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‘Shell Nigeria maintains social responsibility with its communities’


SHELLThe importance of sustainable development (otherwise called Corporate Social Responsibility) to companies cannot be overemphasized as it is key to the survival and continued profitability of companies. According to a 2013 report, companies are expected to be an active participant – if not a driving force – in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues. Corporations that disregard this consumer-demanded role risk more than their reputation – nine-in-10 global citizens say they would boycott if they learned of irresponsible behaviour. Ventures Africa spoke with Dr Uwem Ite, Team lead, Information, Education and Capacity Building of Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) on the company’s efforts in undertaking sustainable projects in communities where it operates in Nigeria. Dr. Ite spoke about the effort of SPDC, the pioneer and leader of the petroleum industry in Nigeria, in ensuring spillage issues are addressed and there is sustainable development in communities where the company operates, as it joins other top companies in the world that take sustainable development as an important aspect of their businesses. Ventures Africa (VA): Please, introduce yourself. Dr. Ite: I am Dr Uwem Ite, Team lead, Information, Education and Capacity Building of Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC). VA: Can you enlighten us on the activities of SPDC in ensuring sustainable development in its area of operation? Dr. Ite: Shell is committed to sustainable development in fact we don’t call it CSR, we know people call it CSR, we call it sustainable development. Why do we do that? Because sustainable development has three legs: social, economic and environmental. If you call it CSR, that means you are looking at one leg which is only social. It is easy to ignore the other legs which you shouldn’t. If you do not have social, economic and environmental standing firmly then your business is not sustainable. So we call it sustainable development. Our key priority areas when its comes to our contribution to communities is in four main words. First, it is in community health, for example we support twenty seven health centres across the Niger Delta, which means that we build them, we equip them, we provide the training for the staffs basically make them functional. When you go there you see the facilities people use it. Still within the health aspect, we do what we call health in motion – a mobile hospital: we take the hospital to the communities, so we could drive to a remote community, stay there for a week with a team of doctors, nurses and all kind of medical personnel and provide free health care to those communities, free of charge. The second platform is education. Education is a big portfolio, for example scholarship we do university scholarships for about 850 students per year across the country, including the Niger Delta. We do secondary school scholarship for about 1,700 students across the Niger Delta a year. We have another 10 special postgraduate scholarship scheme overseas. We have another scheme where we pay premium fees in private secondary school for sixty students a year. As I speak there are two hundred and forty students going to three top private schools in Port Harcourt. These are children who ordinary will not have access to those schools, and the process of selection is very rigorous because we go to what we can call hard to reach communities; communities whereby even children have never known how to eat with fork and knife. When we select them, we give them one month orientation, these are the same children that will sit with children of permanent secretaries, who are in those private schools. You can imagine somebody who have never seen electricity or never used it or really enjoyed it on 24-hour basis and you give that kind of person the opportunity and I can tell you that some of them are doing very well. The third aspect is what we call enterprise development. Here, we are trying to empower youth, young people between the ages of 18-35 and women to establish and run their own businesses profitably. How do we do that? We have a special purpose vehicle called live wire. Live wire is a global shell program whereby the emphasis is on train young people on how to run, manage and own their own business. As part of the training when you write a business plan that is assessed as being bankable, we give you a start up grant to start to start the business and run it. We don’t ask for the money back, because the idea is that its must be sustainable to even employ more than one person, so it’s not just about yourself. It’s about you not depending on Shell for employment not depending on the government for employment but running your own business which most of them we found out it’s their passion. The final leg is what we call community-led development, whereby we sign agreement with groups of communities for a five-year period based on what volume of production in their different groups and we say for this five year period we are going to give you ‘x’ amount of money. We agree upfront how much they are getting and they decide what development they want to do base on the money they get. So we don’t tell them build a school or build a hospital but they must have a plan; which means indirectly they must have a governance system, which obviously we are part of drawing it up to say this is how the money will be spent, these are the kind of project they want so we provide the money and technical support using NGOs. If we give you 20 million we give you an NGO who is going to help you think about development, challenge you and tell you the approach. So we sit at the back we don’t tell them that the money that we gave them must be used to build school or hospital… no they decide you find out those group of community maybe five, ten, fifteen but they have to decide among themselves where will the school be built, where will the hospital be built out of these ten communities so its not a case of saying it must be built here, so they must be internal consensus as to why and where the school should be built. We have an index that we use, that index looks at that group to say this particular group they are transparent in what they do, they are inclusive, they include women or we think that