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Building Trust With Transparency

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January 2012, the Federal Government of Nigeria announces that the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has been removed.

During the same year, the National Assembly (The Senate and House of Representative) probe the petroleum sector for the subsidy funds unaccounted for, which was said to be over a trillion Naira.

Throughout the year 2013, there have been various stories of either the loss of funds (or missing funds) by one government agency or the other

  • N23 Billion pension funds
  • N255 Million purchase of bullet proof vehicles
  • $49 Billion NNPC funds to Federation Account.

This list goes on and on. Yet still we are yet to get an answer on what happened and where these monies are. Instead what we get is allegations and counter allegations and no answers.

Despite the rapidly growing public demand for transparency, government, their agencies and companies in Nigeria are still yet to come to terms with the fact that real transparency helps builds trust of the citizens and/or customers towards a sustainable business future.

Government and organizations are yet to develop Corporate Governance and CSR initiatives and start to disclose Social, Environmental and Governance related information.

Taking a cue from China, I believe it is time that government and their agencies and businesses in Nigeria stop covering up negative information or incidents and start to take responsibility for the actions and decisions they make. For example on November 22, 2013 an oil pipeline owned by the largest oil refinery in China (China Petrochemical Corporation {Sinopec}), caught fire and exploded while being repaired. At least 55 people were killed in the incident and many more were injured.

After the blasts, Sinopec promptly established a new section on its company webpage to provide information on the incident, and has also been communicating on the incident through its Weibo account (Weibo is a micro-blogging platform in China). Most of the information provided on these two platforms is Sinopec’s public apology and claims that they are working on the site to minimize the negative impact, but little in-depth information has been disclosed about post-disaster community arrangements or further plans for improving safety in future

In 2011, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) also responded quickly after an oil spill -promptly setting up a webpage to publically communicate the process of handling the spill, and also making promises to enhance their environmental management and performance. Two years later, the webpage is no longer available and no updates can be found in the company’s CSR report. All the information related to the incident seems to have disappeared without a trace from CNOOC’s communications as if the incident never happened. It is not clear if the company has made progress or whether it has fulfilled its promises, as the company is not being transparent in its communication. Equally, the company will find it difficult to regain the trust of their stakeholders if they cannot see the improvements.

The same has also happened to political big wigs who have been convicted for corruption and relieved of their positions in the ruling China’s Communist Party.

The benefits of these kind informations, brings about trust in the government and/or organization by the people and consumers of the services and/or products, thereby leading to lasting sustainability.

In conclusion, taking the initiative to communicate on ESG (Economic, Social and Governance) issues should become a common practice for government, its agencies and parastatals and large enterprises in the near and distant futures, especially after high impact incidents or accidents, but in the communication process, real transparency needs to be delivered to gain trust from stakeholders.

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