Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Corporate Good Citizenship Or Responsibility America And Nigeria Compared

Corporate Good Citizenship Or Responsibility America And Nigeria Compared

The admission last week, of wrongdoing and criminal activities in Nigeria by KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the petroleum industry services company, has caused major ripples and left millions tongues wagging on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean! The admixture of high power politics and crime, due in part to Vice President Dick Cheney’s strong connections with Halliburton before becoming the vice president of the United States! This tax evasion and bribery raises the high stakes, the potential fallout and the possible consequences, due in another part to the prodigiously scandalous nature of a plethora of companies in the ever increasing numbers of what can now be called “American Corporate Greed Club” in the wake of so many corporate scandals that has recently come to light; Enron, WorldCom etc. And the attendant uproar visited on the Republican Party, the political party of the current American government.

We are all aware of the very recent discoveries that led to bankruptcies and demise of so many American Companies and how the political party in power in America is blamed for being in very cozy relationship with them, because these American Companies are major political campaign contributors and donors to political causes that favors the Republican Party Conservative political agenda.

My particular concern here is beyond all these intrigues, it is instead the sharp contrast between corporate behavior in America, contrasted with the behavior of same corporations in their off-shore business activities, good corporate citizenship and social responsibility or the lack of it and the contradictions inherent in their selective obedience of laws and rules in America and the various criminal conducts, bad corporate citizenship they practice with gross social irresponsibility; These corporation exhibit attitude that are completely different, once their operations are outside American shores.

In America, companies and corporations pay huge taxes, fees and have to obey a great number of laws, rules and regulations! Some American firms actually engage in off-shore operations, in order to skip American rules, you would think that these firms would be too glad to be in Nigeria, where laws and rules are not harsh toward business enterprises.

In many parts of America, towns are practically owned and run by companies! Many Steel Producing Companies have run towns for years, so also are Coal Producing Companies; In the United States, the state of Delaware, the Dupont family group of companies practically owns the land and many things in the state, and every family grow up to work for Dupont, and in my school days, I recall an American Professor of law jokingly, during a lecture, referring to the state of Delaware as the “Dupontitum” (the state as the Dupont Kingdom!) because of the pervasive presence, the dominant role or notorious presence of Dupont activities permeating the state! Dupont is well known to all, to be synonymous with the state of Delaware!

Again, in the cases of several other states like state of Texas, state of Oklahoma, state of Pennsylvania etc, the activities of Atlas Oil, Phillips Petroleum, Getty Oil and Hershey Chocolate are major and these companies predominant players in the economic, social, cultural activities affecting the citizens directly and indirectly, there is a clear partnership between the private sector and the broader public sector, and this is deliberate or even appear choreographed!

American companies can be very consumed and overtaken by greed and avarice, ala Enron, WorldCom, Prudential etc, corporate wrong doing in other forms like the deep throated racism that was practiced by Texaco executives, who made disparaging statements about African American employees, statements of their white racism that was uncovered from corporate tapes!

But it must also quickly be said, that they are always self-redeeming by their commitment or demonstration of a good social conscience, good corporate citizenship and high sense of responsibility to America; For example, in preparations for any schedule Olympic Games? Or other major sporting events, I have closely watched American corporation falling over each other to be part of the coveted logo or label of an “official sponsor” as corporate group tend to sponsor every sports events and tag their advertisements as such! Which is good for these companies and also good for America!

Airlines soon become the “official carrier” Coca Cola soon become the “official drink” and the United States Postal Service USPS soon become “official mail carrier of priority mails” and so on!

Hershey, the world famous chocolate and Sweets maker, has a huge foundation and large endowment with which a wonderfully diverse school is run in the state of Pennsylvania.

In New York, there is a Hall similar to or in the mode of Nigeria’s National Theatre in Igamu Lagos, it is called Carnegie Hall, it is an awe inspiring cultural center, where music performances take place, mostly music of the classical genre including operatic performances, the hall was built by a private citizen, for all to enjoy! The man has since died, but this edifice stands as a monument of his generosity and accomplishments during his eventful life.

Again in New York, there is the Rockefeller family, with towering properties dotting the landscapes of the city and they have had a foundation over the years, a foundation that is generous and public spirited.

