Since he assumed duty as the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris has consistently unwind major changes, introducing new models and policy directions at the Nations apex treasury house. First, was to reposition the treasury to effectively and efficiently manage the Nation’s public finances.
The appalling state of infrastructure and facilities at the treasury house was hitherto a growing concern until his arrival. In keeping to his promises and commitment, Idris has remained steadfast, essentially leveraging Nigeria`s flourishing business environment and unarguably, the mutual benefits between investors and Nigeria as the host country.
As Nation’s treasury keeper, he is abreast with the dwindling fiscal posture and aggregate revenue accruing to the Government and its toll on the ability of Government to fulfill certain obligations which it hitherto met without hassle. He quite knew that fulfilling his promises will not come easy, but his determination and ingenuity saw him through; evolving creative and practical approaches of addressing some of these needs. One approach is the model of reaching out to corporate bodies with specific projects for sponsorship.
Recently, the AGF commissioned the Crèche of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, (OAGF). A statement signed by Mrs. Kene Offie, Deputy Director, OAGF, said the Crèche was constructed by Eco Bank Plc, as part of their corporate social responsibility to the OAGF’s office.
The release further stated that the commissioning was in fulfillment of the promise made by the AGF to the staff of “creating a conducive environment that will enhance staff performance”.
Other achievements through CSR include the: acquisition of over 6Nos of staff buses, computers and equipment, beautification of the premises, construction of car parks and pots, as well as installation of generators at the Treasury Institute Orozo, Abuja.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) according to the Commission of European Communities (CEC) refers to “companies having responsibilities and taking actions beyond their legal obligations and economic/ business aims”. According to them, these wider responsibilities cover a range of areas but are frequently summed up as social and environmental. This can be summed up as the triple bottom-line approach, economic, social and environmental.
Essentially, corporate social responsibility demands that institutions/ business operating in a particular locality, comply with certain rules; which include ensuring that their activities do not negatively impact on the lives of their host communities, but also reach out to meet the needs of such communities. This is best practice globally.
The Nigerian economy, following its re-basing in 2014, has remained the largest economy in Africa irrespective of its present challenges. It has been and still remains the melting pot of investors. Her population, and the friendly almost unregulated business environment, makes it a haven for investors. The rate of return on investment in Nigeria is considered to be among the best in the world with an average return of about 36 percent which compares to about 6.6percent globally.
Evidence abounds in the recent financial statements posted by most of the big companies in Nigerian, recording high profits even in the midst of the so-called economic challenges.
A look at some of the profits posted by a number of these companies in the year 2015 will further confirm this claim. MTN announced a profit after tax of $955m about N190 billion, Nigerian Breweries- N38.06 billion, Dangote – N181.3 billion, Zenith Bank – N105.66 Billion, Access Bank, N66 billion, GT Bank, N99.4 billion, United Bank of Africa, N60.00 billion, Stanbic IBTC N16 billion, while Sterling bank, made N10.2 billion. This list does not include big players in the oil sector, like Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Agip, Total, elf etc. all raking-in huge profits at the end of each financial year.
These Profits after Taxes (PAT) recorded by these companies are indeed an eye-opener to the quantum of financial resources available to the organized private Sector in Nigeria. There should be deliberate and conscious policies by government to harness from the huge financial resources available to these companies, through corporate social responsibility, with a view to leveraging on them to meet other pressing needs of the common Nigerian.
It is absurd to imagine that government alone can all the problems facing the nation. Certainly, the transnational companies and other organized private sectors can partner with government to bridge the infrastructure gap, especially in the rural areas. It is an acceptable practice the World over, for responsible organization to make deliberate efforts to give back to the society, in the form of CSR.
Although many companies claim have been involved in CSR, the realities on ground suggests otherwise. While some of transnational companies are trying in this regard, that cannot be the same with our indigenous companies as most of them are barely lifting a hand in the area of CSR. They make so much money and care less about helping to address the basic needs of their host communities.
Clearly, drawing from the concrete results achieved by the Accountant- General of the Federation, and like-minded chief executives, Nigeria stands to benefit more if the huge financial resources available through CSR can be fully maximized. Such partnerships can be in form of constructions of cottage hospitals, classroom blocks, pipe- borne water, cottage industries, rural roads, provision of electricity, capacity building, scholarships and a host others.
Therefore, Chief Executives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are encouraged to be more proactive, innovative and strategic in evolving plans and policies and reaching companies operating within their sector with a view to utilizing the huge financial potentials available through CSR.
Anything short of this, would amount to short-changing Nigerians.
IFEANYI OKEREKE is a Communications Officer with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.