African Studies John S. Saul Interdsiciplinary Seminar looks at oil in Nigeria

This year’s African Studies John S. Saul Interdisciplinary Seminar, "Oil in Nigeria: Challenges & Opportunities", will debate the challenges and opportunities facing oil extraction in Nigeria and its consequences for the state’s social, economic and human development, as well as national security.

The seminar will take the form of a debate and conversation with Ben Naanen, professor of history & diplomatic studies at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria; Cyril Obi, coordinator of the Research Program on Post-Conflict Transition, the State and Civil Society in Africa, at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden; Uwem Ite, national sustainable development coordinator for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd.; Anna Zalik, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies; Obiroa Okafor, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School; and Isaac Osuoka, York PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

The debate will take place Thursday, March 5 from noon to 2pm in the Founders Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, Keele campus.

Ben Naanen also runs the non-governmental agency, the Niger Delta Environment and Relief Foundation, which has been involved in conflict resolution, human rights and environmental and research activities in the troubled Niger Delta region where Nigeria’s oil is produced. He was general secretary of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) from 1992 to 1999. In that capacity, he led MOSOP’s global campaign against Shell and the policies of the military dictatorship in Nigeria.

Left: Cyril Obi

Cyril Obi has published extensively on international environmental politics and energy security issues, on the oil-related conflict in Nigeria’s Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea, and globalization and peace building in Africa. Some of his writings have been translated into French, Arabic, Italian, Norwegian, German, Chinese and Spanish.

Prior to his position at Shell, Ite was a professor in human geography at Lancaster University in the UK from 1995 to 2006, where his research interests included environmental and developmental issues with a focus on corporate social responsibility in developing countries. His research has appeared in several international journals, including Sustainable Development, Journal of International Development, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management and The Geographical Journal.

Right: Anna Zalik

Anna Zalik conducts ongoing work in Nigeria and Mexico, with new research in the Canadian tar sands. Her research concerns include the merging of industrial security and development aid, focusing on oil industry responses to social resistance in extractive sites.

Obiroa Okafor has held faculty positions at the University of Nigeria and Carleton University. He has served as a Social Science Research Council-MacArthur Foundation Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program and was recently named a Canada-US Fulbright Scholar at MIT. He has served as an expert panellist for the United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent and as a human rights consultant for the UK Department for International Development. He is the author of several books, including The African Human Rights System, Activist Forces and International Institutions and Legitimizing Human Rights NGOs: Lessons from Nigeria.

Left: Obiroa Okafor

Before coming to York, Isaac Osuoka was director of Social Action, a Nigerian project for the education and solidarity of communities and activists for environmental justice and democracy. He is a joint coordinator of the Gulf of Guinea Citizens Network, an advocacy initiative for effective enforcement of standards of legal, political and social responsibility in natural resources exploitation and management in the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Osuoka has worked for over a decade to support communities in the Nigeria and other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region.

Right: Isaac Osuoka

The seminar was named after York Professor Emeritus John S. Saul in recognition of his contributions to the University and to the interdisciplinarity of African Studies as well as his ability to forge theory with practice. Saul was educated at the universities of Toronto, Princeton and London, and taught for the best part of a decade in Tanzania and Mozambique. He began teaching at York in 1973. He is the author and editor of some 18 books on African political developments, including his latest, Decolonization and Empire. Saul is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

The John S. Saul Interdisciplinary Seminar is co-sponsored by the Founders College Master’s Office, the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean and the Extractive Industries Research Group. Refreshments will be served.