to be drawn around the case” (Qi 2009, p. 25). It is important for the researcher to find out why, what, and how a situation happened in an organisation. Therefore, the case study research strategy will be of particular interest to the researcher who wishes to gain a rich understanding of the context of the research and the processes being enacted (Morris and Wood 1991). The case study approach can be defined by the individuals and groups involved; it can also be organized by the participant responsibility and roles, as they pertain to the case (Qi 2009, p. 25). For the purposes of this report and the larger study, the case study method facilitates a tight focus on a single example of recurrent conflict between a host-community and an oil multinational company.

Additional Research Methodologies

Some of the objectives of this research can be achieved by undertaking a literature review on the concept of ADR in its various forms, and application in the construction industry. Such a review of literature will be carried out to examine and identify the key success attributes of ADR in construction conflicts, as well as to discover the factors contributing to the lingering conflict between oil exploration companies and host-communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The aim of this research is to establish how Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can be applied to resolving conflicts arising between oil companies and their host-communities. In order to achieve this aim and other set objectives, this study shall apply both quantitative and qualitative research elements. Both methodologies do have their strengths and weaknesses. McGrath (1982, p. 69) in his study of research choices makes it clear that there are no ideal solutions, only a series of compromises. “The research process is to be regarded not as a set of problems to be solved, but rather as a set of dilemmas to be lived with,” (McGrath 1981, p. 69).

To accomplish the objectives of this research, the study will use content analysis methodology to investigate relationships between the exploration, construction, and production of oil in the Niger Delta and the effects of these activities on the lives of the people in the host-communities of the Niger Delta. This report will focus on the experience of the multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell. The final thesis will investigate the experiences of the other major oil companies that operate in the region, including Exxon Mobil, Elf, Agip, Chevron, and British Petroleum. Opportunities for the deployment of Alternative Dispute Resolution practices, as well as examples of Alternative Dispute Resolution strategies and practices currently in use in the region, will be examined and described in detail.

Additional methodologies that the researcher will utilize include conducting a detailed content analysis of surveys and interviews conducted with various stakeholders in order to obtain data on the significance of the various factors causing conflict between oil multinational companies and their host-communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The content analysis will include qualitative questions in order to understand how oil companies operating in the Niger Delta currently deal with conflicts arising between them and the host-communities and how much they understand and / or utilize Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a means of handling these disputes.

Research Strategy

According to Yin (1994, p. 130), a choice of research strategy should be based on a function of the research position. As Yin (1994, p. 130) notes, “all empirical studies, including case studies, have a story to tell. The story differs from a fictional account because it embraces your data, but it remains a story because it must have a beginning, end and middle”. Every research strategy has its own particular method in relation to how to obtain and analyse empirical data and thus, each strategy has its own benefits and shortfalls (Amaratunga et al. 2002). The entire process of selecting and crafting a research strategy can become complex as a result of the overlapping areas of various research strategies that exist.

The danger of misalignment between the desired outcome and the chosen strategy exists. This, according to Yin (1994, p. 130), can be avoided if the grounds for the choice of research strategy are conditioned on the type of research questions raised, the degree of control the researcher has over the behavioural elements in his or her study, and the level of focus on historical or contemporary elements that the study comprises. The purpose of this research is to gain a deep insight into the dynamics of conflicts arising between oil companies and the host-communities, using the Niger Delta situation as a case study. The research strategy therefore must be agile enough to explore and navigate not only how the various forms of ADR can become established dispute resolution mechanism adopted by all parties to resolve disputes, but also the complex nature of the conflicts that exist in this particular research study.

Being a case study, the research is focused on understanding the inherent dynamics in a given situation (Amaratunga and Baldry 2000). The case study method facilitates the critical analysis of a particular example of the observable fact being investigated (Amaratunga et al. 2002). The investigation will be based on content analysis of the opinions, perceptions, official and unofficial documents, and news reports of stakeholders actively involved in dealing with the conflicts on behalf of the oil companies as well as those of the people of the Niger Delta, as represented by various demographic segments.

A thorough literature review, as well as qualitative and quantitative techniques shall be employed in order to fully understand the research subject. Data will be obtained from various sources and will use different techniques such as content analysis of various texts, including interviews with key stakeholders from both the oil production communities and the oil producing communities. The content analysis technique will help validate the findings of the research, draw inferences and establish patterns and relationships within the data collected. The data cover a range of texts, and every attempt will be made by the research to balance the data between those created by the oil production companies and those created by the oil producing communities. Additional controls on the information required for this research and the number of samples needed from various sources will be discussed with the supervisor.

The starting point of this research is the literature review. In the previous reports from year one and year two, reviews of literature were undertaken in order to coalesce the basic understanding of the two areas under investigation; these included the concept of Alternative Dispute Resolution and its application to construction conflict, and the concept of oil conflict in the Niger Delta and its attendant factors, specifically the influences thought to fuel the conflict situation. The literature review carried out in the first year opened up the research and helped to identify the areas of focus and research questions. The literature review will be continued in the second year and in the third year as an on-going process.

The literature reviews have successfully identified various forms of ADR, clarified the critical attributes of ADR, and helped the researcher gain insight into the Niger Delta oil conflict situation, specifically, the similarities it shares with other conflicts between oil construction projects and oil producing communities such as the oil conflict in Columbia in the 1990s. The literature review also highlighted the ways in which these conflicts were being dealt with by all stakeholders involved. The value of these two previous literature reviews lies in the clarity they lent to the researcher’s understanding of the different forms of ADR and how they have been developed and applied to resolving conflicts in the construction management context. In addition, the literature reviews clarified and explored the factors that drive conflict between oil multinational companies and their host-communities in the Niger Delta. Finally, the previous literature reviews helped the researcher to locate the gaps in previous studies.

