Oil firms and communities’ relationships in some parts of Niger Delta have become worrisome. Oftentimes, the communities have accused some firms in their domain of employing divide and rule tactics in dealing with them thus denying them of their proper dues. However, a leading indigenous oil firm, Oriental Energy Resources Limited has taken a notch higher in dealing with its hosts. As they say, the company seems to have a human face.
For years, it has provided free health care delivery to the people in its areas of operations, addition to other social investments in a determined bid to make them feel its positive impact, thus fulfilling its corporate social responsibility.
Therefore, the weeklong free health care services provided by the oil firm in collaboration witha non-governmental organization, Faith Optical and Medical Services Limited, brought unspeakable joy to the people of oil rich Mbo and the neighbouring local government areas. The event took place at Enwang Health Center, headquarters of Mbo council.
Statistics showed that 4634 patients received treatments from various ailments, including 33 who underwent eye surgery, well over 100 patients got eyeglasses, while pregnant women went home with antenatal kits even as schoolchildren of St Andrews Primary School, Ibaka and their teachers received hygiene sets.
Elated beneficiaries of the initiative poured encomiums on the firm and called on other marginal and major oil companies operating in the area to take a cue from Oriental and the consensus is that the company has become a benchmark for oil firms in the area.
A 73-year-old Sylvanus Bassey whose sight were restored courtesy of the free eye surgery beamed as he said the initiative has affected positively the lives of local communities who never dreamt of accessing such medical facility and applauded the firm for a well-done job.
‘’It is commendable and I thank God for the organization. They have tried so much that I am a beneficiary is worthy of commendation. Where would I have gotten the money to do the operation? I must thank the company for the free eye surgery and other treatments our people have received’’, he said.
For his part, Chairman, Effiat Council of Chief, Mathias Okon also lauded the firm for ‘’saving the lives of people. In fact, this is not the first time they are doing this’’.
Also speaking, a beneficiary from Enwang, Emmanuel Enukit, while also praising the company, enjoined other companies exploring in the area to take a cue from the oil firm, even as appealed to the firm to consider carrying out the programme twice in a year considering the health needs of the people in the coastal communities.
A member Community Relations Committee, Mfon Henry was equally over the moon for the programme, especially the eye surgery which has gone a long way to restored sights to the people who couldn’t afford the cost of surgery in government or private own hospital.
However, Henry wants the firm to increase the budgetary allocation of the yearly programme to accommodate more patients, applauding the firm for having a good working relationship with host communities and the relevant stakeholders in the state.
Deputy Manager, Community Relations, Anslem Okere, said, ‘’ the free medical exercise is part of our corporate social responsibility to ensure a healthy populace in our host communities. We take host communities as major stakeholders in our operations. We have done the free medical outreach on several occasions and the turnout has always been very tremendous.
‘’More importantly, this year, we added the free eye surgery because the people demanded for it and we ensure that their demand was met and they have appreciated the gesture so much. Apart from the free medical, we have also embarked on other social investments including, scholarship, skill acquisition center at Enwang, 100 units Oriental units at Enwang, teachers’ quarters at Effiat, among others’’.
Similarly, Community Relations Officer, Greg Okpo, an indigene of the area, noted that the exercise has brought joy to his people.
‘’I have seen the happiness from the people especially in the area of free surgery. This kind of surgery cost an hundred naira in some hospitals in this state and that is why they are so elated because many of them are indigent and cannot afford the cost. So far, the company has shown a cordial relationship with the people and they are appealing for more of this kind of goodwill’’, he said
Managing Director, Faith Optical and Medical Services Limited, Dr. David Ehimhen, said need assessment led to the inclusion of eye surgery in this year outreach, describing the weeklong free health care exercise as very successful and thanked members of Mbo and Effiat CRC as well as other community leaders for their cooperation
It was gathered that the firm has carried out many social investments in the oil rich local government area which include, 100 units housing estate, skill Acquisition Center, teachers’ quarter, yearly scholarship scheme for indigent students in tertiary institution among others.
‘’Nobody expected the accomplishments of the company within so short a time in the area. Other companies have been exploring here for 20 years, yet there is nothing on ground to show for their presence here but Oriental is a different kettle of fish. It has set a new standard for local content and we are grateful’’, said a community leader, Chief Eyo Robin, a beneficiary of pteregium surgery.
In fact, the challenge for the other companies is to raise the bar; they stated that the firm is a good case study from which stakeholders can pick valuable lessons. Moreover, one of the vital lessons is for the industry operators to ensure that their impacts are positively felt by their host communities.