Despite the provision of funds in the supplementary budget for Nigeria’s 50th independent anniversary, the Federal Government has sought N401.2m from major companies in the oil, telecommunications and other thriving sectors in the country.
Sources in government told our correspondent that letters soliciting the funds were sent out, initially, to 10 major firms asking them to contribute 124,500 Euros or N23.6m each. The number, according to the source, was increased to 17 when top government officials observed that some of the firms might refuse to make the donation.
The 124,500 Euros or (N23.6m) was described by the government as ‘initial contribution’ to a pool of funds to be used for the golden jubilee celebration.
The 10 firms in the first batch are Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, Chevron, Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited, Nigeria LNG Limited, Total E & P Nigeria Limited, Globacom Limited, MTN Nigeria, Dangote Group, Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company Limited and S.C.C Nigeria Limited.
Government had provided N10bn in a supplementary budget to take care of expenses for the event, but it was slashed to N6.37bn by the National Assembly following public criticisms.
Many Nigerians had noted that the prevailing socio-economic conditions in the country did not justify an eleborate celebration.
The Director-General, Nigeria @ 50, Dr. B.K. Kaigama, was said to have met first with representatives of the companies before following up his discussion with them with the official letter.
In the letter obtained exclusively by our correspondent, Kaigama wrote, “I write to inform you that preparations for the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th Independent Anniversary have commenced in earnest and as part of the arrangements to promote Nigeria on the global stage during the milestone event, double-page special reports on Nigeria will be published in the International Herald Tribune .
“The reports which will appear in 10 editions of the newspaper will be a comprehensive global media campaign on Nigeria and its development effort.
“In consideration of the invaluable contributions of the private sector to the economic development of Nigeria, the private sector is being called upon to participate fully and collaborate effectively with the government towards the success of the celebration.
“In this connection, while the extent of the participation of the private sector is being worked out, 10 companies have been identified and are being tasked with the responsibility of shouldering the sponsorship of the said special reports in the IHT as their initial contribution.
“The cost of the double-page report is 124,500 Euros (N23.6m) per edition and each of the 10 companies will sponsor an edition.
“As part of the sponsorship deal, each sponsoring company will be allotted an advert strip at the bottom of each page.
“The contributions are to be paid to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation where the Organising Committee, Nigeria @ 50, is maintaining an account and from where payment to the publishers will be effected in accordance with the agreed payment schedule.
“While thanking you most immensely for partnering with government and for this initial contribution, please accept the best wishes for the National Organising Committee, Nigeria @ 50.”
A double spread (colour) in IHT, according to its website, ihtinfo.com, costs $219,481 or 171,963 Euros (N32.8m).
The cost of a double spread (black and white) in the newspaper is $182,761 or 143,193 Euros (N27.2m).
The costs are, however, likely to be inclusive of discounts, which the rate card does not indicate.
However, it was learnt that the companies, after weighing the financial implications of the letter on their operations, have not warmed up to the idea.
A source in one of the oil companies told our correspondent that oil firms, especially, were displeased that the government did not take into account, their other contributions to the economy before requesting the N23.6m from each of them.
“Our company for instance, is worried by the tone of the letter. The tone suggests that the 124,500 Euros was just an initial donation, implying that further demand might be made,” he said.
Another source at the meeting between Kaigama and the companies’ representatives, explained that a top official of an oil company asked why oil firms were more in number than other companies.
He said, “ The official raised a question on why corporations and multinationals like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and all the banks were left out of the pool for the contribution. Another person also questioned the rationale for placing the advert in a foreign newspaper.”
Our correspondent learnt, however, that most of the companies were inclined to make the donation because they feared declining might lead to loss of government business.
Another source in the committee told our correspondent that the reservation expressed by the oil firms made the government to request the same amount of money (N23.6m) from seven other companies.
The source , who did not want his name in print, however declined to give the names of the companies.
Kaigama could not be reached for comment as at 10.30p.m on Sunday.
When contacted on the telephone, the External Communications Manager, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Mr. Andrew Okeleke, said he was not aware of the existence of such a letter.
According to him, such issues are usually discussed at the executive level.
Two groups, the Conference of Nigeria Political Party and the Afenifere Renewal Group, have faulted the government’s request, saying it (government) has no clue about the reality on ground.
The National Chairman of the CNPP, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, in a telephone interview, said it was unfortunate that at a time when there was nothing to celebrate, the government and its officials were perfecting areas where they would siphon public funds.
He said, “We know that this appeal to multi-national organisations is motivated by the desire to get money from them and steal it.
“In order not to jeopardise their interest, some of these multi-national companies will comply with the appeal, but be rest assured that those requesting for this money will share it among themselves.
“We already know what will happen. In the first place, we have nothing worth celebrating because we did not utilise the opportunity we had in the last 50 years.”
While acknowledging also that there was nothing worth celebrating about the nation’s 50th independence, the National Publicity Secretary of ARG, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, called on Kaigama to withdraw the letter from the multinational companies.
He said, “Nigeria at 50 should be a moment for sober reflection on our many failures; missed opportunities and other attempt at nation building.
“To now go about begging multi-national companies after receiving a huge vote from the National Assembly shows that we have a government that is totally clueless and not in tune with reality. If there is any iota of integrity in this administration, that letter should be withdrawn.”
The Federal Government had two weeks ago kicked-off the Nigeria at 50, event, with the unveiling of ”countdown clock” by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Culled: Punch Newspaper