In this year three report, the Literature Review focused on the Royal Dutch Shell multinational oil company and its experiences in the Niger Delta. Thus the research strategy for each consecutive report is to progressively widen the scope of research so that the researcher garners insight into as many sides of this complex issue as possible before the time comes to write the final thesis.

The research undertaken utilizes the case study approach, and like all case studies, the strategy lends itself to a wide array of research methods, techniques, a full spectrum of diverse data as well as varying levels of involvement in a given organisational function (Hartley 1994). Hence, qualitative and quantitative techniques will be employed to gather data and process into research information, mainly through the content analysis of various communication texts including interviews, news reports, op-ed articles, annual reports, press releases, and speeches from the senior management of the oil multinational companies currently invested in the Niger Delta region in exploration and / or oil production. The data gathered via the content analysis methodology will help the researcher understand the dynamics of the oil conflicts arising between the host-communities and the oil exploration companies in the Niger Delta. In addition, the content analysis of these data will elucidate why various attempts at resolving or even managing the conflicts have had little or no success. Also, the researcher anticipates that the results of the content analysis will demonstrate how ADR principles and forms might be integrated into the conflict resolution manual of the oil companies as a veritable tool for resolving conflicts arising between them and the host-communities.


Content analysis essentially seeks to quantify qualitative data. Historically, this transference from non-empirical to empirical research has been fraught with issues pertaining to validity, since the researcher is still the key interpretative unit and ultimately, as Weber (1990, p. 72) notes, “reality is probably much more complicated”.

With the advent of content analysis software, validity concerns have been somewhat allayed; however, there are still some concerns with the viability of the data generated via this research method. As Stemler (2001, para. 8) notes, “methodology is always employed in the service of a research question. As such, validation of the inferences made on the basis of data from one analytic approach demands the use of multiple sources of information”. Typically, qualitative researchers will design a validation study as part of the research design.

In qualitative research studies, the researchers solve for the limitations inherent in content analysis by using a form of triangulation. Triangulation refers to a “combination of methodologies” applied to the object or phenomenon under investigation (Denzin 2009, p. 297). It is incumbent upon the social researcher to examine his or her research problem from as many differing forms of methodological viewpoints as possible. As Denzin (2009, p. 300) explains:

Triangulation, or the use of multiple methods, is a plan of action that will raise sociologists above the personalistic biases that stem from single methodologies. By combining methods and investigators in the same study, observers can partially overcome the deficiencies that flow from one investigator and / or one method. Sociology as a science is based on the observations generated from its theories, but until sociologists treat the act of generating observations as an act of symbolic interaction, the links between observations and theories will remain incomplete. In this respect triangulation of method, investigator, theory, and data remains the soundest strategy of theory construction.

The limitations associated with this investigation include the potential for researcher bias, the potential for possible lack of honesty on the part of the case study participants, and the risk of inadequate or insufficient data (Denzin 2009; Easterby-Smith 1991;. An informed consent agreement will be used for all case study participants, where possible; thus, the main research control for the honesty of the case study participants will be supervised by the use of the informed consent agreement. The informed consent agreement ensures confidentiality through use of security and confidentially protocols, including the witnessing of all participant signatures.

Further controls to encourage participant honesty include the fact that all participants in the case study are willing volunteers. Prior to the case study interview each participant will read, acknowledge and sign the agreement with both the researcher and a witness present.

As with all qualitative studies, any and all data gathered through both the case study research method and the content analysis research method of the selected texts may prove to be inconclusive. Since the researcher will be using texts that have been created by other individuals, he may discover that the data collected from the interviews, speeches, news reports, and other texts may be insufficient to draw pertinent conclusions or to deduce conclusions that have an important or relevant effect on the research problem under investigation. Also, these texts may contain inherent biases or be corrupted in other ways such as improper or insufficient translation from one language to another. In addition, the conclusions that the study researcher draws may not be sufficient to extend research results beyond the participants in this particular case study.

It is the goal of the researcher to collect data which is adequate and expansive enough to determine conclusions that carry weight and that bear up under academic scrutiny. It is also the goal of the study researcher to use the answers gleaned from the content analysis to speak to the issue at hand and attend to the research problem under investigation. As a rule, research results acquired through qualitative research designs are not meant to apply outside of the specific parameters of the study and the research questions under investigation by the study researcher (Qi 2009; Tashakkori & Teddlie 1998). A common criticism about case studies in particular is that they “provide little basis for scientific generalization” (Yin 1994, p. 15). The goal of a qualitative research study therefore is not intended to generalize results to large groups of individuals (Qi 2009; Tashakkori & Teddlie 1998). The case study research method itself allows contains the potential for bias and limitation (Qi 2009; Tashakkori & Teddlie 1998; Yin 1994).

Those researchers who criticize the case study research method are quick to point out that this methodology often does not extend itself beyond the particulars of an individual group of actors and in a given situation. Critics argue that the case study research method is flawed because “the study of a small number of cases can offer no grounds for establishing reliability or generality of findings” (Qi 2009, p. 23). Other critics of the case study research method argue that the proximity of the researcher will exert partiality upon the findings (Qi 2009, p. 23). As Yin (1994, p. 15) explains, “case studies, like experiments, are generalizable to theoretical propositions and not to populations or universes”. Contextual findings determined within the parameters of the study may be transferable to exterior settings; however, this action of transference will exist only within the specific research parameters and design. These contextual conditions are applicable within the contextual conditions of the exterior setting, providing that the contexts are reasonably similar. In order to facilitate and encourage the action of transferability, the descriptions of the opinions, experiences and observations of the individual stakeholders collected through the content analysis will be applied within the specific research parameters, design and strategy currently under development, which will reach fruition in the Ph.D. thesis.

