INFORMATION AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN SELECTED OIL-PRODUCING COMMUNITIES OF THE NIGER DELTA FROM 1992-2013
The study investigated the role played by information in conflict management of the oil producing communities of Gbaranmatu, Kegbara-Dere and Peremabri communities of the Niger Delta from 1992 to 2013. The study highlights information as a factor used to douse or aggravate conflicts in the oil producing communities during conflict management from 1992-2013. In carrying out this research, five research questions and purposes of study guided the study: they concern the conflicts in the oil producing communities from 1992-2013; role information played in these conflicts; information sources used in conflict management in the oil-producing communities during the period; factors militating against effective information in conflict management in the past conflicts and strategies that could be used to improve information in conflict management in the Niger Delta. The study adopted the historical research design. The area of study is Gbaranmatu, Kegbara-Dere and Peremabri communities of the Niger Delta. The population for the study is 44,488, which has 14,833 for Gbaranmatu, 19960 for Kegbara-Dere and 9,655 for Peramabiri community. The population elements include chiefs, community chairmen, women leaders, religious leaders and youth leaders of the three communities. Purposive sampling was used to select 31 respondents for the interview sessions, and the criteria used for selecting the respondents were: they had lived in the communities for the past twenty years, they were eye witnesses to the conflicts in the communities and had served and still serving in the community leadership. The instrument for data collection was interview schedule for the key players in conflict management of the oil producing communities, journalist, a member of civil society, and an oil company representative. Data was also collected using a focus group discussion schedule. Data collection from documentary sources was carried out with the aid of a documentary analysis guide. Instruments were validated by three lecturers from the Department of Library and Information Science, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Data was collected from respondents by trained research assistants and analyzed qualitatively with content analysis. The presentation and analysis of data showed that there were conflicts related to information and the oil industry in the communities covered from 1992 to 2013 and information played both positive and negative roles in the conflicts of Gbaranmatu, Kegbara-Dere and Peremabri communities of the Niger Delta. The major sources of information during conflict management were both traditional and modern media. Factors militating against dissemination of information in conflict management were the riverine terrain, misinformation, rumor, lack of media presence, lack of information officers and information centres and lack of communication facilities. The barriers to information in the conflict management of the communities include lack of trust in the government, oil company and its staff, and the community leaders. The strategy all the communities preferred was the town crier; other strategies they said they will prefer were the use of dialogue, forums for discussion by both the oil company and the communities. The study concludes by placing effective information at the heart of the strategy to address conflicts and the need for the oil companies to be more conscientious in disseminating information to the oil producing communities. Information should be used as a driver for positive social change, and positioning communities at the centre of the information flow will help build a firm foundation for strong oil-producing communities.