Victor Efeizomor writes that oil producing communities in the Niger Delta are reaping the benefits of Chevron Nigeria Limited’s General Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with the execution of developmental projects in the region
The Niger Delta region of Nigeria has been characterised by deep poverty, unemployment, lack of basic infrastructural facilities and degraded environment, which has provoked youth restiveness in the area.
These levels of misery exist in spite of the abundant natural resources, particularly oil that is found in the area that accounts for over 80 per cent of the country's total annual earnings.
This perhaps informed the decision of Chevron Nigeria Limited, an American oil giant, to step up efforts at ensuring a proper and prompt execution of its corporate social responsibility obligation to the oil producing areas, with the recent execution of about N6 billion worth of Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU)-related projects in some communities in Delta and Ondo states respectively.
THISDAY checks revealed that Chevron’s social performance contract to the people, which is aimed at supporting the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta communities, accounted for the provision of several infrastructural facilities to some communities that run into billions of naira.
Since the inception of the GMoU, Chevron’s General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Mr. Deji Haastrup, in an interview with THISDAY, said NNPC/CNL Joint Venture has provided N5 billion to fund projects in some Itsekiri communities while N1billion has so far also been spent in Ilaje communities through the eight Regional Development Committees (RDCs) to undertake a wide range of infrastructural and non-infrastructural projects.
These projects, according to Haastrup, include water supplies, rural electrification projects, school building, cottage hospital, road and drainage networks, concrete jetties, foot bridges, town halls, housing for displaced people, scholarship, micro-credit scheme and others.
These projects, Haastrup pointed out, were identified in a series of sustainable livelihood assessments conducted by all eight RDCs and incorporated into detailed community development plans.
In 2008 for instance, he explained that “the RDCs managed a total of 96 infrastructural projects and over 30 non-infrastructural projects including scholarship to 994 students at the secondary, tertiary and graduate levels”.
Following the initial accomplishment of the RDCs, Haastrup stated that, “CNL supported a participatory stakeholder evaluation of the GMoU process involving all key stakeholders in the design, planning and analysis of data collected from more than 1,000 people in 20 communities spread throughout the areas represented by the RDCs”.
He added that “the evaluation revealed that many stakeholders were enthusiastic about the participatory approaches and achievements of the GMoUs. In 2009 and 2010, the funding for GMoU increased with Regional Development Committees successfully implementing several infrastructural and non- infrastructural projects in the various communities represented by the RDCs.
“As at 2012, the RDCs had delivered over 344 projects in the various communities constituting the eight regional development committees and the model largely has been acclaimed as an effective community development strategy that encourages people’s leadership in their own development and it is imitated by various organisations both nationally and internationally”, he added.
The intent of the GMoU process, THISDAY gathered, is to create a platform for constructive relationship between the company and the relevant stakeholders around its areas of operation, including the government, communities, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The GMoUs were signed with eight RDCs, representing clusters of communities that spread over five states in the Niger Delta. The states include Delta and Ondo (CNL’s Western Operations) and Rivers, Bayelsa, and Imo State (CNL’s Eastern Operations).
The RDCs include those for the Ilaje, Itsekiri and Egbema-Gbaramatu communities in the company’s operations in the Western Niger Delta and those for the Idama, Kula, KEFFES, Dodo River and Jisika communities in the Eastern region of Niger Delta. The GMoUs involve a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from state and local governments in all the five states, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), some state development agencies and NGOs.
It also seeks to encourage participatory partnership amongst communities, development organisations and governments at various levels, to build community capacity and ownership through high impact and sustainable community development projects that promote social and economic growth, cultivate transparency and accountability into the governance of projects and programmes, encouraging stakeholders to operate an accountability system through the implementation of the government model instituted under the GMoUs.
Other objectives include to promote a safe and secure environment within the community in which the community can fulfill its development potential and CNL can fulfill its business goals, to assist the RDCs in their efforts to pursue peace and stability through effective peace-building processes as well as address employment and economic empowerment expectations within the communities and to promote a harmonious relationship between the communities.