Content Analysis Results

The researcher’s analysis of the content texts as it appears in this report is based primarily on the following sources: personal utterances within speeches, the content of interviews, key words within each news story, and key words within each official publication disseminated by Royal Dutch Shell, such as annual reports and shareholder communications. A complete listing of the texts used for analysis appears in Table 1.

Text Type Source Date
It is time to move on Op-ed article Malcolm Brinded
Shell Executive Director of Exploration and Production
Royal Dutch Shell sells Nigeria units for $488 mln News report Wall Street Journal Market Watch 2011
Nigeria’s state-owned oil corporation to go private News report Telegraph 2010
Blood Oil Article Vanity Fair 2007
African king sues Shell over Niger delta spills News report Telegraph 2011
Nigeria update Interview Basil Omiyi
Shell’s County Chair in Nigeria
People, planet and profits Company report Royal Dutch Shell 2001
Shell annual report and form 20-F 2009 Annual report Royal Dutch Shell 2009
Nigeria update News release Royal Dutch Shell 2008
Sustainability report Company report Royal Dutch Shell 2009
Shell annual report and form 20-F 2010 Annual report Royal Dutch Shell 2010
Sustainability report Company report Royal Dutch Shell 2010
Shell eyes $100 mln in Nigeria cuts to offset rising costs, declining revenue News report Wall Street Journal Market Watch 2007
I’m open to critics, but I have a business to run Speech Peter Voser
Chief Executive Officer
Royal Dutch Shell
Remarks to the 5thEITI Global Conference Speech Peter Voser
Chief Executive Officer
Royal Dutch Shell
Shell admits fuelling corruption News report BBC News 2004
“A MEND militant painted with magical symbols to protect him from bullets” (Junger 2007, p. 2) Photo Vanity Fair 2007

Table 1: List of Texts used for Content Analysis.

For the purpose of this report, the researcher chose a total of 17 texts of different types directed to different audiences and from different sources using a series of key words. The content analysis portion of this report contains five of these texts: the op-ed article, the photo, the news article, the speech, and the interview. The researcher chose a range of texts for the purposes of this report to demonstrate content analysis. The key words employed for this content analysis research can be found in Table 2.

Table 2: Key Words Used in Content Analysis.

Nigeria, Nigerian, Nigerians Niger Delta Settle, Settlement
Pollution Conflict
Militants Ogoni, Ogoni people, Ogoni land
Security Ken Saro Wiwa
Theft, Stealing Kidnapping, Kidnapped
Corruption Problem, Problems
Oil, Oil spill, Oil spills Development, Develop
Conflict Resolution Litigation
Violence, Violent Justice
Peace Lawsuit, Law
Court Lawyer, Lawyers
Mediation Alternative Dispute Resolution
Humanitarian Community
Shell Livelihood, livelihoods
Win, Winning Environmental, Environment, Sustainable
Africa, African Crisis, Crises
Partners Government

Although this method of manual content analysis might be considered time consuming and labour intensive, the close analysis of each sentence of text allows the researcher to encapsulate the core components of each text on its own, as opposed to viewing entire texts as positive, negative, or neutral. The researcher attempts to code and evaluate each text according to the following criteria:

  1. Source
  2. Audience
  3. Time Frame
  4. Tone
  5. Purpose

In addition, each text was surveyed for its specific references to conflict resolution, Alternative Dispute Resolution, or the lack of reference to either.

As Farnsworth and Lichter (2011, p. 594) note, “a single story might contain several evaluations of various actors; [this] system capture[s] each one individually”. The researcher notes that while this detailed content analysis can be useful for a small number of texts such as those that appear in this report, it will not be suitable for the final thesis. Therefore, the researcher intends to use content analysis software to allow for the comparison of a large number of texts and to extend the time parameters of the study to the beginning of oil exploration in the Niger Delta in 1956 (Asuni 2009).

Marsh and White (2006, p. 22) have described content analysis as a “research method applied in qualitative, quantitative, and sometimes mixed modes of research frameworks that employs a wide range of analytical techniques to generate findings and put them into context”. As a flexible mode of research, content analysis “serves the purposes of both quantitative research and qualitative research” (Marsh & White 2006, p. 22). To that end, the researcher includes the following section of this report that demonstrates content analysis in action with a wide variety of texts.

Text 1: It is time to move on

  • Date: November 6, 2009.
  • Type: Op-ed article
  • Source: Written by Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director of Exploration and Production for Royal Dutch Shell.

I am aware that settlement may – to some – suggest Shell is guilty and trying to escape justice. Some newspapers have leapt to that conclusion. But we felt we had to move on. A court hearing would have dragged us backward, dug up old feuds and painful memories, not only for the plaintiffs but for many others who has been caught up in the violence (Brinded 2009, para. 3).

In a way this 13-year-old lawsuit has always been a bitter legacy, potentially undermining any reconciliation initiative, even among the Ogoni people themselves. When the judge, through the court mediation process, asked us to consider making a humanitarian gesture to settle the case, we saw an opportunity to help banish this legacy and advance the process of reconciliation and support a better future for Ogonis – in a way that winning in court may not have done (Brinded 2009, para. 3).

