SPDC’s GMoU with their host communities in Bayelsa State is encountering some challenges with some of the host communities dissatisfied with it. An agreement was reached by Shell in the UK, one of their shareholders groups in the UK, namely, the ECCR, SACA, Cordaid of The Netherlands and SDN, that SACA, SDN and SPDC would collaboratively evaluate the GMoU. They concluded in their meeting in London on September 18, 2013, that “insights and results from the project are expected help ECCR and its Shell shareholder members evaluate whether Shell’s commitment of $40 billion to the GMoU process over the next five years is likely to be an effective use of shareholder funds.”
As agreed at the meeting, Shell’s International Relations Manager, Dr. Alice Ajeh, worked hard with SACA and other major stakeholders here in Nigeria to get the ball rolling, making significant progress including successful follow-up meetings and action plans in Port Harcourt.
However the evaluation encountered challenges that made it not to run as originally planned: SDN became too busy with other things and SPDC became unwilling to participate or cooperate with the process, obviously due to frequent changes in staff roles and responsibilities within the company. Each new manager has a different way of doing things and relating with stakeholders.
SACA has therefore embarked on the evaluation alone, with only the communities, the government and other stakeholders. In this instance of the evaluation – the evaluation of the Gbarain-Ekpetiama Cluster’s GMoU, SACA’s main methodology, in addition to traditional research methods, is based on the third leg of the tripod framework of Protect, Respect and Remedy (PRR) developed by Prof. John Ruggie of the UN which formed the basis of the UN Guiding Principles for Business, Security and Human Rights.
Then, the imports of the projects listed in the successes of the GMoU in effectively addressing the people’s identified needs were analysed project by project in the light of Prof. Ruggie’s 8 effectiveness criteria of legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equitability, transparency, rights compatibility, being a source of learning and being based on dialogue and engagement. Most projects’ results are at variance with the people’s needs.
The evaluators’ (SACA) recommendations include but not limited to: at least 1 more signatory to the GMoU account to countersign cheques for projects implementation, and the new signatory to be a person of proven integrity, e.g., a notary public based in Yenagoa. Others include the engagement of external post-project evaluators and auditors; to rephrase the FTO clause in the GMoU document; to recognize and empower landowners to secure SPDC’s assets in their lands and minimize pipeline vandalism; to clarify the role of NAPIMS and the Joint Venture in the GMoU and to organize annual stakeholders gathering for greater oversight.
As part of its constant efforts to maintain peace and right relations between the oil companies in this area, especially as it relates to transparency in the delivery of promises of Corporate Social Responsibility, SACA has been organising stakeholders gatherings every year. These gatherings are platforms for dialogue, openness and mutual understanding. It brings together the operators, the regulators (government regulatory agencies including the Federal and State Ministries of Environment, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency – NOSDRA), the Cluster Development Board who implement the GMoU, community leaders and representatives of all groups in each community, other civil society organisations in the Niger Delta, the law enforcement agencies including the NSCDC and the media. It offers the communities opportunities to express their grievances in mature and respectful ways and the companies the opportunities to hear directly from the communities and clear some misconceptions. In the stakeholders gathering for this Cluster the previous year, the question of transparency was paramount.