Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Hon. Seye Oladejo, cutting the tape at the handover of 100 units of school furniture by MTN Foundation at the Community Nursery and Primary School, Magodo...recently

The MTN Foundation is spreading its largesse across 200 communities in the country in a bid to improve the standards of living, writes Martins Ifijeh

When the night comes, the people of Igbinoba community in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State do not enjoy electricity. All they have is moon and candle lights to see through the night. It has been darkness all along, because power, which is one of the basic amenities needed to live a normal life in the 21st century, has been missing in the community. The only transformer they used to have packed up, no thanks to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, who had promised in vain to give them a new one.

The small community had become a laid back circus among communities in Oredo area of Benin, as development continued to elude them due to the poor electricity system, leaving other communities around to enjoy economic relevance far ahead of them.

But over their darkened pathways, comes a ray of sunshine beamed at their feet when they least expected it. Complimenting the efforts of the government, the sunshine was from MTN Foundation, through its #Whatcanwedotogether initiative that had come to alleviate their suffering; identified their pain, and then spread liberty and happiness through the provision of specific solutions, which the community needed to be at par with their neigbhours.

On a sunny day in January, the atmosphere in the community changed, drums were rolled out, as everyone left their darkened abode to take delivery of the transformer from the Foundation. It was all pomp and cheer to celebrate the intervention, which they had always prayed for. It finally came their way from the corporate social responsibility arm of MTN, a telecom giant in Nigeria.

“Few months ago, MTN Foundation delivered a brand new transformer to our community, and since then our darkness has gone. We are now able to preserve our foods, take cold drinks, watch televisions, and even charge our phones in the comfort of our homes,” says Olufemi Enigbokan, who nominated his community.

Like the Purple Seller in the Bible, whose work was everywhere and evident for all to see, Enigbokan believed the impact of the gesture of love from the Foundation will be felt by every resident of the community for a very long time, as power has been the major challenge faced by the people.

Same gesture was spread across communities in the North-east, South-south, and other geo-political regions of the country.

For instance, in Alkaleri community in Bauchi State, the lack of potable water caused several preventable diseases, including diarrhea and cholera, leaving the people at the mercy of the poor sources of water in the community. This has therefore spurred the people to request for potable water for many years.

But succour soon came their way when the #Whatcanwedotogether initiative spread its love to the community, in a bid to bringing sunshine to the thousands of people living there.

Truly, it brought sunshine to the community. A borehole was installed to provide them with potable water, and today, the impact of that gesture is being felt everywhere within the community. Preventable disease outbreaks occasioned by bad water have reduced. Their children and mothers no longer walk several miles to fetch water, which at best could still not be termed potable water.

Igbinoba and Alkaleri communities are not the only ones that have benefitted from MTN Foundation’s show of love to mark its 10th year anniversary. 198 other communities have seen sunshine as a result of the initiative. From the North-central, to the South-west, down to the North- east, the gesture was even.

For example, the Alaguntan Community in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, took ownership of a brand new transformer, which has been mounted and has distributed electricity to the thousands of people in that community. Mr. Olanrewaju Ogundeji, who nominated his community for the transformer could not believe his eyes. “This is no fluke. I was skeptical at first but I kept faith and it has yielded a good result. My community can now enjoy electricity,” he said.

Chairman of the Alaguntan Community Development Association, Dr. John Adegoke, also said that the transformer came at a time when total blackout has permeated the entire community for over three months. He described the Foundation’s donation as a square peg in a round hole.

Nto Akpa Inyang community of Ikot Ekpene and Umuzocha village in Anambra State are also two communities that have benefitted from the Foundation’s initiative. Recently, they as well, took ownership of transformers to address their electricity issues.

At Mgbuodohia Community in Rivers State, Engr., Nwokechi Ogbonna, said “I thought it was one of those general pranks that people usually play, but to our greatest surprise, this 500KVA transformer was given to us. Our community is better with this provision, we are happy.

“This community has been suffering from the absence of electricity for long period of time, we severally tried to tackle the situation, but we could not. Today the Foundation is helping us to achieve our goal. We are really grateful for their love, concern and commitment”, said Mr. Ikinga Bisiano Bright, one of the residents in Rivers state. Same gesture was extended to Oke- Ayadi community in Ondo Town, Ondo State.

And then, the Ishieke community of Ebonyi State was not left out. Haven identified the community’s major issue to be lack of potable water, the #Whatcanwedotogether initiative was extended to them in a bid to tackle it. Recently, the people of Ishieke took ownership of a borehole to address their water issue. Today, they no longer complain of lack of water.

Critically looking at the future, a major part of the #whatcanwedotogether initiative is the donation of furniture units at schools.

