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Examining the accounts of oil spills crises in Nigeria through sensegiving and defensive behaviours

Egbon, Osamuyimen and Mgbame, Chijoke Oscar (2020) 'Examining the accounts of oil spills crises in Nigeria through sensegiving and defensive behaviours.' Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 33 (8). pp. 2053-2076. ISSN 0951-3574

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Abstract

Purpose: The paper examines how oil multinational companies (MNCs) in Nigeria framed accounts to dissociate themselves from causing oil spills. Design/methodology/approach: We utilised data from relevant corporate reports, external accounts and interviews, and used sensegiving with defensive behaviours theoretical framing to explore corporate narratives aimed at altering stakeholders’ perceptions. Findings: The corporations gave sense to their audience by invoking scapegoating blame avoidance narrative in attributing the cause of most oil spills in Nigeria to outsiders (sabotage), despite potentially misclassifying the sabotage-corrosion dichotomy. Corporate stance was reinforced through justifying narrative, which suggested that multi-stakeholders jointly determined the causes of oil spills, thus portraying corporate accounts as transparent, credible and objective. Practical implications: With compensation to oil spills’ victims only legally permitted for non-sabotage-induced spills alongside the burden of proof on the victims, the MNCs are incentivised to attribute most oil spills to sabotage. On policy implication, accountability would be best served when the MNCs are tasked both with the burden of proof and a responsibility to demonstrate their transparency in preventing oil spills, including those caused by sabotage. Research implications: The socio-political dynamics in an empirical setting affect corporate accounts and how those accounts appear persuasive, implying that such contextual factors merit consideration when evaluating corporate accounts. For example, despite contradictions in corporate accounts, corporate attribution of oil spills to external factors appeared persuasive due to the inherently complicated socio-political dynamics. Originality/value: Crisis situations generate multiple and competing perspectives, but sensegiving and defensive behaviours lenses enrich our understanding of how crisis-ridden companies frame narratives to alter stakeholders’ perceptions. Accounts-giving therefore partly satisfies accountability demands, and acts as sensegiving signals aimed at reframing/redefining existing perceptions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social and environmental narratives and accountability; oil spills; sensegiving; blame avoidance defensive behaviours; multinational oil corporations; Nigeria.
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Essex Accounting Centre
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2020 16:08
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:16
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/28286

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