There is a generation of Ogoni people who have grown up in the shadow of the violent events of the 1990s. Most are looking for peace. Shell is looking for peace. Not because we want to go back to produce oil and gas in Ogoni land. But because we live and work in the Niger Delta too where 25,000 Nigerian families depend on our operations for their livelihoods – and where we want good relations with all our neighbours (Brinded 2009, para. 4)

What does a humanitarian settlement look like? My concern was the thousands who suffered during the violence and turmoil in the 1990s, not just the 10 plaintiffs. This made a trust fund a good option to benefit all Ogoni people. And there was no single view in Ogoni land about this court case, about Shell or Ken Saro Wiwa. There are many factions who disagree. We had to seek an approach to help everyone move forward together (Brinded 2009, para. 5)

The trust fund will hopefully contribute to development in Ogoni land. It will support local initiatives in education and agriculture, small businesses and literacy. It is independent of Shell and the plaintiffs. The trustees will be responsible for ensuring funds reach the greatest places of need. I hope it can make a difference where it matters (Brinded 2009, para. 6)

We have continued community investment in Ogoni land, despite the fact we have not produced any oil there for 16 years. Shell-run companies in Nigeria contributed $240m in 2008 in Niger Delta community projects. And of course our major contribution remains to run a decent business there from which 95% of revenues pass to the Nigerian government in one way or another (Brinded 2009, para. 7).

So this was not about lawyers winning or losing. Or Shell winning or losing. Our decision was aimed at helping different factions to talk more effectively to each other and to Shell – and to help move along the vital reconciliation process. We are supporting a UN-led survey of Ogoni land to meet environmental concerns. We have promised to clear up any damage from oil spills – whatever their cause. Ultimately I hope to see oil being produced in Ogoni land again one day. This time bringing economic opportunity and better livelihoods, not bloodshed (Brinded 2009, para. 8).

  1. Source
Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director of Exploration and Production for Royal Dutch Shell
  1. Audience
Op-ed originally published in the Guardian newspaper, thus the audience for this text is composed of both British and international news consumers in the English speaking countries.
  1. Time Frame
The op-ed coincided with Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to create a trust fund as an out-of-court settlement designed to appease the Ogoni plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit brought against Shell for the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995
  1. Tone
Conciliatory, subtle, careful and skilful positioning of Shell, as evidenced by such phrases as “through the court mediation process, [the judge] asked us to consider making a humanitarian gesture to settle the case, we saw an opportunity to help banish this legacy and advance the process of reconciliation and support a better future for Ogonis” (Brinded 2009, para. 3). Heavy legal emphasis, as evidenced by the appearance of the legal terms settlement (3 times), lawyers (1), court (8 times), settle (2 times), winning in court (1 time), winning (3 times).
  1. Purpose
As a public and investor relations activity, Brinded’s op-ed seeks to rebuild a corporate reputation deeply scarred by its affiliation with the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and ensuing lawsuits from several quarters, including the Saro Wiwa family. The op-ed also seeks to illicit some support for Royal Dutch Shell by pointing out the production difficulties and economic losses that the company has encountered in its operations, as evidenced by such phrases as “we have promised to clear up any damage from oil spills – whatever their cause” (Brinded 2009, para. 8).

Table 3. Text 1 Evaluation

  • Text 2: Nigeria update
  • Date: September 26, 2008
  • Type: Interview
  • Source: Interview with Basil Omiyi, Shell’s Country Chair in Nigeria, interviewed by Paolo Black

Context: Pan-African investment round-table at the United Nations in New York discussing environmental record of Shell in Nigeria, gas flaring and corporate reputation

NOTE: All texts are from Basil Omiyi unless otherwise indicated.

I recognise the challenges Africa faces in a global economy and in the same way the opportunities that are there. And taking that closer home to Nigeria and to the Niger Delta I recognising how much more could be more done if we could just overcome a few issues of governance and anti-corruption (Omiyi 2008, para. 1)

Gas flaring is an emotive issue. I think that’s what you hear. It’s an emotive issue and it’s also used politically. You understand that the real crisis in the Delta is the people of the region believe they don’t receive enough … they believe should receive more share from the oil revenue than they currently get. And one of the justifications for that is that they take the environmental consequences of the operation. And you can understand that people want to drum that and there could be exaggeration when you try to do that. And I wouldn’t be surprised if such a dramatisation is part of trying to justify where they should be, a significant amount of it (Omiyi 2008, para 8)

We know how vast the terrain is and the Delta is big. It’s about the size of England and very difficult swampy locations; expensive to build roads and bridges and so they just … I think they just deserve a little bit more and that’s my view. And I think probably the view of most Nigerians but these are constitutional matters which can only happen by a constitutional review, not just something that the government can do, and that’s why it’s not so easy to resolve. And if you really ask the people of the region in the end, where if you really ask them ‘what do you want from companies?’ if … in sober moments they just say we just want you to be advocates for us with the government. We recognise this is not your duty to develop; you want to be on the table but not the lead. But, our government don’t just listen to us; we wish you would be a good advocate with us, for us, with the government, and we try to do that all the time really, really being advocates for the community” (Omiyi 2008, para 9).