At Community Nursery and Primary School, Magodo, the atmosphere was ecstatic as the various drama and dance group of the pupils attempted to outshine themselves just to show their appreciation. The nominator and General Secretary, Magodo (Valley View) Resident Association, Mrs. Oluyemisi Shittu looking at the 100 units of school furniture handed over to the school said “I cannot just hide my joy. This is a day I have prayed for, these pupils are my children, our children and I feel for them whenever I come around and see their former state. But now, you can see the joy on their faces. We thank the MTN Foundation for selecting this school”.

Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, Hon. Seye Oladejo, could not agree less when he said “we all know the impact of the Foundation across Lagos and indeed Nigeria. Looking at the joy on the faces of these children, all we can say is thank you for supporting the development efforts of the government”.

Same love was spread to Sokoto, Katsina, Ogun, Kaduna, Niger, and others under states all within a space of months.

The sole aim of the initiative, according to the MTN Foundation team was to identify communities across the country that were in need of special and important support, and then bring succour to their door steps, especially in areas of health, education, power, and other basic needs.

Meanwhile, the selection of the 200 communities across the country didn’t come on a platter of gold. Nominations were made by thousands of people. 36, 881 entries were received, but because the Foundation’s team were determined to put square pegs in square holes, they, through a thorough selection and verification process, reduced that number to 384 communities.

Several visits were made to these communities by the team, before the selected 200 were finally announced. So far, a huge number of communities have benefitted already from the initiative.

According to the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, a lot of rigour went into short-listing the potential community project beneficiaries. “Part of the campaign promise of the ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative was to ensure high-level transparency and communal involvement by carrying the public along through the nomination and selection process, which is what we have done to ensure credibility and fairness in the process,” she noted.

In one of the events to kick start the distribution of transformers to some of the communities whose major issue was lack of power, Ugboma said electricity was critical to every part of the lives of individuals and of a nation. “Without electricity, businesses cannot operate optimally and individuals will have to generate their power. This impacts their profitability and sustainability as well. For relaxation and recreation, and for general well-being, we require electricity. It is for this reason that the Foundation decided to complement government’s efforts in improving the quality of lives in our communities through the donation of transformers,” Ugboma said.

Speaking further, she said: “We have asked Nigerians what we could do together. They have answered, and part of their requests is what we are now fulfilling. The next phase will include donation of school furniture, borehole water and orphanage donations. We remain committed to improving the lives of individuals and the well-being of communities by partnering on selected social investment projects, which promote people’s dignity, nurture inherent abilities and help create economic value in the communities.”

According to her, MTN Foundation, the corporate social investment arm of MTN Nigeria, has invested over N13 billion in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment, adding that the Foundation has 344 project sites across the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.

Speaking further, Nonny said that this was a demonstration of the Foundation’s commitment to continue to complement government’s efforts in ways that can improve project development in various communities across the country.

Recalling events that transpired in the early days before the Foundation commenced, Ugboma, noted that MTN conducted an in-depth research to find out the primary needs of Nigerians and how best it can give back. “From the research conducted by Phillips Consulting, we were able to identify three basic areas: education, health and economic empowerment. With this foresight, we invited key stakeholders from the education, health, and poverty alleviation agencies, to brainstorm and develop a framework for the activities of the MTN Foundation. That meeting was very instrumental in setting the tone for the Foundation,” she explained.

Speaking during the Foundation’s 10th year anniversary recently, the Chairman, Board of the MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, in an earlier interview, recalled that the Foundation was set up 10 years ago to improve the quality of lives of Nigerians. And over the years the Foundation has made remarkable impact through the implementation of much needed social investments across all parts of the country. He added that till date, over 13 billion naira has been spent on numerous Corporate Social Responsibility interventions.

On his part, the Director, MTN Foundation, Mr. Dennis Okoro, said that relationship was a core value at MTN as a business.

“MTN and the MTN Foundation uphold the company’s core value of building and sustaining relationships. Looking at what the Foundation has achieved in a decade, relationship plays an integral part in the success story of impact on millions of Nigerians in the areas of Education, Health and Economic Empowerment. It is this value and the successes we have achieved so far that inspired us to say: let’s partner with Nigerians by asking them to nominate any of these four projects: school furniture, boreholes, transformers or household items for orphanages, for their communities. Through this nomination, a community of your choice could benefit from one of these projects and we are going to implement this in 200 communities,” he said.

Entries for the first phase initiative ended on October 9, 2015, where Nigerians were asked to register the community name and their preferred project, guided by the prompts that follow after dialing the specified code. Majority of the communities have taken delivery of their preferred projects. The second phase of the project is about to commence and Nigerians are eagerly waiting.

But one thing then comes to mind after sunshine has been spread to 200 communities across Nigeria. What happens to several other communities in the country crying to have their health, education, infrastructural and basic needs tackled? Will government, other foundations, corporate bodies or well meaning Nigerians take a cue from the gesture shown to the lucky 200 communities and help the other crying communities?