‘Poor power supply, insecurity bane on industrialisation in Nigeria’
by NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE
May 20, 2018 | 4:48 am| | | Start Conversation
Festus Mbisiogu is a China-based Nigerian businessman and the chief executive officer of Blue Diamond Logistics. In this interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, Mbisiogu speaks on a number of issues, including his determination to contribute to the economic development in the country, particularly in his home state, Imo; his motivation in coming home to build industry, and the need for government to create conducive environment for industrialists. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians in the Diaspora appear to be wary of establishing industries in the country, perhaps due to unfriendly business environment. It is indeed interesting to see people like you coming home to establish industries. What is the motivation?
I live in China where I do my business. Also, I have offices in Dubai and Nigeria, but l discovered that the rate of importing building materials in Nigeria from China is very high. Statistics also have shown that almost 80 percent of building materials used in Nigeria are imported from China and some of these materials can be manufactured here in Nigeria. So, it was the high rate of importation of building materials in Nigeria that motivated my coming home to site an industry. Another inspiring factor was the visit of the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom to China in 2011. During his visit, some selected Nigerian businessmen in China had a meeting with him. During the forum Ortom pleaded with Nigerians in the Diaspora to repatriate their funds, promising that government will grant them conducive environment. The governor also took time to educate Nigerians in China on the policies that government were introducing in the country in order to encourage industrialisation. Also, at the forum, he admitted that the issue of power was a major factor impeding industrialisation and he informed us that government was working towards improving power supply in the country. I was glad to hear that and to know also that the government of Nigeria was thinking how to create conducive business environment. I was indeed encouraged by his presentation. That also made me to start thinking how to establish industries here in Nigeria and today, l have finished building one known as Shanghai Engineering Works and Industrial Limited, located in Imo State.
The use of substandard building materials has been linked with the increased cases of collapsed building in the country. What assurance are you giving Nigerians that Shanghai will produce high quality products?
Based on the information l gathered from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the cause of collapsed buildings in the country could be as a result of the compromising nature of some builders. Some of them try to compromise by economising the materials. If a builder uses the right mixture of sand, cement and other building materials depending on the kind of building, l don’t think we will have the issue of collapse building.
In my own factory, we engaged foreign partners and we are doing what is called transfer of skills and technology. Our partners are working there now and training our people, so by the time they left, we will continue from where they stopped. The reason we partnered the foreigners is because we want to give Nigerians good quality building materials, we are doing this because we have a name to protect as one stop shop for building materials in the country. To avoid buildings from collapse, government should formulate stringent policies ensuring that before you commence any building, the builder should get approval and the building should be properly monitored till they finished building.
Lagos State is doing a very good job, when the building gets to a certain stage you will see field workers from the state ministry monitoring the ongoing building. Some of these builders and landlords who lower the quality of the building materials are cheating themselves. They do that due to ignorance, they need to be educated on the dangers associated with their deeds. When a structure is built with the right materials, it will stand the test of time. If you visit other countries of the world, you will see buildings that are over hundred years and they are still rugged because the builders used the right proportion of building materials.
Do you think government has done enough to encourage Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) industries in the country?
It is the duty of every government to provide conducive business environment so as to enable business to thrive. But the issue of poor power supply remains critical. Most SMEs have folded while some have relocated to other neighbouring countries like Ghana where there is constant power supply. They do that because they do not have the resources to provide constant power supply for themselves and still take care of other pressing needs of the company. So, they will either crumble or relocate to neighbouring countries where there is steady power supply. There is also high interest rate; insecurity and some other government policies in the country which are not favourable to industrialists. These, however, have affected the growth of industrialisation in the country. The interest rate in Nigeria is too high. In China, the interest rate is in single digit, which means it is between one and nine percent. The essence of this is to encourage industrialisation in that country. Chinese government recently said that in 2020, 40 percent of people living in China would be multi-millionaires because four or five out of every 10 families are into industrialisation. Besides, the low interest rate, the government provides accessibility to where the factories are sited; they clear the roads for those who want to build industries and are always there for their assistance. When the Chinese government discovered that you are doing well, they will give you loan and task you to export those products. So, because of these facilities available there, it makes men and women to be creative, always thinking of what to produce. So, Nigerian government should lower the interest rate, at least, to single digit because when it is 15 percent and above it will be difficult for such a business to survive. The Bank of Industry cannot do it all alone because the essence of banks in any nation is to assist business to thrive. Government should also, work on security issues because some Nigerians in the Diaspora are afraid of the killings going on in the Northern part of the country and no serious-minded business man will want to invest in such area.
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