  • Paolo Black (interviewer): Looking historically at Shell’s reputation in Nigerian, I suspect that probably the biggest reputational damage that was ever done to Shell in Nigeria was the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa. What role did Shell play in that? Should Shell hang its head in shame at all about the role that it played? The Ogoni people have never forgiven Shell have they?
  • Omiyi: Well I don’t know, I don’t know if you say Ogoni people, because you get all shades of opinions from the Ogoni. I think the Ogoni people recognise that Shell had absolutely absolutely nothing to do with the death of Saro-Wiwa. If you talk to Ogoni’s leadership, whom I know very well, a lot of them are my friends and Ogoni people, none of them will actually tell you Shell killed Saro Wiwa (Omiyi 2008, para. 9).

[Saro Wiwa] was very critical of Shell and the oil companies. I think Shell happens to be the one operator in Ogoni land and he was very critical of oil companies because he saw them as the entity through royalties and taxes went to the central government rather than the local people. But the companies had to work according to the law of the land” (Omiyi 2008, para. 10)

The issue is not about Shell and the Ogoni, if it was just between the Shell and the Ogoni it would have been resolved a long time ago. The issue is really about the Ogoni and Nigeria is about ownership of the resource on the ground, and that’s the complex issue” (Omiyi 2008, para. 11)

Our current agreement is that maybe it’s better that the government partner in the company operates the Ogoni field, as they do in quite many other parts of our acreage. And that enables us to build relations with the Ogoni focussing on the restoring the environment where there has been a lot of pollution, plus hostile withdrawal from people who go there stealing crude oil from the well heads and most times it goes wrong there’s fire and there’s oil spill and we go there to put out the fire but never really have the permit to go on and sort out the whole environment. That we are doing now, making a lot of progress. We’ve made a commitment to clean up the whole environment and restore the environment. That hopefully makes the peace between us and the Ogonis while the issue of future operatorship should be done by the … another partner in the venture rather than ourselves. We think that’s really probably the fastest way to resolve the matter (Omiyi 2008, para. 11).

  • Paolo Black (interviewer): Corruption and theft have just become part of the culture haven’t they of Nigeria in terms of oil being stolen. I was quite shocked to discover how much is actually stolen. It’s not a small amount. One story I heard was that a small ship was sailed underneath a pipeline, the pipeline was broken, filled up the ship that sailed off several times to fill up a tanker off shore. It’ enormous quantities of money isn’t it? We’re talking about millions and millions of dollars aren’t we? (Omiyi 2008, para. 12).
  • Omiyi: Yeah you can understand there are several issues there; one is that it’s a huge economic loss for the nation. They don’t do proper jobs so they leave huge oil pollution in the wake of what they do. Because it’s a criminal trade a lot of arms are imported to protect the trade so that they can fight off government security forces. And of course, it completely destroys all the economy in the region and people won’t want to do anything else if there is such an easy thing to do. Why would they want to go into agriculture or provide a service? So it really does damage the region in several ways to the extent that our President in his recent visit to the G8 conference said, you know, this is equivalent, this is blood oil (Omiyi 2008, para. 13)

Paolo Black (interviewer): It bears quite a huge resemblance to the drug trade doesn’t it?

Omiyi: Yeah, exactly the same. It’s self-sustaining and then the crude oil brings income, income brings more arms, arms protect more of the business and so on, I mean. But I think that the people paying the toll for this are the people who live there who would rather have been doing something more gainful and more long lasting. The militancy associated with this. When you actually hear of militant groups, what a militant group really do is cover an area for crude oil trade and protect and defend it. And it is this economic crime that is … the economic crime is an end in itself and completely unrelated to the question of poverty or social justice which you hear of talked about politically (Omiyi 2008, para. 15).

Yes indeed [the situation is] hugely challenging for Shell. Not just from the cost of the clean up and the remediation work you need to do, not to talk of the cost of repairing your pipelines and fixing your facility. It is in fact that your whole operating philosophy is being impacted by something completely outside your control. So that’s hugely challenging. Because the crude oil trade is protected, just like the drug trade, is protected by armed militants. It also means that it puts all your people out in the field at risk. So, you know, you fly people by helicopter instead of them moving by water, you just build up a lot more cost simply because you need to operate differently in an environment like that. The only solution we can put on the table is to work in a collaborative way with governments (Omiyi 2008, para. 16).

We try to put protection around our assets, make them more tamper proof…[and] also have a good response, a spill response process for early intervention and clean up. And that’s easier said than done because one of the other beneficiary of these activities if there is a spill, people can claim compensation and the cost of clean up. And because of that, at times you don’t get quick access to those sites because the bigger the spill the bigger the compensation. People do want it to spill further before they grant you access. That has some cost but the greatest victim of that is the environment. And what are we doing about that is really to educate people. The short income for long term damage to the environment is not something worth pursuing. There are alternative ways of livelihood than this, and really start that campaign (Omiyi 2008, para. 16).

When you are poor you are quite prepared to forgo the niceties of environment and so on, and it’s very tempting, hugely tempting, to let the oil spread so they can get huge compensation. Especially as the compensation represents months and months of compared to, I mean, of alternative income. So it’s hugely tempting, but you can understand why it’s a huge struggle to actually win this battle. But it’s not something you’re going to give up on, and they are beginning to see consequences of that. And we do hope that to solve the Niger Delta problem there are three things you need to do: you do need to deal with the so called political agitation; how much of the resource should come to the region; has the region represented a Nigerian polity – that’s a political thing, that’s a constitutional review and it requires the judgement of the whole of the federating states of Nigeria, that’s how constitutions are reviewed, that’s one issue (Omiyi 2008, para. 17).

