These include 241 micro-credit schemes, 35 agro and fisheries and 120 land and marine transport projects. Another set of skills and enterprise development programmes within the same period directly benefitted over 5,200 youths.
“Our economic empowerment programmes date back to the 1960s,” said Tony Attah, General Manager Sustainable Development and Community Relations. “We began by awarding scholarships and expanded to agriculture, micro credit and small scale business development. In fact, our intervention in health, sports and education is all aimed at economic empowerment of the Niger Delta region. We are happy that these programmes have helped people to learn skills and trades and set up their own businesses, thereby creating wealth and contributing to the overall development of the Niger Delta.”
A key aspect of SPDC’s support for agriculture is the establishment of resource and training centres at Agbarho, Jeddo, Bori and Oguta, and a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development on the Cassava Enterprise Development Programme in 11 states. The cassava initiative has led to the creation of 3,600 full time jobs. SPDC also launched the LiveWIRE Nigeria programme in March 2003, enabling more than 2000 young people to set up businesses. One of them, Mrs. Ngozi Brisibe, emerged the Central Bank of Nigeria Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007.
Areas of participation in the Youth Training and Enterprise Programme include welding and fabrication, fashion and design, electrical installation, computer studies and automobile maintenance and carpentry. Since 2005, over 2,200 youths have received the training and packs to start businesses. The microcredit schemes are targeted at women, who account for 70% of the beneficiaries. Over 31,000 people in some 171 communities have benefitted from the revolving programme in the last six years with over N740 million given out as seed fund. Microfinance banks have been introduced in the management of the micro credit schemes for improved monitoring and repayment of seed funds.
Every year, SPDC and its Joint venture partners (NNPC, Total and Agip) invest huge sums of money in healthcare, roads, water projects, education and many other community development initiatives, in one of the biggest corporate social responsibility portfolios operated by a private company in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010 alone, SPDC Joint Venture spent N9.03 billion on community development projects.
Mr. Attah added: “We realise that we cannot solve all the challenges of development in the Niger Delta, but we believe that, our efforts, along with those of other stakeholders, including Government and communities can make a lot of difference.”