Nigeria’s complex environmental damage needs real solutions, not more litigation

Energy and environmental expert proposes path beyond business as usual

By Chris Carter

“We are information rich, but knowledge poor,” so-says energy and environmental expert Tom Mullikin. “Worse; we are starving for informed leadership.”

Mullikin, an experienced international energy and environmental attorney and problem solver is speaking of what he refers to as “the inordinately complex environmental issues the world is facing; Issues that no one wants to touch, because the issues are either too politically charged or too complicated and expensive to deal with,” he says.

That or they are seemingly impossible for any one person or one company to get their heads around. “Perhaps it’s also the old out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality,” Mullikin says. “Most people view an environmental mess on another continent as if it were happening in another world.”

Mullikin points to the ongoing struggles to address oil-related contamination in places like Ecuador and Nigeria (the West African nation dubbed “one of the world’s greatest avoidable ecological disasters”) as examples of existing environmental problems with no hint of a solution.

“It’s just endless litigation and untold millions of dollars spent,” Mullikin says. “Meanwhile people’s lives are at stake.”

According to reports, an army of attorneys (on both sides) have attempted various legal strategies to address the problems resulting from within the Niger-Delta areas of Nigeria. Claimants have demanded that energy producers clean-up contamination resulting from their operations, physically restore the impacted environs of Nigeria, and pay huge damages for the lands “left devastated by pollution caused by repeated oil leaks.”

Energy companies have apparently tried to make good on what they are responsible for, but in so-doing they has been thwarted by violence and threats of violence against contracted clean-up teams; as well as local politicians demanding more community involvement (i.e. hiring Nigerian companies to do the work and upping the pay of those already contracted.). “All-in-all it’s a seemingly intractable situation,” according to Mullikin. “One that exacerbates the already problematic environmental disaster and one that screams for cooler heads and reasoned solutions.”

Mullikin says these issues facing Nigeria can be resolved using his model, which has been employed to successfully address complex energy and environmental dilemmas around the world.

The model consists of a two-pronged solution with both prongs having four elements. In one prong, there has to be a “legal piece,” he says. Not endless litigation, but attorneys who understand Nigerian, international, and environmental law. “Then there has to be transparent and informed dialogue between all parties,” he adds. “There also has to be a technology component, as well as guarantees of security and stability.”

The second prong is Mullikin’s collaboration compact model. Having come off a heated U.S. congressional race where Mullikin campaigned on a platform of “all involved parties working together collaboratively, bringing communities together, finding common ground and ultimately finding a way forward and real solutions to real problems,” Mullikin believes environmental problems, like those facing residents of the Niger Delta can be handled similarly, creatively and effectively.

Mullikin should know. He is a “unique solutions guy” as some have described him. And his affinity for the “difficult” has largely defined his career. He has been engaged by some of the largest manufacturing and energy interests in the world, foreign countries, and NGOs who have sought his expertise in a range of substantive environmental matters including energy and industrial operations, climate, and nuclear related issues. Even the United Nations sought his expertise in helping lead a team of attorneys to draft and negotiate seabed mining regulations with diverse stakeholders in the Republic of FiJi.

“Tom Mullikin has a huge heart for Fiji, the Pacific Rim nations, and the world,” said Tevita Boseiwaqa, the Fijian Permanent Secretary of Lands and Mineral Resources. “[Mullikin strengthened] the foundation of Fiji’s economy so that we as a nation may thrive in the global marketplace, while protecting both the Fijian people and our rich natural resources for many years to come.”

Mullikin’s quest for solutions between diverse stakeholders has also led him to successful project-solutions in places like South Central Los Angeles where he brought together disparate – and sometimes angry – parties together to form a nationally recognized partnership developed around a hazardous-waste treatment storage and disposal facility operating in the neighborhoods which had been previously devastated in the 1992 LA riots.

There, Mullikin was hired by a multinational company to successfully obtain necessary environmental permits. His first task was to reach out to community groups and leaders along with an environmental justice organization to create the Partnership for Environmental Training (PET) program. PET trained and employed locals, providing medical exams, drug-screening, marketable-skills training, and well-paying jobs at the facility. PET even found a way to cover bus fares. And they did all this while helping trainees and potential employees overcome hurdles traditionally faced by those living in disadvantaged communities.

This combined with Mullikin’s collaboration compact model – which was also used effectively in Stillwater, Oklahoma where groups were battling over energy and drilling issues [Please see Two Cities, Different Outcomes by W. Thomas Smith Jr., Shale Oil & Gas Business Magazine, May-June 2016] – satisfied all parties, provided real opportunities for those living in the impacted areas, and best-of-all improved the environment.

What is the collaboration compact model?

1) Assessment of host community interests and determination of where they coincide with those of the industry; identification of each stakeholder’s objective and priorities;

2) Alignment of those needs to reflect the mutual interests of stakeholders;

3) Concurrence as to what constitutes a mutually acceptable outcome and creation of a win-win result for all stakeholders; and

4) Development of a comprehensive plan to secure the desired outcomes and unite the interests of all parties.

Doable to be sure, but Mullikin’s model must be properly managed by those with deft solutions-seeking skills. “These are very complex issues,” says Mullikin, adding that the issues have to be addressed by marshaling all available assets as in “the first prong,” which includes –

Those who know the law (but who are not interested in endless litigation),
Those who fully grasp the science of energy, the environment, and applicable technologies who are then able to field multidisciplinary technology teams capable of employing those technologies in order to achieve a given solution,
Those who appreciate the need for and are able to provide effective security (the Mullikin team employs some of the world’s finest security professionals), and
Those who are wholly committed to all stakeholders and communities, bringing forth any and all solutions to the mutual benefit of everyone.

Mullikin argues that problems which most business and community leaders resist or avoid as being too multifarious, expensive, emotionally wrenching, perhaps virtually impossible to solve; he embraces as “wonderfully unique challenges” not unlike others he has faced in his personal and professional life.

Mullikin says his determination was forged at birth. “I was born with extreme bilateral club feet, and doctors told my parents I would never walk,” he says.

Mullikin not only walked, but climbed many of the highest mountains on Earth. And is presently on-track to becoming the first human to have both climbed the world’s seven great summits and recorded SCUBA dives in all five oceans. He has already logged the dives – including certified ice dives – and he has climbed four of the seven summits; as well as many of the world’s other great peaks.

Having received the designation “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC expert,” Mullikin travels the globe, leading, teaching, and gathering information as he explores – and even works toward developing microbial strategies for – some of the most remote and fragile eco-systems on Earth; winning accolades from the likes of Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), who said, “Tom Mullikin – and those like him who have climbed many of the world’s great summits – is a model of perseverance.”

The Washington, D.C.-based newspaper, Human Events, said, “Sir Ernest Shackleton needed a man like Thomas Stowe Mullikin.”

Even the Daily Caller referred to him as “an expert in energy issues, health care, the environment, and global climate change.”

Mullikin’s successful efforts representing major energy interests have gained widespread national attention.

Mullikin says, “Our nation and the world can achieve environmental and economic sustainability as these vital goals are not mutually exclusive. It just requires a more informed and open conversation.” He adds, “All problems can absolutely be solved; and the problems in the Niger Delta are no exception.”

Author: Chris Carter

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