By Musa Ilallah
It is very heart-warming and a source of pride for Nigerians that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC has recently and suddenly woken up from years of slumber. This is particularly so in respect of embarking on projects that place ordinary Nigerians as direct beneficiaries of its social corporate responsibility projects.
The NNPC came into being as the Nation’s oil company on April 1, 1977.
In addition to its exploration activities, the Corporation was given powers and operational interests in refining, petrochemicals and products transportation and marketing.
Between 1978 and 1989, NNPC constructed refineries in Warri, Kaduna and Port-Harcourt and took over the 35,000 barrels per day of Shell Refinery established in Port-Harcourt in 1965.
In 1988, the NNPC was commercialised into 12 strategic business units, covering the entire spectrum of the oil and gas industry operations: exploration and production, gas development, refining, distribution, petrochemicals, engineering, and commercial investments.
In addition to these subsidiaries and units, the industry is also regulated by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR as a department in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The DPR ensures compliance with industry regulations; processes applications for licenses, leases and permits, establishes and enforces environmental regulations.
In the spirit of its new approach to corporate social responsibility role, the NNPC is currently building 12 infectious diseases hospitals across the six geo-political zones in the country at a total cost of N21bn. It is being financed by NNPC, TOTAL and other partners in the oil and gas industry.
Recent newspaper reports have indicated that NNPC has woken up from its slumber and abandonment of its corporate social responsibility that had stagnated for years due to reasons not quite clear to the Nigerian public.
It was widely reported that the NNPC in an attempt to redeem its lost corporate social responsibility image as an agency of government lending support to government’s activities, plans and programmes aimed at improving the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians embarked on a massive support to improve the country’s medical infrastructural development by performing an epoch ground breaking laying of foundation ceremonies for the construction of hospitals in Kaita, Katsina in the North West zone, Maiduguri in North East zone and Yenagoa, Bayelsa state in the South South zone.
According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC it is leading the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID 19 in commencing its third phase of its support programme with the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of permanent Emergency and Infectious Diseases Hospitals in each zone of the country.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunibe Mamora performed the foundation-laying ceremony for the construction of a 200-bed Emergency and Infectious Diseases Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The minister of state for health who represented the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and also the Chairman of the Presidential task force on COVID 19 explained that the federal government had called for the establishment of such hospitals at the cost of N21bn as part of efforts to combat COVID 19 in the country and was designed to complement and strengthen the country’s national healthcare delivery facilities.
Speaking at the site of the hospital in Maiduguri recently, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Engineer Mele Kyari explained that the proposed hospital was strategically sited in Borno due to the existing security challenges that have been aggravated by the coronavirus.
The NNPC boss said further that when the hospital is completed, the corporation would also provide “medical facilities, logistics, and support to patients.”
Engineer Kyari did not mince words in using the opportunity to state that siting the hospital in Borno should not be seen as a favour done the state but added that similar hospitals are being built in 12 other states, spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
According to Kyari, the NNPC was acting on the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari to strategically pay attention to Borno state by doing everything possible to ensure a return to energy, security, and exploration activities in the state.
It is therefore not in doubt that some tragedies come with their good sides as COVID 19 has not only destabilized the social, cultural, religious, economic, and health systems of the country, but also came as a blessing for the country.
One expects that at the end of the current Coronavirus pandemic there would be many landmarks of infrastructural development dotting all parts of the country, particularly in the health sector.
In the words of the Borno state Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, who was very elated with the siting of the hospital in his state lauded the NNPC and its collaborating partners for helping to ease the difficulties faced by residents, noting that “What we’re seeing today is part of the institutional capacity building measures envisaged by President Muhammadu Buhari”.
Governor Zulum while further supporting the justification of siting the hospital in Maiduguri, added that the building of the gigantic health outfit is quite apt because of Borno state’s strategic location as the epicenter of humanitarian crises resulting from the insurgency.
Presently, Borno state is plagued by Lassa fever, COVID 19 and other sundry diseases.
It is on record that Borno State had lost more than 200 health centers as a result of the destruction of their by Boko Haram insurgents.
What is noteworthy is the fact that President Buhari is determined to improve all infrastructural deficits in the country.
Towards this end he has also directed that another 200 beds infectious diseases hospital be constructed in the North eest zone. To further actualise the President’s dream and in line with the earlier announced decision to diversify into the medical sector, NNPC has commenced the construction of another medical facility in Kaita town of Katsina State in the North West zone.
Thus the construction of the 200-bed Emergency and Infectious Disease Hospital was flagged off recently in Kaita, Katsina state.
Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony in Kaita, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari noted that the construction of the multi billion Naira project is billed to be completed in 18 months.
The broader aim of building the hospitals as humanitarian projects for the fight against Covid 19 and other infectious diseases for generations yet unborn cannot be over emphasized.
What added colour to the Kaita foundation laying ceremony by NNPC was the fact that it also donated one Toyota ambulance, 10,000 pieces of face masks and full set of ventilator kits to the Katsina State Government to support its ongoing war against Coronavirus, alias COVID 19.
Nigerians across all the divides of religion, region, tribe are of the firm belief that the health care delivery sector is currently witnessing a major infrastructural development that would surely outlive the Covid 19 pandemic and many generations yet unborn.
He said health care facilities being put in place across the country is a major step to address the infrastructural deficit in the health sector. In fact the country’s health sectir had never haf it so good like PMB’s deliberate attempt to change the narratives towards offering good health care delivery at the doorsteps of Nigerians.
Like Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources who spoke at the foundation laying ceremony in Yenagoa noted the turnaround to the country’s health sector was a further commitment of President Buhari in making the big difference. In the words of Minister Sylva, the project was part of the Nigerian Oil Industry Coalition initiative led by the NNPC and its Joint ventures partners in the Upstream, Midstream and Downstream sectors along with various International Oil Companies, Indigenous operators with Joint Venture stakes across the oil sector to support the nation’s efforts to tackle the COVID 19 pandemic.
It is also on record that Sylva noted in defended the consideration of a suitable site for the project in Yenagoa given its pioneering role in the history of Oil and Gas in the Country and its current contribution of about 40 per cent to onshore crude oil output.
In my view, the hospitals would not only help to tackle the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and its attendant challenges, but would also address the deficit in medical infrastructure of the country and further address the health care challenges in all parts of the country.
Planned to create a kind of turnaround in the health care delivery system of the country, the hospitals will go a long way in ameliorating challenges of infectitious diseases Nigerians face day in day out.
Nigerians from all walks of life have a responsibility to support tge government achieve its target of improving our health well-being for progress, growth and development.
It will certainly not be out of place to appreciate the leadership of the NNPC, its foresight in coming up with the all-encompassing funding of the country’s health sector.
Musa Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Abuja, email@example.com