Is Dangote Cement CSR-Challenged?

Dangote's cement

Dangote’s cement

AFRICA’S wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, and his cement company did both the Nigerian people and government proud when on June 7, 2015, Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn led a large delegation of government officials to open the $600m Ethiopian subsidiary of Dangote Cement located in Muger town with a production capacity of 2.5million metric tonne per annum.

The plant can generate 7,000 jobs. Dangote is investing in cement production in 16 African countries, and plans to become the world’s foremost cement producer in the not too distant future. In other words, Dangote Cement is now a well-established multinational.

Gone are the days when multinationals came from only the West and Japan. If the whole of Nigeria is rejoicing that Dangote Cement is doing well on the African scene, the people of Kogi State in particular should take special delight in the feat.

We are the cradle of Dangote Cement. It commenced operations some 10 years ago on a large expanse of land in Obajana, Lokoja Local Government Area, given to the president of the Dangote Group free of charge.

Our people have been eager to see our state’s development leapfrog. We placed so much hope for decades in the Federal Government’s multibillion-dollar Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which unfortunately turned out to be like ash in the mouth.

The land given to Dangote contains enough limestone to produce cement for the next 45 years at the rate of 10.25 million metric tonnes per annum (10.25MMTPA), much higher than the Dangote cement factory at Gboko in Benue State which can produce 4.0MMTPA and the one at Ibese, Ogun State, which can produce 6.0MMTPA.

The Obajana plant now has four kiln lines, which since last year have become gas-and coal-fired. It has a 1000megawatt plant which provides it electricity, thereby saving it the horrible trauma of having to depend on public supply.

The company is doing so well that it now has a fleet of 3, 370 large trucks.   For the people of Obajana, however, Dangote Cement has been anything but great news.

Comrade Bamidele Adeyanju, president of the youth wing of our town development association since February last year, has in recent days been quoted by the press as describing the relationship between the cement company and its host community as frosty because of the firm’s alleged neglect of its poor community and the company’s supposed failure to honour the town’s agreement with it. Now, Obajana town is in total darkness. It does not have electricity.

Ironically, Dangote Cement is unable to consume all it generates from its 1000MW power station, and so has reached an agreement with the Federal Government to send the excess to the national grid. For this organization, charity does not appear to start at home.

There is no standard elementary or secondary school in the whole of our town. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) school in our place is in a mess, with its walls well cracked.

Fearing that it could one day collapse, with all the possible grave consequences, we resolved to take the bull by the horns and reconstruct it ourselves. Some people approached Dangote for assistance, and its management agreed readily. It promised to hire a contractor to do the job. We believed it.

Four years ago, the company stopped the annual award of scholarships to our promising lads. This is a gross violation of our agreement with it.

No reason has been given for this action to this day.   The road leading to the Dangote Cement plant on which some 3,370 large Dangote trucks ply regularly is in a mess, as everyone who has used the road in the last eight years would testify.

We still wonder why Alhaji Aliko Dangote could not convince his close friend, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to fix it for the six years the former president was in office.

This road has no drainage facilities, and the only parking lot was constructed by the poor villagers without a single contribution from the cement firm. • Obando teaches international management in Sheffield, United kingdom.

As Comrade Adeyanju has noted, when our people gave up a very large expanse of land to the cement company in order to have a big manufacturing organization in our midst to stimulate economic activity, it was expected that the company would help us to have electricity, good roads, decent schools, health clinics, potable water, employment, youth and women empowerment initiatives, and not to live with just environmental pollution arising out of mining, processing and manufacturing.

What really would it cost a fast growing multinational to sink boreholes in a place like Lokoja when individuals have them in their homes and offices?   Admittedly, a number of our people have been hired by Dangote Cement as machine operators. They are well trained.

But many of them are on contract, and not full-time employees. The pay for both full-time employees and the contract staff is rather paltry. Yet, it is better than nothing.

After all, there are many of our kinfolk praying to be hired and trained as contract machine operator; contract employees are known for limited take home pay because of poor base salary and benefits. The employment crisis in the country is acute, so underemployment and underpayment are rampant.

What is certain is that the management of Dangote Cement Company at Obajana in Kogi State is heavily challenged as far as corporate social responsibility (CSR) is concerned. CSR is the soul of today’s corporate practice, and any organization, which fails to take it seriously will only have itself to blame.

Tim Hindley, the brilliant erstwhile economics and business editor of the highly prestigious The Economist weekly of London, has stated in his absorbing book, Guide To Management Ideas and Gurus, that CSR has three major components: giving back to society from which organisations get sustenance, environmental protection and ethical practices.

Dangote seems heavily challenged in at least two areas. This rapidly growing multinational must now engage in some introspection, or self-examination, before it gets too late.   • Obando teaches international management in Sheffield, United kingdom.

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