Elano Investment LTD is the manager of shares meant for the seven host communities of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals LTD. In one week of investigating the operations of the Elano in the host communities, Odimegwu Onwumere uncovers that despite some public projects being embarked upon by Elano in the communities, there is rancor surrounding how the Elano manages the shares, of which some elements in the surrounding communities want the company to hands off managing the shares; a campaign the Elano says is political than what it signed with the host communities
The air was miasma and the weather was murk as this writer was going to and fro in the Circular Road, Presidential Housing Estate, GRA, Port Harcourt, on December 27 2017. He wanted to meet with Mr. Udeme Obot, Head of Media, Elano Investments LTD, but not sure of the address. When he finally located No 21 Circular Road, housing the office of the Chairman, Board of Directors, Elano Investments LTD – currently managing the host communities’ 7.5% equity with Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals LTD: West Africa’s largest Fertilizer Plant – the gateman ushered him into the toothsome compound before the uncompromising watch of heavily armed Policemen mounting sentry. It wasn’t long he sat down in the receptionist’s office, a well furnished office that ordinarily could serve as a parlour elsewhere, than Obot met with him. A humble and light skinned man wearing a pair of clinical eyeglasses, ash colour senators’ suit with low cut and suspected to be in his late 30s or early 40s with nice body build, Obot had an accent like one who just came back from the West and wanted people to notice that through his twang.
“You are welcome to Elano Investments Limited,” he said to the writer, after unending pleasantries. “Relax, while I go tell Chairman that you are here. He left, gaiting, covertly.
Obot can be described as an elocutionist. And like kings that do not come out immediately to receive their guests, it took the Chairman of Elano Investments LTD, Chief Gomba Okanje a couple of time, but a bearable time to come out. By then, the writer had been classed in a mini hall corded with mahogany, serving as the company’s press room.
Chief Okanje is well built with skin shinning like a polished mahogany, with belly significantly protruding. They are all as a result of affluence and un-exposure to regular sunshine and exercise. He should be in his early 50s.
Problem With Communities’ Shares
As Okanje came to the press room accompanied by a friend, he first of all addressed a comment on air during the yuletide made by Senator Olaka Nwogu, a politician from the Eleme area, asking Elano to hands off the management of dividends from Indorama, meant for the host communities of Eleme Petrochemical Company Limited (EPCL).
Inquiry bared that the EPCL was sold to Indorama Corporation in 2006 by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and pledged 395, 000 shares or 7.5 percent of the firm’s equities to the host communities, of which Elano Investments LTD, a multifaceted company that slots in equities, properties, social amenities, healthcare, education and general business raised N2.925b that was seriously needed to offset the 7.5% of the shares of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals LTD in order to inculcate the host communities as partly owners of this gigantic business investment on their soil.
Chief Okanje said that Senator Nwogu was coming from a badly informed point of view encouraged by sheer ravenousness or whatever. He added that the truth remains that what Nwogu was talking about was a contractual agreement between Elano and the host communities of which Nwogu is not from the host communities, hence not an influence to speak for the host communities.
The writer was meant to understand that the host communities are getting what is due to them, except for three communities that are in court which comprise Alato, Akpajo and Agbonchia. According to the source, it was agreed upon that as soon as they are done in court, they will access their money.
The Host Communities
There are seven host communities housing Indorama, said Okanje. They are Agbonchia, Aleto, Akpajo, Akpakpan, Njuru, Okerewa, and Wakohu. It was meant to understand that Nwogu who comes from Alesa should not be crying more than the bereaved, if there is any. Okanje said that the shares for the host communities are paid by Elano judiciously, adding that he would not like to delve into details, because there is an existing matter already in court.
The Chairman Elano, however, harangued that it was expected of Nwogu to have sought for clarification before coming out to talk, and colouring it with political facial-appearance that is not necessary, even when the chiefs of the host communities are board members of Elano.
“The communities put up support and all the chiefs are members of the Elano Board. It was only politicians that wanted to hijack the processes. But we have asked them to play their politics and leave us out of politics. We are not politicians. We are people that keep to our promises. And we are keeping our words to our stakeholders,” Okanje acknowledged.
And to release the Elano from any blame, a source that would prefer anonymous said, “The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase in 2016, had given the board a clean bill of health after investigations he commissioned found out that the board had not been in breach of its obligation to its stakeholders.”
Chief Okanje bemoaned that the last declaration of dividends to the host communities was in November and they have all gotten their shares but for the three communities in court with modality in place of getting their money as soon as they are through in court.
In January 2017
It was practical that trouble started in January 2017, when over 1, 000 indigenes of Eleme took to protest, blockading the doorway of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited over their 7.5% impartiality. Examination revealed that there was the issue raised by the communities of misappropriation of N14.6 billion dividend payments from Indorama by the Elano declared in 2015, which was the reason for the barricade.
One Mr. Benjamin Ngokana was it who led the protesters who accused the management of the Indorama and Elano Investment Limited of highhandedness to push the host communities out of their share after a decade the petrochemical company was deregulated.
