By Adebisi Odukoya
Oil and Gas companies over the years have been accused of either evading taxes or shortchanging the government in paying the accurate taxes and levies. Though most of these accusations are not backed by empirical evidence indicting these companies, their case is not helped by the fact that the revenue from the oil and gas industry has not been able to meet the numerous needs of Nigeria as a country.
Quite unfortunately, the oil and gas companies now appear to be the scapegoats responsible for the nation’s economic woes. This perception has gradually gained currency and acceptance across the populace. But a critical look at the books of some of these companies, especially the indigenous operators, show the opposite has been the case.
Indigenous oil and gas
For example, Oriental Energy Resources, one of the most successful indigenous oil and gas companies, has over the years, not only shown commitment to its statutory obligations with strict compliance to government regulations, payment of taxes and levies, but has actively implemented sustainable initiatives in its host communities and area of operation.
It is interesting to note that from its Ebok asset, Oriental Energy has so far paid well over US$500 million in royalties, US$125 million in transaction taxes, US21 million to NDDC in compliance with the statutory provisions of the enabling law establishing NDDC and US15.6 million directly to capacity building and developing the host communities in the Niger Delta.
The foregoing is commendable and must be encouraged. The level of development of any nation depends on the amount of revenue it generates for public expenditure, the provision of infrastructure and betterment of the citizenry. Any keen observer will see that companies like Oriental Energy are committed to development and growth of the Nigerian economy.
Even in the area of social investments, which by itself is voluntary, one cannot over emphasize the company’s dedication to social inclusion. According to the company, its approach is to grow alongside its communities in a socially responsible manner while operating in an environment that fosters value creation and sustainable development.
Last year Oriental Energy launched a N700 million modern residential estate of 100 units in Enwang, headquarters of Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state. The estate named Oriental Village Mbo when completed will have a solar-powered electrification system, a school, clinic, a shopping centre and will be given freely to beneficiaries. The project is being built and funded exclusively by Oriental Energy Resources Limited and the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation as a legacy project for Oriental Energy’s host communities.
The company, since commencement of operation, has also created an annual scholarship fund which has seen over 470 scholarships awarded at post primary and tertiary levels to recipients in Akwa Ibom. They have also trained over 270 youth at seven Skill Acquisition Centres in Uyo, Oron, Eket and Ewang in Akwa Ibom state, all of whom received starter packs and start-up funds for their businesses.
In 2012, Oriental intervened and supported the University of Uyo to secure full re-accreditation of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering from the Nigeran Universities Commission (and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering Practice in Nigeria, COREN). The company spent over N500 Million for the: renovation and equipping of Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering Department; update and stocking of the Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering Departmental Libraries, respectively; payment for a 5-year contract for the supply of contemporary academic journals and textbooks for the Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Departmental libraries, respectively; payment for a 5-year contract for the supply of consumables in the Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering laboratories, respectively; supply of 60KVA generator to power the Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering Department ; payment for 5-year maintenance contract for the generator.
As part of its empowerment programme, over 500 women have been trained on business and financial literacy and while seed funds have been given to 200 community women to start up small scale businesses.
Free medical outreaches
It doesn’t end there. Oriental Energy Resources continues to carry out periodic free medical outreaches with Doctors, Nurses and medical personnel to its host communities with over 20,000 persons have benefitted cumulatively. It has also empowered the local fishermen by providing five modern fishing boats, nets and other equipment to enhance their productivity and economic growth.
The company also made a $5million donation to the Special Victims Support Fund to help the rebuilding of states ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.
In an era where both stakeholders and the public are now more aware, discerning and only respect companies that are good corporate citizens, it is heartwarming to see one of the leading indigenous oil and gas companies demonstrate steadfast commitment to ethical, sustainable development, and social values.
Put bluntly, companies like Oriental Energy Resources should be encouraged and supported to do more.
Adebisi Odukoya is a Public Affairs Commentator based in Abuja.