Movers and shakers of industry flock PH for MAN, plot way for return of industrialization in South-South

By Ignatius Chukwu

It is not always that captains of industry attend the events at regional or state levels but when the Rivers/Bayelsa Chapter of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by Elder Vincent Okuku called, movers and shakers of industry answered them.

The National President of MAN himself, the Otunba, Francis Meshioye, backed by the Director-General of MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi Kadiri, and Engr Giandomenico Massari, Vice President of MAN, South/East, others had no option to come see what these giants came to do.

Thus, it was no surprise to find an influential and well-educated monarch in PH, Eze Gbakagbaka, HRH King/Dr/Ambassador Leslie Nyebuchi Eke as well as HRH Eze Nyema Onunwor JP, Nyerishi Mbam/Nyenweli Oropotoma in attendance. The strong woman of MAN often hailed as Life Member, Mrs Ekama Emilia Akpan (former Chairman of MAN and former national vice president of MAN, CEO of Showers group), took centre stage as she does when her heart is in any project or programme.

The public sector players especially regulatory agencies were fully on ground to show what the Organized Private Sector (OPS) needed to get right. Some key federal agencies such as the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) led by the Regional Coordinator, Mr Ganiyu Ahmid Gbolagade was on ground while his head of unit, Mrs Evelyn Kobo, participated at panel level showing what the South-South can do to access export grants and loans. The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) was on ground, the Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Commerce and Industry was present on Day One and a Director represented the state government on Day 2 and delivered strong goodwill message that showed that the Governor’s heart was in that AGM if not for unforeseen circumstances.

An Assistant Director, PR, in the Nigerian Shippers Council was present, the Rivers zone chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Council (NERC), was present, MAN Edo/Delta led by Engr Okwara Udochie was present while Dr Dogbara Sagbere, leading NASME in Rivers State as chairman was fully on ground all of the two days.

Mourning crash of many industries in South-South

What seemed to dominate Day One was the shutdown or crash of industries in the South-South with the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area as case study.

Speakers mentioned many companies that also shut down in Benin, Calabar, and other places, and how this threw many youths out of job, this fueling militancy in the oil region.

This is as the national leadership of manufacturers has demanded end to conflict of tax collection especially on haulage fees.

Manufacturers in the south had for years lamented over shutdowns beginning with Michelin, RIVOC, NEW, and many more. They said the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area that was bubbling with factories is now a shadow of itself without most administration perturbed. 

MAN in the Rivers/Bayelsa chapter said this is the time to reactivate factories and restore the state as a manufacturing hub in the south-south.

The chapter chairman, Elder Okuku, said in his welcome address that the steady shutdown forced the association to consider the kind of theme they chose; re-igniting industries in south-south.

Elder Okuku said it is important to know that for jobs to be created, there must be factories, and that factories create wealth.

He dwelt on the need to explore new areas of productivity including solid minerals and agriculture to ensure steady supply of primary goods.

He also pointed at the non-oil sector which he said should be intensified in the south-south and called for boost to rail transportation just as he drew the attention of the Federal Government to the Onne Road.

Elder Okuku commended the governors of Rivers and Bayelsa States and said their absence was understandable. He said AGM was a good opportunity to brief the governors on how to begin the industrialization of the two states and transform the south-south.

Okuku advised the two states to consult MAN when formulating economic and industrial policies.

He went further to name some of the challenges that he said severely impacted MAN’s activities such as difficulty of sourcing foreign exchange, high cost of power, and non-friendly operating environment.

He showed appreciation to corporate bodies that supported in the successful hosting of the MAN AGM 2023 such as the Rivers State Government, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Bank of Industry (BoI), and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) as well as other important dignitaries that graced the two days event. 

National voice:

Speaking, the MAN national president, Otumba Francis Meshioye, highly commended the chapter chairman, Elder Okuku, saying the national leadership was aware of how hard he worked to make sure the AGM was not put off after the incident that developed in the state on Monday, October 30, 2023 concerning the attempt to impeach the host governor and the resistance that followed.

The president said MAN AGM was mandatory accountability activity which he said also added opportunity to engage their partners and government on sensitive issues.

Otunba Meshioye said: “We are all aware of government’s reform measures including subsidy removal, foreign exchange single window, removal of ban on 41 imported items, etc. The consequences have led to the theme of this AGM which is about re-igniting industrialization and entrepreneurship in the south-south region. 

“We trust that the guest speakers will show us the way out. The poor performance of the economy in past few years has made it imperative by state governments to partner with MAN because it has dawned on many states that only by partnering with the manufacturers can they create jobs for the teeming youths.”

He said MAN national leadership applauded the Rivers State government for improved road networks in at least eight local council areas of Rivers State

The MAN national president however emphasized the need for Governments at the state level to harmonise taxes to reduce crudity and molestation from tax officers to taxpayers especially business people. He observed that harmonious tax systems form the backbone of industrialization drive in any well-meaning society

He advised that governments should appoint MAN members in boards of government agencies to reduce policy summersault

He decried conflicts between state and federal governments over haulage fees and other levies. He said MAN must continue to strive for job creation and economic prosperity of the states and the nation.

He also made it clear that MAN will continue to champion this and ensure that complaints of members reached the government. He assured that the national leadership was not tired of fighting for the members, but urged them to fulfil their obligations such annual subscription and filling the inquiries form for effective feedback that would help the government to know what was pinching manufacturers.

He added that it was by coming together that manufacturers can overcome their challenges.

Highlights of the Day One include technical presentations on how the South-South could re-ignite industrialization presented by Mr Kelvin Uwaibi, CEO of Edo State Investment Promotion Office and Mr Pacqueens Irabor, South-South Regional Manager, Bank of Industry (BoI).

Industry players such as Engr Ubani Nkaginieme, CEO of Total Support Energy, also took the centre stage and dazzled the national audience by showing how the industries could be revived and the role power supply and financing would play.

The AGM/Conference/Exhibition continued the next day at Ark Event Centre opposite the Bori Camp Army facility. The venue appeared well thought out as it seemed to reassure dignitaries of safety and security in the exploding days in the state provoked by sudden impeachment attempt on Gov Sim Fubara. Tension however calmed down while the AGM was going on due to mediations and interventions both in PH and Abuja especially Aso Rock.

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