According to Ngokana, “All Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the communities and the company are outdated and should be renewed. Employment opportunities for indigenes of Eleme are sold out to non-indigenes, this must stop. Elano Investment Limited should be dissolved. Our 7.5 percent fertiliser shares should be given to us directly.”
But this calculation was rather rebuffed by the management of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals (through the Head, Corporate Communications of Indorama, Dr. Jossy Nkwocha) of any connivance with any company or person to shortchange the host communities.
“We have paid all the money to them (Elano Investments Limited). What they are protesting is that they don’t like the way Elano is managing the dividends. We are not part of it. We only pay money to this organization set up by these communities. So from here you can see that it is something that is between the host communities and that particular company that they set up,” Nkwocha avowed.
“Because this thing is happening at our gate, we have stepped in and now trying to mediate between the host communities and that particular organization (Elano). As I speak to you, the top management has set up a meeting with them to resolve the issue.”
Governor Wike Wades In
In a statement of June 24, 2017, made available by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike declared at the Government House, Port Harcourt, after a meeting with the host communities – Elelenwo-Akpajo-Aleto-Njuru-Okerewa (ELANO) – and Indorama Petrochemicals that host communities of Indorama Petrochemicals will hereafter manage their ventures in the company.
“The governor directed each community to set up a board of trustees to manage her stakes in Indorama Petrochemicals, adding that ELANO will take its 8 per cent for the last quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017 before the full implementation. Governor Wike directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice to prepare a MoU on the decisions reached at the peace meeting.”
This was even as the governor added, “If communities cannot resolve to select their trustees who will represent them, government will ensure that the money will be paid into an account until the trustees are appointed.
“I will call the company and the chairman of the Ethics and Privileges committee that this is what the government has decided, in order to bring peace, law and order to the area. If any person goes further to do anything, the security council members are here to take necessary action.”
According to the source, “ELANO representative, Chief Gomba Okanje lauded the Rivers State Government for providing a platform for dialogue which has facilitated the resolution of the conflict.” But during the protest, Elano’s spokesperson, Mr. Onorwi Ngofa had said, “Renewal of MoU was not the business of Elano but between the host communities and the Indorama.”
Elano In The Seven Communities
Upon the skirmishes, this writer’s sources revealed that the Elano has never relented in carrying out its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the host communities.
By September 2015, the Elano Investment had turned to social investment, sent 57 “on path of self-dependence” from over 350 applicants that competed for the slot in which 57 were chosen. Chief Okanje told spectators at a ceremony in Port Harcourt while flagging off the award of slots to 57 beneficiaries that even as the idea looked like a joke initially, “We are giving back to the community.”
The same year, in a competitive interview coordinated by the British Council, “twelve young graduates from the host communities of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited were offered all expenses paid scholarships to pursue master’s degree programmes in some of the best universities in the United Kingdom.”
In 2016, the Elano introduced a health initiative dubbed “Elano Health Insurance Scheme” where 900 families were beneficiaries. The services covered under the Health Insurance Scheme include Out-patient care including Hospital Registration and Unlimited Consultation, Prescribed Drugs and Diagnostic Tests according to National Health Insurance Scheme, Essential Drug List, Hospital Stay, Basic Eye and Dental Care including Simple Tooth Extraction, Surgeries as covered by NHIS list of surgeries, Maternal Care including Normal, Assisted and Surgical Deliveries, HIV/AIDS Support Services, Health Education and Consulting.
The source exposed that the Elano had constructed 15 kilometres of roads in the host communities and they include Okerewa Nwolu Road in Okerewa community; Nyade Road in Aleto; Nsin-Akukuri Road in Agbonchia; Okwuoha-Rumuodani Road in Elelenwo; Oluji-Osarobo Road, Akpakpan Ada Ejire Road in Agbonchia; and Osaro Ngala Road in Njuru Community.
There were the interventionist’s approach to support security by the Elano through the donation of pickup vans and building of a police post near the Aleto Bridge. In recognition of sports, the Elano donated N1m to be won as prices for the 2016 Eleme Champions League. The Elano also promotes cultural heritages of the people amongst others.
Chief Okanje had disclosed after he resolved the emergency of assurance amid the management board of the company and some distressed stakeholders of the host communities in June 2016., “We started with a pilot scheme of 500 families at six members per family. The second batch of 400 is now ready.”
Human Capital As Critical To Development
By September 2016, the Elano had trained 31 youths in the host communities. Some of them graduated at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron. Chief Okanje said that it’s his determination that youths in the area engaged in meaningful activities.
According to him, “All the restiveness in the Niger Delta region is as a result of not channelling the energy of the youths in the region into meaningful ventures.
“If people in the region had been trained skillfully, they know that they have a future they would not go or engage in an unscrupulous activities that we are finding everywhere in the Niger Delta.”
For the Chairman, Education Committee of the Elano Investments Ltd. Prof. Walter Ollor, “Anywhere, even in developed countries, human capital is the investment for tomorrow. If you do not build up your human capital you would be surprised that Eleme people will just be crying. Human capital in the development literature is a critical success factor in any development programme.”
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org