Suomi/Africa
Perspectives from Africa,
engagement from Finland
 
 

Understanding Africa

Representing Africans

--------------------------------------------

Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

CSR brings companies and government together in Nigerian schools

Companies are building different facilities in schools across the country, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). From Lagos to Lokoja, from Akokwa to Abuja, these companies are not relenting in complimenting efforts of government to support students. Lately, the Nestlé Nigeria Plc showed its readiness to commence educational gardens in some schools in Oyo State. The business’s creating shared value officer, Bola Audu, had said that the project was aimed at encouraging the passion of students in the company’s Health Kids Agenda. Also, Dufil Prima Foods Plc, had supported schools in Lagos with science laboratory equipment. Speaking, Dufil’s public relations manager Tope Ashiwaju confirmed that the donation of the equipment was one of Dufil’s CSR initiatives on education.

Nigerians are, however, of the view that companies in the country engage in the CSR projects owing to a lack of qualitative education in the country.

This is given as the basis of national problems in the recent times that range from corruption to insecurity, from official crime to street crime and so forth. These companies had perhaps seen that investing in the foundation of education in the country would necessitate how the behaviours of Nigerians would be in a long run.

Pundits like Professor Adewale Okunuga, who was an old student of The Apostolic Church Grammar School, Lagos, as guest lecturer at the school’s 50th anniversary lecture in January this year, believed that the putrefaction in the country’s education system could be traced to the 1980s and 1990s.

Therefore, many companies are occupying responsibilities in Nigerian schools through CSR, because the country's government has not improved upon the lapses in the country’s education.

Contrarily, a company like the UAC had earlier introduced the Company’s Secondary School Scholarship Scheme in 1948, aimed at fostering the children of both serving and retired employees of the Company. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, later introduced the annual national quiz competition for secondary schools across the country, about 12 years ago. The company did this in appreciating the role that education plays in the growth of any country. Some specialists in education, conversely, believed that companies in the country engage in education activities, because the federal government has not lived up to the expectation by the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which stated that member-countries should bestow at least, 26 per cent of their yearly disbursement to education, hence CSR has taken up the centre stage of education across the country.

These companies budget a handful of money to aid schools in their different host communities where the government is yet to improve on. Recently, the workforce of Ecobank in Nigeria joined their colleagues in 34 African countries during the maiden Ecobank Day and renovated and constructed classroom blocks in chosen schools across the country. The schools that benefitted were given as those in Anambra and Lagos States and, to a significant level, those in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The company was said to have donated educational materials and assisted in keeping the surroundings of these schools clean. According to the information provided by the bank’s parent company – Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) – some of the schools that benefitted from the CSR were the C&S Primary School, Ikorodu, Lagos State; Government Secondary School in Kubwa, Abuja, and Eastern Academy in Onitsha, Anambra State.

This gesture has shown that in recent times, CSR has taken over certain responsibilities where government has shown lackadaisical approach. Against this backdrop, a study reportedly carried out by Thistle Praxis, a consultancy outfit, clamoured, “The past few decades have seen a steady evolution of the practice of CSR from a form of corporate philanthropy to a more structured and all-encompassing model…there is reason to believe that there has been an increased interest in CSR, and that Nigerian corporate establishments have begun to take CSR seriously.” The authorities of Oremeji School had to smile again shortly after Airtel Nigeria commenced operation in the country and espoused it. The company delved into the school and rebuilt it from the scuff. Today, not only did the company accomplish the building and commissioned the multi-million naira ultra-modern blocks of classrooms, offices, library and restroom conveniences in 2011, it also shoe-laced it with a 10KVA generator.

Banking on technology for better schools

Union Bank is another company that has bent on equipping schools with information and communication technology (ICT). According to the information it provided on its education endowment programme, over 30 tertiary institutions in the country have gained from its educational project. In its benevolence through CSR, the bank had apparently donated a 16-seater Hiace Bus to Federal Polytechnic Nekede; it also sunk boreholes to provide water for the students and neighbours. In the form of substantial financial contributions, according to the bank, the Lagos Business School had at various times benefitted from the bank in donations of computer equipment, books, and learning materials valued at numerous millions of naira. The bank had also said that schools, colleges and institutions benefit from its periodical donations.

In 2005, the bank ostensibly re-moulded its ultra-modern, multi-purpose sports centre for those who want to acquire skills in these areas with the following facilities: Football, Hockey, Basketball, Table tennis, Billiards, Squash, Lawn tennis, Swimming and, a fully equipped gymnasium. Outside its premises, the bank had apparently renovated the Union Bank Tennis Court at Enugu Sports Club and, funded the building of a modern basketball marquee at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. Being the oldest bank in the country, FirstBank had also said that it has been in the improvement and progression of education nationwide since 1994 through its CSR projects. In the information it provided through the office of CSR Programme, the bank said that the Business Ethics in the University of Lagos gained the company’s first professorial chair endowment and, it had to introduce 15 professorial chairs in Nigerian Universities. It also had said that some of these chairs are today translated to strategic infrastructural projects in the universities.

Hear FirstBank: “To date, we have professorial chairs in 10 Nigerian Universities, with the total endowments worth over N400mn naira. The universities and endowed academic fields include: University of Lagos: Business Ethics: University of Benin: Computer Science. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka: Banking and Finance; University of Maiduguri: Water Resources Engineering; Bayero University, Kano: Pediatrics University of Agriculture; Makurdi: Agronomy; Federal University of Technology, Akure: Computer science; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi: Chemical Engineering; University of Uyo: Petroleum Engineering; Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto: Veterinary Medicine.”

