How to Drive Impactful and Self-Sustained Social Investments in Nigeria – Clifford Obude

“…I belief that my business should outlive me … continue to create more jobs for the people, serve the needs of people and the future generations…” Clifford Obude


Tell us who is Mr Clifford Obude?

I am Mr Clifford Obude, a mechanical engineer and the CEO of Bezaleel Consults. We provide engineering designs, and are into supply and installation of engineering products like fittings, valves, geotextile, and other environmental protection materials.

How did you get into the sustainability/CSR profession?

I got into sustainability when First Bank of Nigeria Limited listed my company for training at Lagos Business School (LBS). Since then they have always been in contact with us to inform us about events that are related to how we can sustain our business.

What are the contributions of your company, Bezaleel Consults, towards sustainable development in Nigeria?

I contribute to sustainable development by training the future business leaders of Nigeria today and helping them to build the needed skill to drive the business after me. I do not want the business to just provide food for me but to grow big and become a multinational company that can continue to create more jobs for the people, and serve the needs of people as well as the future generations.

The multinational businesses we admire today were establish by fellow humans but today they have outgrown their owners, whether they are still alive or not. So I belief that my business should outlive me, and the two persons that can make the business to outlive me are my employees and my family to whom I have shared the company’s vision with. To achieve this, I usually engage my employees on sustainable business trainings and workshop organised by First Bank Sustainability Centre, Lagos Business School and other institutions.

Is it possible for a business to achieve its goals without leaving negative footprints in the society? Please explain.

It is possible for business to achieve its goals without leaving negative footprints in the society but that depends on your belief. As a Christian and the chairman of the elders committee in Redeemed Christian Church of God, I belief that God gives us the power to make wealth but we have to do it within the ambits of our Christian belief without leaving negative footprints in the society. So whether you are a Christian, Muslim or belong to other faiths, none of them can tell you to cheat, defraud, and not to pay workers’ salaries or government taxes. Jesus was even very clear by saying give to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God. Any business that cheats and is not on the sound footing of integrity would hardly survive its owner and would have no future, which is what we have in Nigeria.

Would you support companies to give money to their host communities rather than building infrastructure and capacity of the people? Please explain.

The best way for impactful corporate social investment is to provide infrastructure for the common use of the society and to build the capacity of the people. Unfortunately, when you try to build the communities up and bring real development, they usually say no and prefer to be given money than the sustainable interventions. That is not good, but that is what companies do – giving them money. Because I am in the oil and gas industry, I can say that the community leadership such as the youth’s leaders, women leaders, landlord leaders, and chiefs in these areas see collecting money from companies as a better opportunity to satisfy their selfishness as they do not know how long they will stay in the leadership before they will be overthrown. That is to say, the instability in the leadership of the community contribute to the fact that those who are there want immediate gains.

What are the business justifications for impactful corporate social investments?

You must give back to the society because if you are into production you are causing soot to the society and flaring gas which is not limited within your area of operation. If you are doing a quarry business, the dust from the quarry does not settle in your place, the air carries it very far. If you are into truck business the road you are passing are being damaged and the smokes from the trucks pollute the air. Even if you are into telecommunication, the radiation from your transmitters are being carried far. Though your business may be located in one place, but it has negative impacts on the society. Even the noise from your power generator goes far beyond your location. So the only thing you can do is to recognise that you need to give back to the society.