The Only Government We See: Building Company/Community Dialogue in Nigeria

Lessons Learned from Chevron Nigeria Limited’s GMOU Process

This case study seeks to draw lessons from a large-scale and ongoing community engagement process involving Chevron Nigeria Ltd. (CNL) and hundreds of communities impacted by its onshore operations in the Niger Delta. In the wake of a violent inter-ethnic crisis in 2003, CNL — the third largest oil producer in Nigeria — dramatically reshaped its community engagement strategy. The new process is known as the ‘GMOU’ model, named for the formal agreements called General Memoranda of Understanding signed between the company and clusters of communities impacted by the company’s onshore operations and government.

In one of the most challenging contexts in the world — where relationships between communities and companies have long been characterized by substantial mistrust and antagonism — the GMOU model is succeeding where other approaches have fallen short. While still far from perfect, the GMOU has, at its core, helped to transform relationships between the company and surrounding stakeholder communities, leading to better outcomes for residents and the company.

This case aims to increase shared understanding of the key elements in effective corporate-community engagement, particularly in complex environments such as Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The study draws on two Participatory Stakeholder Evaluations conducted in 2008 and 2011 that captured community, government and company views about the community engagement initiative, and benefit negotiations that followed. It also reflects the authors’ direct experience with the engagement process, as well as interviews with stakeholders conducted by Harvard University as part of a previous documentary project.