The GMOU – Chevrons’ strategy to mitigate conflict amongst host communities
By Gilbert Boyefio
Militancy activities in the oil rich Niger Delta region in Nigeria have been raging on for decades now. The militants claim to expose exploitation and oppression of the people of the Niger Delta and devastation of the natural environment by public-private partnerships between the Federal Government of Nigeria and corporations involved in the production of oil in the Niger Delta.
They insist that local people had not gained from the riches under the ground and the region’s creeks and swamps.
However, according to a report by Protection Group International (PGI), sabotaging of oil installations, theft of oil from pipelines and bombings of onshore oil facilities has decreased drastically. This could be attributed to the strong stance taken by the Nigerian Government and the willingness of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to work together with the people to find lasting solution to this age long problem.
Since October 2015 there has been a notable increase in recorded kidnappings at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, as regional militant gangs move away from oil theft as their preferred source of revenue.
According to PGI, since mid-January there has been a notable uptick in reported incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, with many of the incidents involving the kidnap of crew. PGI recorded four attacks on ships at sea that involved successful kidnappings in January, compared to one per month from October to December 2015. During the same period (October 2015 – February 2016) there were no major oil cargo thefts, in what represents a continuation of a long-term decline in hijackings for the purposes of oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea over the past 18 months.
So in effect, though the militancy activities in the region seem to be on the ascendency, the focus and target has shifted from the oil and gas industry.
So the question is what is causing this new change?
In an exclusive interview with Orient Energy Review, Adesola Adebawo, Manager-Communications Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria-Mid Africa Strategic Business Unit, explained that the community people are less antagonizing when there is transparency and accountability.
He noted that community engagement thrives on the bases of conflict mitigation through grievance management; it thrives on the bases of capacity building for investment in local businesses, local content and peace building.
“So we thought it is important to move away from the mentality of entitlement and benefits into partnership were everybody brings value to the table and derive value from the relationship. This is what we are selling to the rest of Sub Sahara Africa. When you make people partners they become part of your business and not we versus them. It rather becomes “Us together everybody wins”. Development is more sustainable that way.
Also another principle that has worked in our experience successfully is the participatory partnership were those who benefit from development programs are themselves in the driving seat. That brings sense of ownership and sustainability,” Mr. Adebawo observed.
According to him, when people competes they talk passes each other but when they collaborate, they engage.
The result Chevron has achieved now is monumental. Within the last ten years (2005-2015) since the deployment of the new paradigm for community engagement and development, Chevron has spent over US$100million in social investment in communities around its operations. This has benefitted over 600,000 people in over 400 communities. These are social investment in the areas of health, education and economic development. These are huge result, awesome outcomes that are driven by a sense of partnership between community stakeholders and Chevron.
This experience is hinged on the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) – the participatory community-driven development model pioneered by the NNPC and Chevron Joint Venture in 2005.
Prior to the introduction of the GMOU in 2005, the NNPC and Chevron Joint Venture were dealing with multiple individual communities on development issues. MoUs were signed separately with various neighboring communities
However, the communities did not really own projects – they were referred to as “Chevron projects”. But with the GMoU, the communities now own their own development process. Projects and programs are scoped, budgeted for and funded by Chevron and NNPC as part of the Joint Venture (JV) expectations for social investment in communities where CNL operates.
The GMOUs are highly regarded by the communities and state governments. Stakeholders have suggested this approach for use in other areas.
The GMOU model involves a broad set of communities with homogenous ethnic affiliations.
Originally eight Regional Development Committees (RDCs) with strong governance and accountability processes – now reduced to five RDCs following asset divestments.
Participatory partnerships with multiple stakeholders, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, States and Local governments, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), NGOs, Community empowerment and ownership of projects.
According to Mr. Adebawo, Chevron has been practicing community involvement in their business before the Nigerian Local Content Act 2010 came into existence, noting that, “For us the involvement of local businesses in what we do is not just compliance with the law but it is our core business principle. And we would recommend that to any player also.”
The next phase of the GMoU is to help the people to develop the ability to manage businesses, explore opportunities to derive value from the environment. It also involved sourcing third party partnership outside Chevron. This will enable the community to engage independent development funds and partner for projects with or without Chevron.