The other one is development. There we have a role to play, not only do we put our money Not only can we put in our money, we can also bring partners on the table and we have brought groups like Africare, USAID and UNDP as partners on the table, looking at long term projects from HIV/AIDS to adding value to agriculture, looking for export type agriculture, not just raw materials but adding value before you export, and so on. So we are working with partners in development, that’s really where we work. The third one is law and order – that’s really for government, there’s not much we can do there. Law and order is for government to do (Omiyi 2008, para. 17).

  1. Source
Basil Omiyi, Country Chair in Nigeria for Royal Dutch Shell
  1. Audience
Interview conducted by Paolo Black, Head of Visual Communications at Shell International, and recorded for the Royal Dutch Shell website news and media release page. Thus the audience for this text is somewhat closed, as it is composed mainly of Shell investors, journalists and other parties with interests in Shell’s overseas operations who consume the company’s official media texts.
  1. Time Frame
The interview coincided with Basil Omiyi’s visit to New York to attend the Pan African investment roundtable at the United Nations in September of 2008.
  1. Tone
Honest and clear, Omiyi’s responses to the interviewer’s questions reveal a genuine desire to communicate the plight of the Nigerian people living in the vicinity of the Niger Delta. In particular, Omiyi takes care in his details to communicate the lack of basic infrastructure and dire poverty that permeates this region of Africa, and the lawlessness and corruption that this desperate poverty breeds. Examples include the poignant example of Shell officials being denied access to the oil spill sites by the locals so that the community members can claim compensation for the clean up (Omiyi 2008, para. 16). The text contains heavy mention of the Nigerian government as a somewhat absent partner. Many of the problems that the Shell company experiences in its Niger Delta operations, as this text implies, could have been avoided had the Nigerian government taken a more active role and partnered with the company. This fact is evidenced by the appearance of the term government 23 times in the interview transcript, coupled with the phrases “the government don’t listen to us” (Omiyi 2008, para. 5). In addition, “recognising that of course the biggest change can come by you working with government to play their role properly rather than you ever being … and then there’s no chance you can ever be a substitute for the government or for good governance” (Omiyi 2008, para. 8).
  1. Purpose
As an investor relations activity, Omiyi’s interview seeks to provide insight into the dilemmas faced by the Royal Dutch Shell oil production company in their operations in the Niger Delta. Omiyi is a native Nigerian with a calm and level-headed demeanour and solid reputation who can offer insight into the region and the high level of criminal activity that occurs there. The interview serves as an insider view into a volatile and desperately poor region of the world that many individuals raised in the comparatively vast wealth of the Western democracies will have difficulty comprehending. While the purpose is again to bolster support for Royal Dutch Shell by pointing out the production difficulties and economic losses that the company has encountered in its operations, Omiyi functions as a much more sympathetic and believable purveyor of the message.

Table 4. Text 2 Evaluation

  • Text 3: I’m open to critics, but I have a business to run
  • Date: January 2010
  • Type: Speech
  • Source: Peter Voser, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Dutch Shell

Context: Strategic decisions and commentary on the global economic recovery as it pertains to the energy sector

I ask our critics to bear in mind that we all need energy to power and sustain our lives. Global demand for energy will double during the first half of this century. Now, unless we want to condemn over 1.5 billion people to energy poverty, we will need to develop all available energy sources to meet that growing demand. That inevitably includes oil and gas. So the key challenge for our industry is to reduce the CO2 footprint from the energy we deliver. One of several ways in which we will reduce our CO2 footprint is to focus more on natural gas, the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. By 2012, more than half of our production will be natural gas. This is a major change in our production profile; and it will further increase after that (Voser 2010, para. 8)

Why would Shell get out of solar energy and freeze investments in wind power when the demand for clean electricity is growing? Apart from the challenges I already highlighted, we need to grow in areas that are profitable and match our core skills. I saw thousands of Dutch shareholders recently [at an annual shareholders convention] and I asked them if they wanted wind power or a financial return. The answer is clear! That’s one of the problems – I’m open to critics, but I have a business to run, and the purpose of a business is to achieve returns, to achieve long-term sustainable growth. As part of that we are prepared to invest in Research & Development, including in alternative energies. But our activities need to give us profitability. We’re a company like any other and we need to make a profit in order to exist (Voser 2010, para. 10).

Is Nigeria still a heartland for Shell? The government amnesty in the Niger Delta region wishing to lay down their arms seems to be making good progress. But security issues still remain. There are also uncertainties about the future of the fiscal structure, with Nigeria working on a new petroleum bill. Shell staff in Nigeria are doing a great job in this very difficult environment. Oil production levels improved towards the end of 2009 and our LNG business is performing well. In general, during 2009 sabotage and attacks on installations of the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation of Nigeria have again reduced production levels. We’ve also made progress with the Flares Out project during the last few years, but unfortunately security problems for our staff and government funding issues have delayed the gas gathering projects. The Nigerian government, in setting priorities for the joint venture in which it is the majority shareholder and Shell a minority shareholder, gives priority to maintaining oil production over reducing gas flares. So…Nigeria is still a heartland for Shell, but we no longer depend on it for our growth aspirations. This gives us more flexibility in deciding when and how to develop oil and gas resources in Nigeria (Voser 2010, para. 14).

