To create an enabling environment between Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and its host communities in the Niger Delta, PACT Nigeria, a Non-profit organisation, recently conducted workshops in Benin, Asaba and Port Harcourt. The fora sought to equip and empower Regional Development Councils (RDCs), representatives of CNL host communities and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with practical skills to confront the problems arising in the region; Abimbola Akosile and Anayo Okolie write
Oil producing firm, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), signed a community development agreement called Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with their host communities in Niger Delta in 2004/2005. However, after the evaluation of the GMoU in 2008, it was observed that it has not achieved its purpose.
In 2003, this issue led to violent ethnic conflicts in the western Niger Delta region which resulted to CNL evacuating six swamp facilities and stop operations in the area. These crises were as a result of lack of transparency and accountability by community leaders and representatives led to suspicion by the people, intensifying conflict within the communities and with CNL.
Meanwhile the GMoU was signed to drive the community development processes by determining the needs of the communities and implementing projects that would meet the perceived needs. But due to the suspicion and distrust between CNL and its host communities; it was observed that the engagement process may not succeed except there was a neutral body involved.
In order to address these issues and improve the relationship between Chevron and the communities to ensure active operation in the western Niger Delta, the former designed a new community engagement model Regional Development Council (RDC).
This was done with the expectation of identifying a framework within which CNL and the communities could work together to create a climate of understanding between the parties to reduce conflict, promote transparency and accountability and encourage communities and their leadership to take ownership of their own development through active participation in planning and implementation of sustainable development programmes.
Since 2004, there has been a paradigm shift in Chevron’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach and the way it engages and gives back to its host communities. The new community engagement approach is a participatory process that mandates communities in Chevron areas of operation to constitute a development coordination body referred to RDC.
In a quest to ensure that the RDCs are driving the GMoU process, PACT Nigeria, through the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organised workshops in Benin, Asaba and Port Harcourt cities to create an enabling environment and improved relations between Chevron and its host communities.
Imparting Practical Skills
Speaking during one of the workshops tagged ‘Advanced Advocacy Skills Clinic’ in Asaba, the Senior Civil Society Specialist of PACT Nigeria, John Onyeukwu, noted that the overall goal of the workshop was to provide participants with practical skills of planning and implementing advocacy for the change that is needed in every sector, especially in the relationship between citizens and government.
Explaining the objectives, Onyeukwu said the workshop would enable participants gain useful information about the advocacy process in practice, enable them gain a clearer understanding of their role as advocates, improve their ability to assess their contributions and measure advocacy success, and also enable them appreciate modern approaches and method of implementing effective advocacy.
According to him, “we are also factoring in an advocacy visit to a high-ranking government official in Delta State. It is intended that participants would better appreciate the full import of advocacy in decision-making by actually doing it on an issue that affects their community.
“PACT Nigeria started its work with the Participatory Partnerships for Community Development (PPCD) partners since 2009. We have, thus far delivered about 14 training workshops in subjects such as Strategic Planning, Resource Mobilisation, Project Planning, Advocacy Skills, Budget Advocacy and Monitoring, Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Learning (MERL), Peace Building, Communication, Networking, Early Warning Systems and Conflict Analysis, Finance and Administration, etc”, he added.
In addition to these trainings, Onyeukwu said, “We also provide ongoing mentoring and coaching to the PPCD project Office and its Consortium members, which include Accord for Community Development (Accord), Morgan Smart Development Foundation (MSDF), Niger Delta Professionals for Development (NIDPRODEV) and New Nigeria Foundation (NNF).
“We have worked hand-in-hand with them since 2009 to deliver on their responsibilities under the Chevron Nigeria Limited’s (CNL) Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) in the 5 states of the Niger Delta region,” he said.
Speaking further, Onyeukwu said, “PACT Nigeria does not have any direct relationship with governments of the Niger Delta region.
“The organisation only works with CSOs involved in the delivery of Chevron Nigeria’s GMoU within the region on the one hand and, under a slightly different framework (ADVANCE-PIND), work with other CSOs to enable them engage public decision makers on governance and project development, so that there will be peaceful and equitable economic growth in the region”, he explained.
He further advised that the best way to deal with oil spillage within the region was to ensure that Multinational Oil Companies within the region use international best practices in their work. “While one cannot totally rule out oil spillage in its totality but their response to such should be timely and far”, the civil society expert added.
Identifying Capacity Gaps
Similarly, the Programme Officer - Capacity Development and Knowledge Sharing of PACT Nigeria, Otsemaye Newton, noted that capacity gaps have been identified as a bane to socio-infrastructural development in Nigeria. These gaps, he said, manifest in poor leadership and weak institutions.
Newtonrevealed that PACT Nigeria is a non profit, capacity development organisation based in Nigeria to organise a three-day capacity development and advocacy skills workshop for five local CSO partners in the Niger Delta.
According to him, advocacy has been identified as one of the means to create desired change in every socio-political system, “therefore the need to have competent CSOs engaging government and the market effectively is crucial.”
He disclosed that the workshop was organised to ensure that only competent and vibrant CSOs make the required demands on government for sound policies and legislation that could assuage the development gaps currently entrenched in the society.
“It is on this premise that PACT Nigeria organised an intensive four-day Advocacy Skills workshop for some of its local partners in Delta State. However, PACT Nigeria also believes that working through local CSO partners is strategic to contributing its quota to development in Nigeria.
“It is expected that after the workshop participants should use knowledge acquired from the four-day workshop to identify problems and develop strategies to solving them within their local context.
“Therefore, in the end, vulnerable people will have access to health products, services and information needed to enjoy a healthy life. The people with limited livelihood choices will gain the resources needed to be income-secured, and resource-dependent communities will gain lasting benefit from the sustainable use of the natural resources around them,” Newton said.
Meeting Social Needs
On her part, the Budget Advocacy Coordinator of PACT Nigeria, Mrs. Augusta Akparanta-Emenogu, said her organisation was established to build the capacity of local leaders and organisations to meet pressing social needs in dozens of countries around the world.
She disclosed that PACT has experienced the support of civil society and government institutions through building institutional capacity, information management, advocacy campaigns, and policy dialogue with relevant government officials through advocacy, organisational capacity building, increasing public participation with parliament, and anti-corruption drives.
Akparanta-Emenogu said the three-day Advanced Advocacy Capacity Development for Partnership in the Niger-Delta (PIND) was a follow-up to an earlier Advocacy training held last year.
According to her, with the support of USAID, PACT had selected five PIND partners working in line with Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States to support and engage in policy making, saying the current advocacy training was part of the effort to empower the grassroots Community Based Organisations (CBOs).
Towards Constant Readiness
Also a trainee, the Programme Manager of Participatory Partnerships for Community Development (PPDC), Emmanuel Azaino, spoke on the issues arising.
He disclosed that since 2004/2005 when Chevron signed the community development agreement (GMoU) with communities where it does business in the Niger Delta, after the evaluation of the GMoU in 2008, it was observed that the representatives of the communities (RDCs) who are driving the GMoU process needed capacity building in several key areas such as peace building, communication and advocacy, gender mainstreaming, institutional building.
Commenting on the three day workshop, Azaino revealed that the Advanced Advocacy Skills Clinic was targeted at imparting practical skills in advocacy to PPCD programme team, NGO partners and some representatives of the RDCs.
He revealed that after this training PPCD and NGO partners would in the nearest future step-down the training to larger members of the various RDCs. Hopefully, he said the skills in advocacy acquired from the training would help the RDCs carry out more effective advocacy to government and other relevant organisations