Many Nigerians have also probably heard of the Ford Foundation? It awards scholarships and research grants in the pursuit of public interests

In America therefore, there is an admixture of private and public efforts that coalesce for the general well being of all; These worthy efforts serves public good, benefits for all citizens! Rich Nigerian must start to the do the same in Nigeria for Nigerians!

Corporations with tentacles more numerous than the octopus, have in my experience tend to hire the largest law firms in America for their continued protection and litigation when the need, as always arise, these corporations create varying departments like Regulatory Affairs usually with an in-house lawyer, Legislative Liaison, usually a lawyer too, Ethical Standards and also what is called Compliance Officer, Government Affairs Officer and Risk Management Officer etc. all these are in the inordinate efforts to be on the right side of the laws and regulations in America! Companies in Nigeria must start doing the same!

These same American Companies are quick to put on a different hat when they are overseas! Union Carbide is a historical example, as some companies have penchants for ignoring local laws and rules, including, even rudimentary safety rules, the violations that usually results in disastrous and fatal consequences! Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has also been found wanting in its activities in Nigeria..

In Nigeria, most foreign companies and recently, foreign wives too, only want to observe Nigerian laws and regulations in the breach of these laws and regulations! It is as if they are saying, we do not recognize Nigerian laws and regulations! When you or your companies are in our countries, you must obey our laws! But when we are in Nigeria, we do not have to listen to whatever you say! Or obey your laws, rules and regulations! It is audacious and condescending! But is just the way it has been!

In this era of scarce resources for our higher education, especially the universities, seeking funding from the limited federal purse, you would think that the private sector will assume the overdue role of private sector partnership with the government in this crucial area of dire need, an important area and the quintessential engine room for national development; But no such luck! The private sector has so far not risen to this occasion!

Banks in Nigeria, foreign and local, declare huge profits every year, despite the tough economic environment that Nigeria has been for about 20 years, yet these banks do not see it fit, to begin to invest in capacity enhancements, give mortgage loans and college or higher education loans? Everything in Nigeria is still “cash and carry” unlike the “you built, they will come” credit economy that banks and financial institutions in America operates (that is, mortgages are regarded by banks in America as is a banking service product) (students’ or higher education loans are also a banking service product) the banks in America, make profits, giving these types of loans, if banks in Nigeria establish these types of services, customer base will arise and grow/develop rapidly indeed! (hence the build it the will come concept)

If banks and financial institutions create a good service, Nigerians, especially the college educated and middle class will be quick to jump in happy welcome and reception at such meaningful service, it will be quick success, but it will require efforts, instead of the sharp practices of barely clad girls posing as bankers seeking deposits from the rich, enticingly with making their private body parts obvious and conspicuous!

And instead of the all eggs in on basket heavy reliance on profits from foreign exchange manipulations and speculations and price fixing and gouging!

Shell Oil, Mobil, Exxon, Texaco, Schlumberger, Halliburton etc all make billions of dollars of profits yearly from their Nigerian operations, Just imagine if these companies were to devote only one million dollars annually to improve the local communities that is the source of their mammoth corporate wealth? Imagine if these companies act as good corporate citizens and responsible companies and provide local communities with clean water, electricity, schools that even teach petroleum oil technology to the locals, and help maintain the roads and sponsor yearly local cultural festivals? Etc.

These are not new things, these types of things are what these same companies engage in, in America and Europe in order to attain public goodwill, in order to attain good image, in order to catch attention and advertise themselves and their products! Why can’t they do these things in Nigeria? I have witnessed these companies do these things in their home countries without requests, without urgings without agitations!

I strongly believe that these activities enumerated above will help to stem the frequency of disagreements between these companies and the host local communities where they operate, engaging in these activities are certainly cheaper than the cost and efforts expended on resolving riots, hostage takings, kidnappings and all other actions that are usually undertaken by the locals in desperation and after years of frustrations, investment in these communities will also help to make these companies to look good and may actually endear them to the locals! Hence good corporate citizenship and social responsibility, It is a win-win situation for both corporations the local communities!

God and Allah have always blessed Nigeria and will continue to do so, even more abundantly!

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