Despite passing through one of its most challenging moment with various capacities highly constrained, Nigeria’s oil and gas industry recently opened a new chapter in corporate social responsibility spending when International Oil Companies and local upstream and midstream operators mobilised a total of N21billion to boost Federal Government’s effort at infrastructural development to curb the spread of novel coronavirus pandemic. The contributions which came in a first tranche of N11billion intervention fund from the NNPC and companies under the umbrella of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) as well as the Independent producers Group (IPPG), later swelled with an additional N10 billion from other stakeholders to raise the bar to a total to N21 and still growing.
The death toll from the disease is in thousands, and still counting in Italy, the United States of America, the United Kingdom (UK), France and Spain; although it has begun to ebb in China the epicenter of the outbreak, other countries are not spared from the human gloom occasioned by the pestilence, with Nigeria, South Africa, among other African countries, recording deaths of their beloved citizens.
The intervention seen as a Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) initiative by many is coming at a time most economies are at their lowest ebb, especially for most oil producing nations currently battling low oil price regime at less than $30 per barrel.
Among the worst experiences of the oil industry at this period of coronavirus pandemic is the cancellation of several upstream investments, reduction in capital budget for medium to long term projects.
For many of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the country, the pandemic has led to a near zero oil production as they take steps to protect their workforce and other critical stakeholders from exposure to the dreaded virus.
Many of the IOCs and other indigenous operators producing from land, deep, shallow and offshore terrains have shut down their oil rigs for fear of widespread attack of the virus, while those managing to produce have scaled down operations to the barest minimum.
But in the face of this daunting challenge, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) took the bull by the horn in leading other industry stakeholders including the IOCs, indigenous oil and gas producers and its counterparts in the downstream sector to raise a N21 billion support to fight coronavirus.
Observers believe the industry’s intervention will no doubt improve the healthcare across the country as more dilapidated hospitals across the would be rehabilitated while additional equipment will be procured to serve Nigerians during and after COVID-19
Extending the olive branch
NNPC and its Joint Venture (JV) partners in the oil and gas sector on March 27, 2020, announced a donation of $30million (N11bn) to help combat the coronavirus pandemic and itsimpact on the Nigerian economy.
The NNPC’s Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, who announced the intervention fund on behalf of the oil firm and its partners, said it was in line with the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the dreaded virus in the country.
According to him, the intervention was aimed at supporting the country’s healthcare delivery facilities and would cover three major areas, as provision of medical consumables; deployment of logistics/in-patient support system and delivery of medical infrastructure “The three thematic support initiatives amount to a total of $30million (N11bn) and will be delivered in phases, starting today.
“To address the increasing demand of medical services, we are immediately providing medical consumables covering testing kits, medical protective suits and ambulances to the highly impacted areas across the federation.
Other industry players that partnered the NNPC to make the intervention are the Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Ltd, Oando Oil Limited, Oriental Energy Resources Ltd, Pilar Oil Limited, Platform Petroleum Limited, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc and Shoreline Natural Resources.
It also listed Suntrust Oil Company Nigeria Limited, Vertex Energy Limited, Waltersmith Petroleum Oil Limited and Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Limited, among others.
Seplat, Waltersmith go extra mile
Upstream oil exploration and production companies, Seplat Petroleum and Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited apart from the joint industry donation of N11 billion went a step further by donating some medical supplies to the Imo State government to support its efforts in equipping medical staff with necessary protective gears needed to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.
The items donated included high quality protective gears, motorised and knapsack sprayers, hand sanitisers, facemasks, and hand gloves.
Presenting the donations at the Government House, Owerri, Mr. Emeka Onyeagba of Seplat and Mr Percy Oparaji of Waltersmith, stated that the sole purpose of their mission was to deliver the medical facilities to the government as part of their corporate social responsibility to their host state.
They noted that the government was less than three months in office, hence it needs every support it could garner from both public and private sectors to combat the scourge.
In appreciation, Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, thanked Seplat and Waltersmith for the gesture, noting that their kind donation would go a long way in assisting the state in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor, who admitted that prevention and control of the disease could not be done by government alone, urged other companies and good-spirited citizens to emulate the kind gestures of Seplat and Waltersmith in the fight against the dreaded disease.
Governor Uzodinma said: “I want to thank you on behalf of the good people of Imo State for your show of solidarity this afternoon and also to assure you that this will go a long way to address the situation of the virus. The people of Imo are indeed challenged not only because of the paucity of funds in our state, but also the task of what it requires to address this situation is also very huge.
“We also want to invite through this medium our brothers and sisters to understand that government alone cannot address this situation. I urge them to join people like you to make donations and contributions. Ours is to ensure that these things will get to the targets so that at the end of the day, we would have created a win-win situation for all the people.”
The Governor assured that the items would be put to good use, noting that Imo State, as much as he knows is still recording zero number of infected or confirmed cases.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Health, Dr (Mrs.) Damaris Osunkwo, commended the oil companies for their donations and prompt response to partner with government in the fight against the global COVID -19 health crisis, adding that the government is on top of the situation as Uzodinma is leaving no stone unturned to keep the state safe from the pandemic.
Addressing the media, the Chairman of the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Committee in Imo, Prof Maurice Iwu, stated that the state was doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus part of which was vertical integration with the Federal Government agencies, including the Nigeria Centre
Building sustainable structure
NNPC as part of its contribution to build a robust healthcare for Nigeria, also expressed its readiness to embark on the construction of, at least, two hospitals and a world class diagnostics center in each of the geopolitical zones in the Country, in addition to the 250 temporary bed facilities that it offers to support government’s efforts in the fight against coronavirus pandemic.
Kyari stated that the hospitals and the world class diagnostics centers would be an addition to the regular Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the Upstream and Downstream companies, as well as service providers operating in the Oil and Gas Industry.
“Government cannot do this alone. Health systems, the world over, are getting overwhelmed. Countries with stronger health systems are struggling to contain the pandemic. In light of this, the Oil and Gas Industry is collaborating to strengthen Nigeria’s response to the pandemic.
“It is obvious that to fight this menace, we all have to collaborate to ensure that Nigeria defeats this virus,” Kyari appealed.
He disclosed that all commitments from the Industry would be collected in kind and handed over to the Presidential Taskforce for the Control of coronavirus (Covid-19), stressing that the Petroleum Industry would use its clear and transparent governance framework, collection and distribution processes already emplaced in respective companies to support the country’s healthcare infrastructure in this troubling times.