  1. Source
Peter Voser, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell
  1. Audience
Shell shareholders.
  1. Time Frame
The speech took place in early 2010 and coincided with the global economic recovery that was afoot at that time.
  1. Tone
Similar to Omiyi’s interview, Voser’s text contain a heavy blaming tone on the Nigerian government, as evidenced by such phrases as the following: The Nigerian government, in setting priorities for the joint venture in which it is the majority shareholder and Shell a minority shareholder, gives priority to maintaining oil production over reducing gas flares (Voser 2010, para. 14).
  1. Purpose
To assure Shell shareholders that they will continue to see returns on their investments.

Table 5. Text 3 Evaluation

  • Text 4: Blood Oil
  • Date: February 2007
  • Type: Article
  • Source: Sebastian Junger, journalist, Vanity Fair

Context: Description of the militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)

In January 2006, less than seven months after the first Oil ShockWave conference—almost as if they’d been given walk-on parts in the simulation—several boatloads of heavily armed Ijaw militants overran a Shell oil facility in the Niger delta and seized four Western oil workers. The militants called themselves the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and said they were protesting the environmental devastation caused by the oil industry, as well as the appalling conditions in which most delta inhabitants live. There are no schools, medical clinics, or social services in most delta villages. There is no clean drinking water in delta villages. There are almost no paying jobs in delta villages. People eke out a living by fishing while, all around them, oil wells owned by foreign companies pump billions of dollars’ worth of oil a year. It was time, according to MEND, for this injustice to stop (Junger 2007, p. 1).

The immediate effect of the attack was a roughly 250,000-barrel-a-day drop in Nigerian oil production and a temporary bump in world oil prices. MEND released the hostages a few weeks later, but the problems were far from over. MEND’s demands included the release of two Ijaw leaders who were being held in prison, $1.5 billion in restitution for damage to the delicate delta environment, a 50 percent claim on all oil pumped out of the creeks, and development aid to the desperately poor villages of the delta. MEND threatened that, if these demands were not met—which they weren’t—it would wage war on the foreign oil companies in Nigeria (Junger 2007, p. 1).

The Nigerian military—as poorly equipped as it is—can protect any piece of oil infrastructure it wants by simply putting enough men on it. But Shell has more than 3,720 miles of oil and gas pipelines in the creeks, as well as 90 oil fields and 73 flow stations, and there is no way to guard them all. And moving the entire industry offshore isn’t a good option, either. Not only is deepwater drilling very expensive, but there are still immense oil and gas reserves under the Niger delta that have not yet been exploited. And—as it turns out—the deepwater rigs aren’t immune to attack anyway. In early June, militants shocked industry experts by overrunning a rig 40 miles out at sea. Offshore oil platforms generally sit 40 or 50 feet above water level, but their legs are crisscrossed with brackets and struts that are not difficult to climb. After firing warning shots, dozens of militants scampered up the legs and ladders to the main platform, rounded up eight foreign oil workers—including an American—and forced them at gunpoint into their boats. They were back in the creeks within hours (Junger 2007, p. 1).

The militants are also capable of striking in the cities. In January of last year, about 30 militants ran their speedboats straight into the Port Harcourt compound of the Italian oil company Agip, killed eight Nigerian soldiers, robbed the bank, and made their getaway. In May, a man on a motorbike shot an American oil executive to death while he sat in Port Harcourt traffic in his chauffeured car. In August, members of another militant group walked into a popular bar named Goodfellas and abducted four Western oil workers. By the end of September, militants had kidnapped—and released for ransom—more than 50 oil workers, and onshore Nigerian oil production had been cut by 25 percent, or about 600,000 barrels a day. That represented a loss of nearly a billion dollars a month to the Nigerian government (Junger 2007, p. 1).

  1. Source
Sebastian Junger, journalist, Vanity Fair magazine
  1. Audience
Vanity Fair readers.
  1. Time Frame
February 2007
  1. Tone
Fact based fear mongering and highly sensationalized account of the militancy movement in Nigeria. Contains the hallmarks of the Bush administration – paranoia, an emphasis on terrorist activities as they pertained to Americans living and working overseas, fear of plummeting supply of oil and the ensuing economic chaos that would result in such a scenario. Describes Nigeria as “an area rife with Islamic militancy and religious violence” (Junger 2007, p. 1)
  1. Purpose
To scare the Vanity Fair readers

Table 6. Text 4 Evaluation.

Text 5: “A MEND militant painted with magical symbols to protect him from bullets” (Junger 2007, p. 2).

  • Date: February 2007
  • Type: Photo
  • Source: Michael Kamber, photographer, Vanity Fair

A MEND militant painted with magical symbols to protect him from bullets

  1. Source
Michael Kamber, photographer, Vanity Fair
  1. Audience
Vanity Fair readers
  1. Time Frame
The photo was taken written in 2007, during a visit that the journalist and photographer took to the Niger Delta to interview MEND members.
  1. Tone
Highly offensive and condescending. Paints the subject of the photograph as a superstitious, heavily armed thug who believes that “magical symbols…protect him from bullets” (Junger 2007, p. 2).
  1. Purpose
To scare Vanity Fair readers.

Table 7. Text 5 Evaluation.


The year three report endeavoured to widen the scope of the research to include content analysis as a means to study a wide range of texts and gain further insight into the complex issues at play in the conflict between the oil construction industry in the Niger Delta and the host communities there. From a practical standpoint, content analysis allows the researcher to continue working on the project in light of the fact that original method of primary research – the questionnaires and interviews – proved to be the wrong form of research methodology for this particular topic. In addition, content analysis as a research methodology can be applied to any text – everything from an audio file, a video file, and a news report to shareholder communications and songs. Therefore, content analysis as a research methodology will allow the researcher to access disparate forms of texts to inform the research.