The bank had it that it was doing these in order to offer educational amenities and generate a helpful environment for learning. It had achieved most of these things through partnership by providing  The Regent Secondary School with a 30-seater Coaster bus, Lagos State University with two Toyota Coaster buses, and renovated and equipped the chemistry, biology and physics laboratories of Onarubi Secondary Technical School, Abiriba; while laboratories in Egwuena Girls Secondary School and Enuda High School, both in Abiriba were advanced and furnished, under the patronage of the League of Abiriba Professionals Educational Trust Fund. The bank also had it that it supported Langbasa Primary School with portable drinking water through the Victoria Garden City (VGC) Rotary Club.

Some of its CSR projects over the years, according to the information it provided, include an ICT park at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, an auditorium at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan, a lecture theatre in the Federal University of Technology, Minna, another lecture theatre in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, an entrepreneurship centre in the University of Abuja, a faculty of dentistry building at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku/Ozalla, and a faculty of social science building in the University of Port Harcourt, amongst others.

Dangote Group, an indigenous conglomerate, in complimenting the Federal Government educational projects, reportedly had been improving education in the country through series of projects, which include but not limited to the donations of N200mn to Katsina State University (2011), Haemodialysis machine valued at N21mn to General Hospital, Lagos in conjunction with Rotary Club of Victoria Island (2010), N117.5mn for construction of squash complex at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) main campus (2009), construction of lawn tennis and golf facilities, a 70th Anniversary monument and the renovation of a gate house at the Ikoyi Club 1938 at a cost of N10.7mn (2009), of N30mn to Kwara Football Academy (2009), and of N25mn to Crescent University Mosque (2007).

In its annual product gifts for Sallah in 2009/2010, Centre for Islamic Development, Forum for Islamic Education and Welfare, Muslim Student's Society of Nigeria, LASUTH/LASUCOM, The Congress of Muslim Student's Society of Nigeria, UNILAG, were among the many organisations that benefited. The company said it had donated N250,000 to Muslim Students' Society of Nigeria, UNILAG chapter, to support a 2008 graduation ceremony (one-off), support of children in Quranic Schools in Kano for their general upkeep (school fees, feeding and other necessities). In 2010, Modupe Cole Memorial School, Akoka; Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted Children, Surulere were among the organisations that the multinational said had gained the Dangote Industries Limited donation of N250,000 cheque, each.

Serving society

Many big firms across the country identify with schools and education in the country. In May 2014, Unilever Nigeria plc, regarded as a major player in the Nigeria’s FMCG sector, apparently constructed a home economics laboratory for the Pacelli School of the Blind in Surulere, Lagos. Speaking at the event, Nsima Ogedi Alakwe, brand building director, Foods, Unilever Nigeria, purportedly had said, “The Pacelli School of the Blind demanded for a home economics laboratory to help teach the blind how to use the kitchen and grow their skills of cooking by themselves, and that is why we have decided to give them an enabling environment to help them achieve this purpose.”

This is not even as A.G. Leventis (Nigeria) Plc was said to be working closely with The University of Technology and Polytechnics in making sure that they are assisted with the assistance and provision of practical technical experience to their students. Many of the companies have introduced insurance as a course of study in some schools. In August 2013, Capital Express Assurance Limited was said to have donated and furnished documentations’ building for the Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ojo in Lagos, as part of its CSR, and vowed it’s aiming other schools proffering insurance as subject.

Investigation, however, revealed that it was Dr Austin Nweze, a lecturer at the School of Media and Communication (SMC) of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, who was credited to have observed, “It was Milton Friedman who said: ‘Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible.'”

Companies consider CSR, according to Nweze, because the scratch of the free society would be mayhem if corporate entities apply unconcern approach to acknowledge any social responsibility other than to amass as much wealth for their in-house and associated stakeholders as possible.

Nweze had further believed that CSR symbolises the scheme that business has an obligation to serve the society, as well as the financial interest of stockholders. In Nweze’s summation again: managers should be concerned about the socially responsible behaviour of their firm for three principal reasons: A company’s right to exist depends on its responsiveness to the external environment. Federal, state, and local governments can threaten increased regulation if a business does not evolve to meet changing social standards. A responsive corporate social policy may enhance a firm’s long-term viability. Underscoring the importance of these factors to the firm is the implicit belief that long-run profit maximization is inexorably linked to CSR.

If firms wish to maintain their positions of power in a pluralistic society they must accept their social responsibilities. Whatever activities organisations engage in, whilst considering the private costs and the private benefits to the organisations, it is incumbent on these bodies to also consider the social cost and benefit to the society. Firms are being expected by society to play a direct role in meeting community needs in arts and education, health and environment matters, social welfare and other economic needs in addition to their roles as employers and producers. However, some of the companies’ activities of CSR in schools have not gone unnoticed and unrewarded. Promasidor Nigeria Limited, maker of Cowbell milk, for example, won the Lagos State government Support Our Schools Initiative Corporate Social Responsibility Award for 2014, because of what a source said, was the company’s contribution to the Lagos State Government Ministry of Education Support Our Schools Initiative project for promoting teaching and learning.

 

Odimegwu Onwumere

Odimegwu Onwumere is a poet/writer based in Rivers State, in Nigeria.

Phone: +2348057778358 E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com

 

Photos courtesy of Nestlé Nigeria