Chairman, Egbema /Gbaramatu RDC, Chief Edmund Tiemo, while speaking on the activities of Chevron and its partnership strategy said, “With the GMoU, every community has one success story or the other to tell about the various projects that have been executed in the communities. The dividends of the GMoU can also be felt in the areas of economic empowerment, micro credit and skills acquisition. It is my hope that the GMoU process will be allowed to continue because it holds greater potential for the development of our communities”.
Speaking also, Chairman, Itsekiri RDC, Chief Ayirimi Emami, said, “Chevron has been a very reliable partner, and majority of the development taking place in our communities is due to efforts of Chevron. If others can do what Chevron is doing, our communities would have been developed more than it is now”.
While corroborating the views of Emami, the Chairman of KEFFES RDC, Mr. Christopher Tudor, stated that “the GMoU has contributed in no small measure to uniting and developing the KEFFES communities. I thank the community leaders, regional development committee executives and NNPC/Chevron joint venture for their unflinching support for the GMoU”.
Chairman, Actual Indigenous Concessional Eight United Core Ultimate and Majority Group (AICECUM) Mr. Wole Ogungbeje, while speaking on the GmoU, commended Chevron for embarking on several developmental projects in the host communities of Ilaje and Itsekiri, saying such gestures have gone a long way in shaping the destiny of the people of the communities.
Ogungbeje said AICECUM as one of the community clusters under Chevron’s offshore MoU with Ilaje coastal communities in Ondo state are pleased with Chevron’s activities in the area, but frowned on the position of the Itsekiri community for not showing enough gratitude to the oil giant.
In line with its policy of providing enabling environment for companies to operate effectively, the Delta State Government said the existing cordial relationship between Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and its neighboring communities in the state is a welcome development, while attributing it to the solidity of the social performance model, the GMoU.
The Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Mr. Ovuozourie Macaulay, who gave the commendation during the signing of the renewed GMoU with the Itsekiri Regional Development Committee (IRDC) in Warri, noted that the successful renegotiation of the GMoU with the Itsekiri communities and the eventual signing of the document speaks volume of the wide acceptance of the community development model by the community stakeholders.
He also praised the “maturity” with which the company and the community stakeholders resolved issues confronting the two parties, adding that the state government would continue to ensure a peaceful environment for business activities.
In his remarks, the chairman of the IRDC, Chief Ayirimi Emami, thanked CNL for the accomplishments through the GMoU and stated that the company has brought development benefits to the Itsekiri communities. He pledged the RDC’s commitment to ensuring peace and security in the communities to engender sustainable development, while asking CNL to provide more funds and employment opportunities.
The Chairman of the IRDC’s Community Engagement Management Board (CEMB) and Managing Director, New Nigerian Foundation (NNF) Prof. Femi Ajibola, in his remarks, stated that the signing of the new agreement with the Itsekiri RDC signified “a display of the profound acknowledgement that partnership can work and through it development will be achieved.”
Represented by Mr. Douglas Adeola, the NNF boss, who thanked the Itsekiri RDC, the Delta State Government, NDDC, Itsekiri communities and NGOs for their support to the GMoU, noted that through proper alignment with all stakeholders, communities can achieve peace, tranquility and progress.
The General Manager Policy, Government and Public Affairs, (PGPA), Mr. Deji Haastrup, in his remarks explained that “the GMoU was an important component of the company’s Social Performance strategies, which embodies the new direction in ensuring sustainable community development around communities neighbouring our operations in Nigeria.”
He expressed delight that within the seven years of the GMoU, the NNPC/Chevron JV has supported the Itsekiri RDC with over N5 billion, which has been used to improve the lot of the 23 communities and stakeholders in the IRDC area.
Haastrup stated that in addition to 100 housing units recently completed and unveiled by the Itsekiri RDC, other initiatives have been actualised including the reconstruction of town hall, building of cottage hospitals, skills acquisition centre, potable water, jetties and walkways, as well as human capacity development and economic empowerment programs.
He also informed that the IRDC has a robust micro-credit scheme for women in which N60 million has been provided to women who, otherwise, would have no access to bank loans and credit facilities.