After Transforming Football, Aiteo Delves into Education, By Dabiri Epere

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SWITZERLAND, JUNE 11 – Whichever facet of life Nigeria’s biggest oil exploration company, Aiteo decides to make social investments into, it always sets the pace in it. Currently the biggest corporate contributor to football development in Nigeria, Aiteo has recently scaled up its social contributions towards education, just as it had done with football. On May 25, 2019, the oil giant contributed half a billion naira to the Bayelsa State Education Development Trust Fund, marking the largest donation received by the foundation since its enactment into law on March 29, 2017.

Aiteo’s decision to scale up its immense contributions to education in Nigeria with focus on Bayelsa state indicates a commitment to the fundamental development of the country, especially Bayelsa State which hosts a considerable part of the company’s operations. It also indicates an intensification of community engagement under a new management.

Following its appointment, Aiteo’s new management under the new Managing Director, Victor Okoronkwo swung into action to intensify development and engagement activities in its host communities, including the Nembe area of Bayelsa, where the company operates. The new management has begun expediting Aiteo’s contributions to the development of the community and Education presents an opportunity to make a monumental social investment into the lives of the people.

Education is the most fundamental drive for national development everywhere in the world.  According to late former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, Knowledge is power, Information is liberating, and Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

Aiteo’s founder and Executive Vice Chairman Benedict Peters seems to share Kofi Annan’s views. The African billionaire is an advocate of quality education for the growing young population on the continent.

However, there is good reason to be worried about the state of education in Nigeria, and Africa in general. Due to a combination of factors including inadequate infrastructure, poverty and bad government policies, sub-Saharan African countries, except for South-Africa, are rated poorly in terms of education. The optimism generated by the recent increase in school enrolment across Africa has been dampened by a population explosion as well as reduction in quality of education.

 Nigeria, the most populous African country currently possesses the largest population of out-of-school learning youth in the world. The dire situation of education in Nigeria is even more glaring when the statistics between South Africa and Nigeria are compared.

 South Africa with a population of close to 50 million plans to spend $17.024 billion or 16.7 per cent of total government resources on basic education programmes in 2018/19 while Nigeria with a population of about 200 million is going to spend $1.5 billion or 7.02 percent in the 2019 budget. Frequent calls on the government to increase the portion of the budget dedicated to education have not succeeded.

It is obvious that government investment into education is not enough. Therefore, it is pertinent that privileged individuals and corporate entities make inputs in this sector to augment what the government has provided. In Bayelsa State, the set up of the Education Trust Fund has been hailed as one of the laudable initiatives of the Seriake Dickson government. The Bayelsa Education Development Trust Fund (BEDTF) was set up in 2017 to sensitize and mobilize all indigenes of Bayelsa, Nigerians, groups, philanthropists and relevant international organizations to contribute to developing education in the state.

During its launch on May 25, the BEDTF finally got its largest donation from Aiteo, a company with a renewed commitment to enhancing education in its host community.

Speaking at the event, the Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo, Mr Benedict Peters, who was represented by the new Managing Director of Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production, Victor Okoronkwo, said: “ Indeed, the Aiteo Group’s sustainability investments are hinged on education as a tool to eliminate the cycle of poverty, while empowering our youths to learn and grow into future leaders in their communities, and throughout Africa. Education is fundamental to unlocking the world, it is a passport to self-fulfilment and purpose. It is one of the essential factors of development, no country can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in human capital.”

Aiteo’s contributions to football in Nigeria and the entire African continent in the last two years has been monumental. The 20-year-old firm’s inputs have shaped the outlook of the sport in Nigeria and on the continental stage. Aiteo became the Official Optimum Partner of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), through massive financial investments that have boosted the performance of the Super Eagles and enhanced the capacity of the NFF to discharge its responsibilities.

Aiteo has also invested heavily into the development of Nigerian local football with the title sponsorship of the country’s oldest football tournament, now renamed Aiteo Cup. The tournament has gotten bigger and the prize money for the winning teams has increased exponentially.

At the continental stage, Aiteo is the title sponsor of the CAF awards, which recognizes and rewards the greatest football exploits in and from Africa.

A few years ago, the state of Nigerian football was bleak with inadequate funding of the national teams, poor performances and a waning interest in domestic football. Aiteo’s investments turned the situation around, boosting the performance of the Super Eagles and revitalizing local football through the Aiteo Cup.

Aiteo’s tagline says it is the future of energy and education is a means of safeguarding that future. With its recent contributions, Aiteo is set to replicate in education, its feats in football.

Dabiri Epere is a postgraduate student from Bayelsa State. He lives in Lagos

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