Okomu oil redefines CSR as Hefer is listed among top 25 CEO’s in Nigeria
Economic historians will assert that in times of economic turbulence and uncertainty, most organizations lay off workers, scale down many aspects of their operations and minimize any good will there may have been. However, this appears to not be the case with Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc with the company seemingly expanding its goodwill in these times of uncertainty and recession to the tune of more than N124 million in 2016.
A fortnight ago an analysis of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects which covered 25 communities in three local government areas in Edo State showed that for an Agricultural company to look after twenty five communities is no mean feat! In a riverine community called Inikorogha for instance, the company built a block of class rooms, donated chairs and desks to the school and built a staff quarter for the teachers. While we acknowledge that many other companies may have built blocks of class rooms and donated chairs to schools, we cannot recall any instance where staff quarters for secondary school teachers were built, either by Government or private companies. Other projects completed by the company in the various communities in 2016 alone included the following, namely a bore hole project and cassava grinding machine at a community called Asamara; a research centre at the Okomu National Park; a bore hole at okomu Ijaw village and bore holes at both Obagie and Udo communities.
With these initiatives, the Okomu Oil Palm Company is indeed a development partner and an asset to the Edo State Government as she has re-defined the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. What is most interesting about Okomu’s CSR programme is that it is ongoing, not a once off, for all her neighbouring communities. Our investigation revealed that, every year, all the communities send in their wish list (projects they desire) and from this list, the company selects the projects to be executed for each community, based upon the company’s financial ability to do the projects.
Furthermore, the company awards the contract for the project to contractor/s from the community where the project/s is/are to be sited. In this way, the company CSR programme does not only bring development to communities, but also encourages and empowers indigenous contractors from her neighbouring communities.
Taking the concept of CSR beyond the traditional domain of communities, Okomu oil also renovated the residential quarters of the District Police Office at Iguobazuwa and refurbished their hilux vehicle and donated office equipment and furniture to the radio control room at the Police central command in Benin-city.
So what is the company’s rationale behind these unprecedented gestures of goodwill? Well, in a brief interview with the press after he had commissioned some of the projects, the Managing Director of the company Dr Graham Hefer said the company’s intentions go beyond merely supporting the neighbouring communities but was also aimed at helping individuals in these communities to become self-sufficient. This is the rationale behind the skills acquisition training and yearly bursary awards also presented to selected indigenes in all the company’s neighbouring communities as well.
It is indeed a very happy event when a company can not only support communities and Government institutions through their CSR programmes, but also then has sufficient returns left over to also reward her shareholders by declaring a net profit of N4.9 billion and dividend in a year where recession and foreclosure are the current watchwords on the lips of most companies in the Country. Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, an agrarian company, continues to exceed all expectations by being one of the few companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange to actually give investors a positive return on their investment in 2016. No wonder the organizers of the Business Day award nominated the Managing Director of Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, Dr Graham Hefer, as one of the Top 25 CEO’s in Nigeria.