* To build cluster park * Job creation is new focus * Former presidents rally * Gov Wike waves hand of support
Anxiety grew high when a Lebanon-born but naturalised Nigerian, Nabil Saleh, a Nigerian chief, was about to mount the throne as chief of the organized private sector in the Garden City and 61st president of the famous Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA). Many were said to be jittery, whether it was going to be a step forward or backward for the business family especially after a medical doctor, former commissioner and a maritime investor, Emi Membre-Otaji, had presided over the place for some years. Worst were fears whether the main caucus of PHCCIMA would support him and if the Chambers would be shunned by the Rivers State Government led by Gov Nyesom Wike.
These fears seemed to dissolve on the evening of November 29, 2018, when Saleh stood at the entrance of the L.A Kings in radiant attire to welcome an endless stream of VIPs and guests the topmost being Gov Wike’s direct representative, the deputy governor herself, Ipalibo Harry Banigo. The perfect organization that seems to be Saleh’s brand identity showed from the red carpet to the last chair in the hall, and the synchrony that went with it.
Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Harry Banigo (PhD)
The biggest reassurances seemed to ooze from the state government as the deputy governor chose her words carefully, each word conveying both surface and deep meanings. “We congratulate Chief Nabil Saleh and Gov Wike was pleased to see him emerge as president. He is a friend and the government will help him to fulfill his blueprint. Your three years will be great; so work on your dreams. Lets see more jobs due to PHCCIMA activities. We look forward to working with you.”
On what the administration is doing to bring back prosperity in the Port Harcourt business circle, she said: “Its our duty to promote growth of industries and businesses. Recently, Rivers State was recorded as destination of highest FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments). This is because Governor Nyesom Wike is always trying to make the state safe and secure for businesses to thrive.”
She went on: “He has closed up multiple taxes and paying taxes is now easier. Land certificates issue has been dealt with; so, no more delays. The Federal Allocation is dwindling but Rivers State continues to do projects; roads, night life restored, recreational life is back, cultural centre is back, schools and hospitals are top class. Now, national and international conferences now hold in Port Harcourt every now and then.”
Saleh speaks, confirms
When it was time for him to unveil his agenda, Saleh in his characteristic self went straight to the point. He struck the heart of his plan being to build a cluster park for businesses in the Garden City. He equally unveiled a 10-point agenda aimed at boosting the ability of companies and businesses in Port Harcourt to play deeper in a post-recession economy. Saleh is the CEO of two Port Harcourt-based companies; M-Saleh and Golden Sands.
He said the new leadership would mount seminars to groom member-companies and make them adaptable to new trends in business and entrepreneurship. They would also begin membership drive and get fleeing members back.
The new leadership plans to begin aggressive networking with both corporate organizations and government institutions in order to create awareness and opportunities for members. It would also pursue corporate relationship with federal, state and national bodies.
The new team is also to build a permanent trade fair ground which has been on the card for years.
Unveiling the new focus, Saleh reminded the business community that PHCCIMA was established in 1957 to articulate business interest for the transforming region. He said PHCCIMA is the second largest chamber of commerce in Nigeria, developing business leaders through sharing of information. He promised that PHCCIMA would continue to act on behalf of businesses in the coming months and years.
The business mogul mentioned accountability and transparency as key to the Chamber’s operations and promised to embark on upgrading PHCCIMA’s secretariat which has continued to move from location to location in the Garden City.
Saleh’s first deputy is a grounded administrator (one time permanent secretary), industrialist and agric entrepreneur with large farms that employ expatriates. He is said to command huge respect in the governor’s circle. The second deputy president is a highly organised, globally travelled competent scholar, and business manager, Chinyere Nwoga (PhD).
Past presidents solidarity
This must be why past presidents seemed to rally round the new executive council and insisted on turning PHCCIMA around especially on foreign trade missions. On the night in question, they seemed to speak through Hyde Ochai who dispelled doubts and made it clear that the election that brought in the new team was flawless.
Tracing the turbulent years of PHCCIMA and the transition, he said; “I tried to create a system that solves the problematic system we had before to reduce tension. I am the bride between the old and new orders. The new president has ideas. He will take the Chambers to new levels. Past presidents stand by you to do the right thing.”
The evening ended with apparent big relief, new hopes and new enthusiasm that PHCCIMA is set to attempt a new height, to go to the next level.