Friday, June 5, 2020
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The impact of the global pandemic that is COVID-19 on the world economy and human lives is so far reaching. It will be impractical to expect governments alone to fix.  From the outset, private sector companies and individuals globally have seen it as civic duty to help in the containment of the virus, and the Nigerian private sector has been no different. With the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria growing, it has been discovered that over the past few weeks, private sector companies in the FMCG, Financial Services and FINTECH sectors are stepping up to the mantle, to support the government’s efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus, and also as a show of good corporate citizenship.

The oil and gas sector, the largest contributor to the economy has also risen to the occasion in an initiative spearheaded by the NNPC.  In a television interview, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, said “The coronavirus pandemic is a global issue; as a country we are not insulated from it as already seen by the growing number of people affected by the virus.  The first thing that needs to be resolved is the health of our country men, this is a difficult time for the country, and no Government on its own can resolve all the issues the pandemic has thrown at us.  This industry is one that clearly benefits from the country, we contribute to the growth and development of the country and so we must come together to support the country.” 

The GMD spoke of the first leg of the intervention which saw upstream players commit N11.4bn ($30million) to be collected in kind and handed over to the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to aid both the Federal and State Governments in their fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus.  According to the NNPC boss, 33 upstream companies made the contributions including indigenous companies such as Oando, Aiteo, Seplat, Shoreline, AMNI International Petroleum, Eroton Exploration and Production as well as International Oil Companies like Eni, Total, Shell and Chevron.  He explained further that the contributions from sector players had grown to N21bn and continues to grow as a result of downstream and service players joining the partnership.

These contributions will support three thematic areas; the provision of medical consumables such as face masks and testing kits among others, the deployment of logistics and in-patient support systems such as ventilators, and the delivery of temporary isolation medical centres and permanent medical infrastructure for use during this period and after the pandemic. 

The GMD indicated that 60% of the resources will go towards the third thematic area – the delivery of permanent medical infrastructure across the country, seen as a long-term intervention to upgrade the country’s healthcare facilities but with immediate visibility and impact. 

Scaling solutions rapidly to address what could potentially become a national crisis requires significant investment, innovation and collaboration. In this regard the individual indigenous companies have gone one step further to deploy additional initiatives to support the containment of the coronavirus; some with Nigeria’s peculiarities in mind. 

The sector has made commendable efforts in the area of medical relief. Seplat Petroleum and Waltersmith, have donated some medical supplies and equipment to the Edo State Government, including masks, temperature guns, motorised sprayers and other personal protective equipment. OVH Energy (former Oando Marketing) and Aiteo have also made contributions to the government’s efforts by way of the donation of ambulances whilst MRS donated test kits, medical overalls and ambulances.  Other companies like Matrix Energy made financial contributions towards the procurement of necessary medical equipment.

Hinged on their belief that no one should be left behind or uninformed about the virus and measures to curtail its spread, Oando recently launched a new programme that enables its employees, also known as the Humans of Oando as well as their families and friends, to support awareness on the pandemic and preventive measures to be adopted by the general public.

To this end, they have recorded and disseminated short video messages of themselves in different Nigerian languages to ensure every Nigerian is educated in a language they can easily understand. With mobile phone penetration in Nigeria over 85%, the company is actively pushing the videos on mobile platforms to ensure it reaches its intended audience of the masses.  Oando has also spread a message of kindness via a video, encouraging people to look into their communities and their direct sphere of influence, and show kindness to those who need it the most, reinforcing their belief that continued small contributions will in the long term create huge impact. 

It is encouraging to see the indigenous oil and gas companies playing such an integral role in all facets of containing the spread of the viruses, from education to actual treatment reinforcing a global phenomenon of collaboration to solve the issues that the pandemic has unexpectedly thrown at all of us. In the television interview with the NNPC GMD, interviewer Nancy Illoh-Nnaji made reference to the amount of local oil companies being mentioned in the list of donors, being a testament to the strength of local capacity in the sector.

This was resounded by the GMD when he spoke to the fact that today indigenous companies make significant part of our production contributions, are growing steadily, most evident over the last 10 years via the purchase of divested assets from the IOCs and that the future of the oil and gas sector is in these indigenous companies. 

The GMD’s interview parting remarks stated thus: “This is the hallmark of good corporate citizenship which the oil and gas industry is known for. We remain accountable to Nigerians and will continue to provide details of what has been collected, how it is being distributed and where it has been delivered to.”

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