by having that kind of structure, the business climate has improve or we have looked at the different project they have embarked upon, oh they is evidence of sustainability. Those are the four platforms which we use to contribute to sustainable development. VA: What is your response to the complaints tendered by local communities about oil companies not doing enough? Dr. Ite: If I may use that word complaining, making comment that they are not really part of it you have to step back and begin to think whose responsibilities is it to develop the Niger Delta. Whose responsibilities is it to provide school or road? You have to look at the Nigeria constitution, what does it say? Government has responsibility for development, and so the role of any private organization is to supplement, complement it. It’s not the primary role of businesses to deliver development to communities, it is to supplement, so they also have to remember. Look at the poverty level the state of development, many communities see Shell or other oil companies as the government because those are the people they see, they don’t see even their local government chairman. They don’t see members representing their house of assembly or indeed house of representatives or even senate. Those guys are unreachable. As an oil company, when you have done these things, expectation rises, people want more, people who never saw a road and you went to build one, they will say build more. [eap_ad_2] We had cases whereby even governors when we are going to commission a project we invite them to come they finish thanking you for building the road, they say you should do more they turn around and say build more. We had cases whereby even project that we did, before you know it they go and remove the sign post and put it as if Shell never did it. Because we have not overtly put a big bill board to say this road was built by… If you look at most road that government built, you see NDDC, you see big sign post. You may not see that in many Shell projects. Maybe because we keep quiet, people think we have not done much. And also the issue of expectation, the community have become to expect more but they forget that Shell is not a developing organization, it is just like every other business like your corner shop. But because it’s an extractive industry and the notion of the fact that they have taken resources from them that the need to pay back, that’s part of the problem. The expectation some of them are unrealistic. Now the issues of conniving with local chiefs and then depriving communities from their resource. You also have to look at the fact that in any community where they are not at peace with themselves, there is bound to be divisions and people are bound to make statements or connotations of issues that are not correct. Why am I saying that? We work with communities which are clearly defined and indeed recognized by government but you all know that they will always be mischief makers. If you start recognizing every splinter group, you are going to be in a problem. We would rather work with the communities based on the recognition given to them by the government, so if the government has not recognized you as a community, then unfortunately we cannot work with you. So we do have issues like that, whereby they are splinters group who think they are communities and they are entitled to certain things that we should give them and when you do not, it becomes a problem. VA: What is Shell doing to educate oil-producing communities on the need to be prepared and equipped for opportunities in oil companies? Dr. Ite: Very good point. Someone said General Electric (GE) was coming to Cross River state and then “we don’t have qualified engineers”: it’s not GE’s fault. GE is coming; if you are not prepared you cannot blame anybody. For example, Shell, when we started employing young engineers right from the university, we found out that they were not the kind of people that you employ today and tomorrow you send to the field to go and find oil, so we ran a special program called Shell Intensive Training Program (SITP), whereby you just got out of the university; like a two-year kind of bridging the gap program because most of the things they teach you in the universities when you come is very abstract, it’s not industry specific. So we actually spend more money giving this people some kind of top-up so they can work in Shell. Yes, there is need for capacity building, but not something you invest too much, you want to have immediate return in your investment, so to speak, but when it get to a point whereby that return may not be forthcoming then something is wrong somewhere. VA: Pipeline vandalisation has been one of the greatest drawbacks. Do you think this challenge will be greatly curbed if communities are tasked with securing pipeline for a fee? Dr. Ite: We have pipeline surveillance system and it involves the communities. We believe it works in most cases, but at the same time some of them can be bought over. You are given a pipeline to secure and you see big guys come am say I am going to give you N3 million if you turn your eyes and let me just cut this place. They do and give excuses like, I went to church and by the time I came back somebody has cut this pipe. We had cases whereby even the people or the security forces we use are part of the process. They turn a blind eye. I have heard stories whereby they because nobody is supposed to be watching the pipeline at the middle of the night, make sure you come by 12am, and by 4am you clear out. You cut the pipeline and take everything you need between 12 and 4 but in our control room, we will know because when the pressure drop from the pipe it will show on the reading. VA: Given Shell’s social investments in local communities, does the company receive tax breaks? Dr. Ite: What we do in the communities is purely our own voluntarily contribution to sustainable development, so we are not doing it with the hope of getting tax breaks. We see it as a contribution because if the community has good roads after all, even some of our staffs, stakeholders come from those communities, they will use the good road. The road will open up the market, women will do trading; so, it’s not about the tax break, it’s about what we feel we want to contribute to sustainability development. (VENTURES AFRICA)[eap_ad_3]

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