From Uche Usim, Onne, Rivers State
Intels Nigeria Limited, one of the operators of the Onne Free Trade Zone in Rivers State, says it has spent over N3 billion to develop about 28 communities within the Niger-Delta region where it operates.
Speaking Thursday during a media tour of its facilities, the Head of Administration of Intels, Chibuisi Onyebueke, said the over N3 billion annual budget was part of the establishment’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
According to him, the company offers secondary and university scholarships to members of its host communities, offers free primary healthcare programmes, empowers men and women in various vocational skills.
“We have 28 host communities in states. Bayelsa is one of them. We’ve 20 Ijaw communities and seven Itsekiri communities in Delta State. What we’ve done is to impact the people. Onne community is our closest. We’ve thought over 300 women how to sow overall, trousers, T-shirts and shirts”, he said.
Onyebueke also revealed that the Onne Free Trade Zone houses about 150 different companies from 43 nations.
“It’s an 8.1 billion dollar investment. It houses over 150 different companies. We’ve over 50,000 workers here and each Nigerian state including Abuja has her workers here”, he said.
He further revealed that an airstrip will be built at the free trade zone to facilitate the operations of oil and gas workers.
“We already have our helipad. The airstrip will complement that. The oil and gas companies are itching for it to facilitate their operations. Port Harcourt airport to Onne is quite a distance coupled with traffic and all that. So, we’ve acquired that land and we’re about clearing and fencing”, he added.
On the challenges facing Intels, Onyebueke said:
“Do you know we run on generator 24 hours? We’re not connected to the national grid despite repeated assurances from various government agencies we’ve met on the power issue. If that power issue is solved, our operational cost is halved. We consume 100,000 litres of diesel a day. This is the single largest and fastest growing free zone in the world. People say this place is secured but security doesn’t come cheap at all. The US Coastguards were here and the come yearly re-certify us. We operate at best international standards”.
Also speaking at the tour, the Head of Community Relations, David Alagoa said Intels’ robust CSR programmes are aimed at boosted the socio-economic fortunes of the host communities.
“But we deal with recognised structures. We deal with community chiefs and youths who have government backing. Decisions are mutually taken between us and them. We don’t impose projects on them. We often go back and forth but at the end, we achieve what is mutually accepted. We agree on budget, on time lag etc.
“When you train one man or woman and person is gainfully employed, the person also touches the lives of those who depend on him or her. So, the benefits go beyond go beyond the beneficiary.
“We also constructed roads and drainage systems for some communities. Some got a mini-stadium. The roads are made of concrete road and much expensive than asphalt. We did a 10km road and 20km drainage. It costs billions of naira”, We’ve been developing robust CSR since 15 years. When we began, it was limited in scope. Now, we’ve grown and our budget for projects has also ballooned.
“Before we set up the women empowerment centre where our operation clothes are made, we hitherto imported them and spent so much on that. Now women who are illiterate can handle such. We chose them from the host communities and screened them.