4 February 2009

Nigeria: That Bill On Corporate Social Responsibility

Abuja — A new "revolutionary" bill is on the way. One senator has come up with a bill that will compel every company in Nigeria to devote 3.5 per cent of its gross profit to what he terms "corporate social responsibility".

In other words, after carrying out their business and paying all the taxes that are required of them, companies will also be required by law to build roads, provide electricity, build secondary schools and execute all other such activities under a legally binding scheme.

If a company's business is manufacturing tooth-paste, the role of government should be to help ensure that such a company does this in a manner that is profitable to both the company and the society. This way the toothpaste manufacturing company remains in business while, at the same time, providing jobs to Nigerians and paying taxes including and other levies to the government. This is the fundamental duty every business owes society. Should the company choose to go beyond this, as majority of companies already do, anyway, by say providing oranges to the nearby primary school every afternoon then that act of corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be left to the discretion of the company.

No where in the world are acts of kindness or goodwill legislated. Let our senators leave CSR to companies and focus attention on providing the right climate for businesses to blossom in Nigeria.

Just in case our senators do not realize this, in the twilight of a phenomenal oil boom during which a barrel of crude oil sold for an incredible excess of $100, Nigeria still does not have regular electricity. You either buy water or dig your own bore hole. Our road infrastructure is poor and badly maintained and our rail infrastructure is practically non existent. These are some of the biggest threats to social and economic development and ought to be the focus of our National Assembly.

Osebumere Odia, Wemabod Estate, Ikeja

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