The main benefit of content analysis in regards to Alternative Dispute Resolution is that this methodology can be applied to court documents and transcripts and where possible, proceedings from mediation hearings and / or partnering initiatives undertaken as part of an ADR program. The flexibility of content analysis therefore and relative ease of implementation makes it far more economical and practical for a research study of this size and scope.

Further Content Analysis

In order to understand the oil conflict in the Niger Delta and how ADR can be applied to resolving these conflicts, content analysis will be conducted on a diverse sample of texts that relate to the various elements of the conflict between the oil construction projects currently operating in the Niger Delta region and the host-communities of these projects. Some of the target participants in the future case study research content analysis component include local artisans, students, women’s groups, government and non-governmental officials, expatriates, artists, journalists and community leaders of the Niger Delta region.

In order to obtain information about their grievances with the oil companies, the researcher will conduct extensive content analysis of texts that emanate from these targets groups, including interviews, websites, blogs, meeting minutes, and official and unofficial communications. The researcher seeks to understand to what extent these groups are satisfied with the current conflict resolution approach in use by the oil companies, as well as to learn about the failures and successes achieved, if any. A key aim here is to investigate whether there are certain elements of ADR methods currently being engaged by the oil companies to resolving the conflicts arising with their host-communities and learn how they are being applied. In addition, the researcher seeks to understand if the host-communities would be more receptive to ADR as a key conflict resolution mechanism for settling their differences with the oil companies.

Also, in order to have a better grasp of the Niger Delta oil conflict, a detailed content analysis will be conducted on texts that originate from the key staff members of the major oil exploration companies, responsible for dealing with the lingering conflict with the host-communities in the Niger Delta. One such example has been utilized in this report in the interview with Basil Omiyi, the Country Chair in Nigeria of Royal Dutch Shell. The researcher will source a large number of similar interviews will multinational oil officials based in Nigeria. The goal of this content analysis will be geared towards collecting basic information about how the conflicts are currently being tackled in an official capacity. The researcher endeavours to understand what conflict methods are currently being adapted, and what factors limit the success of such methods on the ground. The content analysis of these types of interviews will also allow the researcher to investigate whether there are indeed official conflict resolution mechanisms currently in place and in use, or whether host-community conflicts are being dealt with on an ad-hoc basis. This will allow the researcher to extrapolate if certain forms of ADR could in fact help deal with the conflicts.

In addition to the content analysis component of the study, which will form the foundation of the research methodology, further analysis of the literature review will continue in the final thesis.

In the final thesis, the content analysis research goals will be divided into three sections. The first section is to obtain data about stakeholders involved in the conflict between the oil multinational companies in the Niger Delta and the host communities. Content analysis will ascertain the individual job roles, experience, challenges, and history dealing with conflict within his or her context or organisation. For example, content analysis will allow the researcher to access texts from a Nigerian government official, a Shell or Chevron employee, a local farmer or fisherman in the Niger Delta, a member of a militant organisation in the Niger Delta, and an expatriate Nigerian. The researcher will obtain data on the understanding of ADR and its application in construction conflicts via these differing types of data, especially in relation to oil conflicts involving host-communities and the operating companies, and this methodology will facilitate simpler data collection, as well as a more comprehensive analysis of the texts via content analysis software.

Finally, the researcher will use content analysis to obtain data on a wide range of factors that can influence and ensure effective implementation of ADR as a key conflict resolution mechanism for conflicts arising between oil companies and the host-communities in the Niger Delta. Content analysis research will include current conflict resolution strategies employed by the oil multinational companies operating in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Another set of data generated via content analysis will originate from the people who make up the host-communities in the Niger Delta, with various segments of the Niger Delta demography represented in the data collection such as government officials, victims of oil spills or gas flares, and militants. The result and findings gleaned from the content analysis of these different texts will be an initial step towards developing a proper understanding of how ADR can be employed as a veritable tool for resolution of conflicts arising between oil companies and host-communities.

The researcher is confident that using content analysis as the primary research methodology will provide an overview of how oil companies deal with conflicts involving their host-communities, highlight areas in which this system can be improved, and support the researcher’s goals of achieving triangulation. Content analysis will also help to establish a conflict resolution mechanism using the ADR approach, and help oil companies and host communities deal with disputes proactively and potentially limit or even diffuse disputes before they turn into full blown conflicts. This will also ensure conflicts are quickly dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties involved, which will in turn improve the relationship between the oil companies and the host-communities, while greatly boosting their bottom line.

Texts created by practitioners from various oil companies who work in the area of conflict and community relations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria will be selected and included in the data collection. Emphasis will be placed on texts generated from those on the ground, as their views and opinions will give the researcher the closest proximity to the conflict. In addition, the researcher will target selected groups of people living and working in the Niger Delta, including students, women, youth, the militia groups and government officials. Based on these data, content analysis using software will then be conducted to validate and categorize the findings. The focus will be on completing the design of the research to create the widest possible angle on this particular research question. These data will help the researcher to identify the issues involved in the relationship between the oil companies and the host-communities and provide a basic understanding of the factors that cause conflict in order to develop an ADR solution to those conflicts. If required, based on the content analysis of the data, a final plan will be developed to conduct a second content analysis of perceived gaps in the body of texts. From the final results, recommendations and conclusions will be drawn. These results, recommendations, and conclusions, will make up part of the PhD thesis and in turn will inform specific areas in which ADR can be applied to ease the conflict in this troubled region of Africa. It is the hope of the researcher that this study will contribute to that goal.

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