Things have actually falling apart – thanks to Chinua Achebe who saw today decades ago . The major difference between Nigeria and America lies with law and order . A society that does not have capacity to sanction wrong doing and reward good behaviour is bound to collapse and that is the case with Nigeria .
Coming home in the South Eastern region , I can simply recommend that south eastern Governors and genuine NGO like GGM mobilize our people in Diaspora towards a desired economic development. We as ndigbo have exported one basic resources – human resources and with higher exchange rate , we can make best use of the created opportunity by encouraging our export to start investing in critical areas . It is the responsibility of the State Governors to create enabling environment that will attract the needed investment. Again , NGOs like ADF, GGM and others should be encouraged to play a greater role in engaging both Government and the citizens towards achieving an organized and modern society.
Mobilizing the human resources of our people in Diaspora will create the needed jobs in the south Eastern region . Since the exit of M.I . Okpara,the number of factories that were abandoned throughout the region is more than 200.
Among the companies estimated to worth N10 trillion in valuation, are: the Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia; Ceramics Industry, Umuahia, Abia Hotels in Aba; the Hotel Presidential, Niger steel, Niger Gas, the Premier Cashew Industry in Oghe, Eastern Plastics Ltd all in Enugu state; Premier Breweries, Onitsha, Anambra state; several cocoa and farm settlements among others.
The Governors can identify all the Companies and search for our people in Diaspora and home to put the factories back to operations with the necessary Government supports devoid of politics .
Experts reckoned that the legacy companies are some of the missing links between the economic woes and potential of the region, but for the nonchalant disposition of successive administrations in the Region.
Golden Guinea for instance, is a massive investment comparable to the Nigeria Breweries that turned in N402 billion revenue in the third quarter of 2023.
These investments in their present locations are in the heart of the Southeast region. If you go to Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, it ranks among the best and remains highly competitive. The one in Enugu could have played such a role for the Southeast if it is working . Unfortunately,those in Government in the south east will rather destroy public interest in pursuit of personal interest.
Alas,these establishments in other states of the federation are revenue earners, employment creators and what have continued to impact development. These are the essence of investments, not what we have presently in the Southeast.
Sadly, the abandoned industries, warehouses and dilapidated structures now stand as reminders of lost opportunities. The unemployment rate and poverty levels in the Southeast persist, stubbornly resistant to improvement in the absence of these operational industries. The dreams of countless individuals and families remain unfulfilled, limited by the absence of these once promising ventures.
The region could have easily solved her unemployment and revenue challenges and probably continued as a blossoming economy, had successive governments that inherited these establishments after the Nigeria/Biafra war and when the old eastern region was carved into two (Southeast and South-south regions) continued to fund and maintain them.
For instance, while the governments of Rivers and Bayelsa states have continued to run and maintain the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt, taking it to an enviable international standard with employment for over 500 people; the one in Enugu that was built at the same time has become obsolete.
The four-floor 100-room edifice located inside Enugu urban can best be described as a carcass as block works remain the only identity it has acquired now. The glass windows, roof, electronics, and other appliances have been removed or stolen. The place degenerated to the point of providing safety for criminal elements and other notorious activities in the state.
Recently, Governor Peter Mbah indicated interest in rehabilitating the hotel but started by carving out portions of the premises for sale to private developers.
When outrage greeted the exercise, the state government responded that it had given “approval for Enugu State Housing Development Corporation (ENSHDC) to sell an undeveloped area of the hotel lying fallow for more than five decades without adding any value to the hotel.”
At the time Golden Guinea Breweries (GG) in Umuahia, Abia state, was fully operational, it had over one million people engaged directly and indirectly including staff, drivers, artisans and distributors.
The brewery was founded in 1962 and first named Independence Brewery was a notable indigenous competitor to foreign manufacturers in the country. It produces Golden Guinea beer, Eagle Stout, Bergedorf beer and Bergedorf Malta.
Following a fire incident of 2003, the brewery closed for over 16 years and used the period to search for funds and inventors.
After 16 years, about N1.2 billion capital was injected through Pan Marine Investment Company as a core investor.
Although production and business activities resumed in 2019, the challenges posed by poor economy, foreign exchange increase, increasing labour and other costs, competition among competing brands affected it to the point that sales fell below expectations.
It was gathered that this scenario affected payment of salaries and procurement of production inputs. Currently, skeletal activities go in the company; but funds are needed to restore full production.
The Modern Ceramics Umuahia (MOCERAM) is another establishment by the government of the Eastern Region under the Premiership of Michael Okpara as part of the industrial revolution of that era. The factory operated optimally until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1967 which affected its operations.
The factory was reactivated in 1972 but collapsed completely in 1996 due to obsolete equipment, vandalisation and asset stripping by successive management over time.
It was privatised in May 2003 by the Abia State Government to UCL Resources and Investments Ltd (UCL) and became UCL-Modern Ceramics Industries Limited (UCL-MOCERAM).
Under the present arrangement, UCL owns 80 per cent of Modern Ceramics Ltd, Abia State government, five per cent with the remaining 15 per cent reserved for undisclosed investors.
The Premier Brewery in Onitsha employed over 1,000 people directly when it was in operation. The industry has long been privatised.Efforts to make the Company operational has not been successful .
Lack of political will and commitment to enthrone lasting legacies that could benefit the people were responsible for the inability of the establishments to work again.Multiple taxation, over dependence on oil revenue, poor patronage of local products, new culture of buying and selling, importation of virtually everything has relegated industrialisation to the background in the region and successive leaders have paid lip services on things concerning the region.
It is very sad that when you go to the southwest, there is what they call the O’dua Investment, which is a consortium of establishments of those who ruled the region before now. Their present governors came under Odua Investment to make these establishments work, employ their people and generate revenues.
This is not the case with our Governors. When they started the Southeast governor’s forum, one felt that they came together to address this challenge but that has not been the case. The present crop of leaders seems uninterested or unable to revisit these moribund industries that were established by their predecessors. It is obvious that if those companies were put back to life, they would contribute in no small measure to alleviate the acute unemployment and the rising incidence of crimes in the zone.
There is an urgent need for our Governors to mobilize our experts around the world to look inwards and tackle our Regional challenges instead of waiting for monthly allocation to drop from the federal government(paymaster ).
We must use our best around the world to develop these industries and get our farm settlements and industrial villages to work. Pay competitive wages to attract the best. Build power station and power our farm and industrial villages on 24 hours basis. These actions will bring a new dawn in the southeast. The good thing is that the structures laid several years ago are still there. If we cannot develop regionally ,we can go on State by State basis . Dr Alex Otti has started on good note by setting up a global economic forum . All we require is the political will to put them back to work.
Ndubuisi Anaenugwu, GGM Ambassador