The event was the first Sustainable Development Partnership Opportunity and Exhibition organised by SPDC in Abuja, and the theme was Powering Progress Together. It brought together government officials, diplomats, NGOs and development organisations who thronged the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Memorial Centre and heard testimonies by beneficiaries of GMoU, LiveWIRE, community health and other life-building programmes.

Mr. Sunmonu said: “I am excited about today’s event because it is the first if its kind for us in Abuja. We know from our work in the Niger Delta, that no single actor can meet the scale, complexity and resources required to respond to the challenges of development in communities. That is why we have increasingly partnered with other business entities, government agencies, NGOs and community-based organisations to plan and deliver on our social performance commitments to achieve the desired impact and sustainability.”

He cited the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) initiative which the company introduced in 2006 as a life-changing opportunity for communities who now choose and implement their projects with funding from SPDC. So far, SPDC has signed and implemented agreements with 26 clusters, covering 271 communities in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa states. By the end of 2010, a total of 490 projects had been implemented through GMoUs, with more than $65 million provided as funding.

In an address, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, commended SPDC for its GMoU initiative. He said: “No other question preoccupies the minds of the people of the Niger Delta than rapid development. And peace is the bedrock of all development. Therefore, let this forum mark the beginning of a brighter and more hopeful co-operation and prosperity for the Niger Delta region and Nigeria in general.”

The Amayanabo of Nembe Kingdom, Dr. Edmund Daukoru who chaired the occasion said: “I’ve come all the way from Bayelsa State to associate with the success of the GMoU and other programmes, which I wish could be standard for all Nigerian communities.”

Beneficiaries who made presentations included Mrs. Shade Aderogba who enjoyed all-year round health care including giving birth under the Community Health Insurance Scheme of IA GMoU Cluster, Mercy Chukwudi and Diana Marcus who established businesses with LiveWIRE support as well as Chief I. S. Young-Dede the chairman of Nembe City Development Foundation.

Chief Young-Dede, who is also the palace secretary of the Amayanabo of Nembe Kingdom, enthralled the audience with many projects that have been executed including land marine transport, guest house, roads, ICT centre and printing press. He added: “We’ve transformed from being a Cluster to a Foundation capable of attracting support from far and near.”

Precious Njoku, a young man got trained as a welder under the GMoU programme, and is now gainfully employed in a big construction company in Port Harcourt. “My story has changed for good,” he declared to the applause of the audience. “It is stories like Precious’s that encourage us,” commented Vice President HSE and Corporate Affairs, Tony Attah. “We will continue to invest in the wellbeing of our people as we do business in the Niger Delta, and ask other stakeholders including communities themselves to be part of this noble effort.”

SPDC had held similar exhibitions in Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Warri and Lagos.

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