Uyo — Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), operator of the Nigerian National Corporation (NNPC/MPN) joint venture is almost a household name in Akwa Ibom State.
An affiliate of ExxonMobil Corporation, it often sees itself as a good corporate citizen and has affirmed that its presence in Akwa Ibom State is for a long haul; to showcase the company's commitment to "working closely with the government in helping to improve quality of life."
Since it began operations more than three decades ago and with its base in Akwa Ibom State, the oil company has contributed to the economy of the state and that of the federal government through its numerous programmes and projects. In many ways, it has made investments in education, health, skill development and in forging a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Apart from the oil company's commitment to provide long term health, educational and economic benefits to its host communities, it recently performed the ground-breaking ceremony of three major community assistance projects in Akwa Ibom estimated to be worth N13 billion. The ceremony took place in Ikot Akata, Mkpat Enin local government area of the state.
Before this event, ExxonMobil subsidiaries have 'powered the economy of their neighbouring communities' and that of the country with investments supporting economic growth.
For instance, they have contributed more than N130 billion to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since 2001 and more than N230 million ground rent to Akwa Ibom State. It is also a major contributor to the state's economy with over N230 billion annually from the 13 per cent derivation principle for oil producing states.
The oil company has also sustained payment of subvention to health workers in the riverine Ibeno communities of the state for more than two decades and has been providing subvention to the maternal birth injury hospital in Itu, Akwa Ibom State for the same period; a development that helped many to have access to healthcare for the treatment of an ailment that the society stigmatises such patients.
"ExxonMobil is our backbone; the oil company gives us certain amount of money every month to support us," says Ngozi Ndubuau, the matron of the hospital which treats Visco-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) cases.
For the ground-breaking event, another example of the company's contribution to the state and its people, the projects include a technical skills acquisition facility at the Community Technical College, Mkpat Enin local government area, a trauma centre at the University of Uyo teaching hospital, and an engineering faculty complex at the University of Uyo.
Estimated to be completed over the next 18 months, it is believed that the investment is one of the largest community investment expenditure by any company in the country.
Significantly, while the trauma centre would take care of the health needs of the people, the engineering faculty would when completed provide a conductive learning environment for students, while the skills acquisition centre will serve as the hub for the training of youths in various vocations.
Because of the volume of the investment and coming at a time when it seems difficult for oil companies to commitment to developing their host communities, the ceremony turned out to be a meeting point for top government officials and key players in Nigeria's oil industry.
For instance, the Chairman/Managing Director of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited, Paul McGrath, and vice chairman of the oil company, Udom Inoyo, led the delegation to the ground-breaking ceremony.
Also, the Akwa Ibom State government was fully represented with Governor Udom Emmanuel, alongside the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo, and the secretary to the state government, Emmanuel Ekuwem, commissioners as well as royal fathers and the academia.
Speaking at the ceremony, McGrath noted with satisfaction the cordial relationship existing between the oil company and the state government restating the joint venture's commitment to long-term operations and mutually beneficial relationship with the state.
"We know we can continue to count on the support and cooperation of the government, our communities and other stakeholders as well as all collectively work towards making these projects a reality, and eventually enjoying the health, educational and economic benefits they are designed to provide to the good people of Akwa Ibom State," he said.
According to him, the company has enjoyed relatively peaceful relations with the people of Akwa Ibom state for the past three decades pointing out that the company has made substantial revenue and community investment contributions in the areas of health, education and empowerment projects.
He maintained that the company was committed to ensure even deeper social and economic benefits for the communities near its operations and across the state in the coming years. "We are proud of our contributions and look forward to working together with all stakeholders for greater achievements," he said.
Giving an insight into the choice of projects, a major stakeholder in the oil industry, the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) led by the group general manager, Roland Ewubare said it was an outcome of extensive engagement with key stakeholders in Akwa Ibom and it represents their conviction that direct benefits to citizens should be at the heart of every social investment decision by companies who operate the country's oil assets.
Represented by Hillary Akpan, head of Gas unit at NAPIMS, he said his organisation worked extensively with MPN in reviewing the investment proposals for the projects, adding that it only granted execution approval based on their conviction that they would provide significant socio-economic benefits to communities in Akwa Ibom State.
"The projects will address gaps in two focus areas which we consider vital to social and economic development, capacity and skills development in Nigeria's oil industry and accessibility to quality health care for citizens.
"The technical skills centre and the engineering complex when commissioned will considerably extend opportunities for Akwa Ibom indigenes as well as other qualified Nigerians to development much needed technical skills in our oil and gas industry," he said.
Describing the projects as "truly important" he said solicited the support of all to ensure its success by being delivered on schedule and expressed happiness the joint venture partners have over the years found Akwa Ibom state and its people to be worthwhile partners of progress to the benefit of all stakeholders, adding that it has helped to ensure business sustainability.
Specifically, the technical skills centre consists of a three-block training complex for critical skills required in oil and gas careers such as pipeline fabrication, welding, electrical works, chemical lab works, civil works and engineering. The centre is expected to train more than 100 students annually, mostly from the neighbouring communities.
On the other hand, the trauma centre in a two-floor medical complex will help reduce mortality rates from major medical emergencies. The centre will include a resuscitation and burns room, a theatre suite, helipad, ambulance by and triage area, high dependency and radiology units, mini labs, wards, pharmacy, administrative offices, library and doctors' call and seminar rooms.
For the engineering complex, it is to be equipped with generators and independent water supply and will feature two floors of workshops, laboratories, a lecture theatre, conference rooms and faculty offices. It is also expected to serve 2,000 students, mostly from Akwa Ibom State.
Overwhelmed with joy, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel thanked NNPC/MPN joint venture for the investment in Akwa Ibom State and promised to ensure that the peaceful atmosphere prevalent in the state is sustained as a means of attracting more investments.
The governor explained that the location of the projects was not based on any political consideration maintaining that those who are likely to be the major beneficiaries are people from Akwa Ibom State.
The paramount ruler of Eket local government area, one of the core oil producing communities in the state also lauded the joint venture operators for the investment though he expressed mixed feelings that one of the projects ought to have been located in the oil bearing communities.
Indeed, the joint venture partners have demonstrated their commitment to contributing to the growth agenda of Akwa Ibom State and their decision to invest N13 billion worth of projects in health, education and skills acquisition is a clear testimony to this and will without doubt create long term economic benefits in Akwa Ibom State.