Isaac Dorsu is a happy man. His infectious laughter starts from somewhere inside him and then comes out in a throaty roar that makes you laugh along. Ask him the reason for his mirth and he will tell you it’s the development that Itsekiri Regional Development Committee (IRDC) has brought to Itsekiri land since it signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture (JV).
Probe further and he will explain how the housing projects embarked by IRDC has not only solved the most pressing needs of the Itsekiris after the 2003 community crisis in Delta State, but also brought comfort and peace of mind to the people.
According to Dorsu, prior to the 2003 crisis almost all the houses in Itsekiri communities along the Benin River and Escravos River were made of woods and palm fronds. In the places where the wooden houses once stood are modern flats with electrical and water facilities. Also, unlike their former houses, which were seasonally flooded due to the proximity of communities to the banks of the Benin River or Escravos River, the flats are built on raised concrete platform to prevent them from being flooded.
Dorsu, who is from Ajamita community, said many Itsekiris were literarily cocooned in Warri and never visited the communities for several years because of the destruction of their houses during the Niger Delta crisis. But they have since returned homes and have established various businesses from the loans they got from the IRDC and other empowerment initiatives by the IRDC and Chevron.
“The suffering from lack of accommodation in our communities has reduced courtesy of the housing project program by the IRDC. We have never seen such a thing before. But we need more projects,” Dorsu added.
Dorsu’s family is one of the hundreds of families that have benefitted from projects provided by Regional Development Committees (RDCs), a community developmental organisation, formed by clusters of communities who have signed GMoU with the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, to self-manage their socio-economic development.
The RDCs are Itsekiri, Kula, Jisike, Dodo River, Egbema Gbaramatu, Ilaje, Idama and KEFFES. They represent communities close to Chevron’s operations in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo and Ondo states.
The projects, which cost several millions of Naira were designed and executed by community contractors in line with the NNPC/Chevron JV’s Local Community Contracting (LCC) policy and Nigerian Content Development programme. The NNPC/Chevron JV is the sole sponsor of the RDCs.
Benefits of GMoU
From 2005 when the first GMoU was signed to 2012, the NNPC/Chevron JV has funded the RDCs close to N10 billion. The money was used by the RDCs to execute infrastructure and non infrastructure projects that were identified in a series of Sustainable Livelihoods Assessments (SLAs) conducted by them.
Some of the projects provided by the RDCs are skills acquisition and empowerment initiatives, block of flats, town halls, cottage hospitals, jetties and concrete bridges, scholarship and micro credit programmes, guest houses, boats for transport, water facilities and skills acquisition training centre. Others are provision of books, science laboratory and furnished classroom blocks. The projects, as noted recently by some of the beneficiaries, have brought remarkable improvement in the socio-economic lives of people living in communities close to Chevron’ operations in Nigeria.
Since the GMoU community development concept was introduced by NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, the model has become a buzz word of sorts among organisations in reference to their community development strategy.
Speaking on the GMoU, Chevron’s General Manager, Policy, Government & Public Affairs, Mr. Deji Haastrup said: “Apart from delivering on its core objective of oil and gas production, Chevron, fully supported by its Joint Venture partner, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – is an industry leader resolutely committed to using the GMoU to build partnerships. This will add significant value to the communities where the company operates, in line with the vision of being the energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.”
Haastrup explained that Chevron’s community engagement programmes are strategic investment in the future of communities and the company’s business in Nigeria, as is the case in other operations. “Our ability to build mutually beneficial long term relationships is enhanced by investments that simultaneously provide lasting community benefits and direct business value. This approach involves working cooperatively with governments, communities, non-governmental organisations and aid agencies to assess and understand socio-economic conditions.”
According to Haastrup, Chevron’s three primary focus areas for community investments are: Improving access to health care needs; enabling education and training opportunities and promoting sustainable livelihoods.
“Each element helps contribute to socio-economic progress. Improving the quality of life in communities where we operate requires having access to healthcare, food, water, housing, sanitation and other basic needs and Chevron leverages its funding, organisational capability, technology and personnel to support community,” he emphasized.
Information from Vanguard was used in this report.