Lasena/Oak Group:Exploring Sauna and Recycling Opportunities

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Following the success of its artesian natural water, the Oak Group is about opening its sauna natural wellness centre just as its recycling plant is now in full swing. The Chairman of the group, Dr. Lance Musa Elekamah, explains to Raheem Akingbolu that there is need to save the environment while exploring the business opportunities in plastic recycling and sauna

The Business of ‘Healing’ Water…

A  recent visit to the factory ßof Oak Group, producers of Lasena Artesian Natural Water, showed that activities in the factory have gone up a notch. During a media tour earlier in the year, the focus was on the water and the incredible condition of its source and the fact that it comes out of the ground at a temperature of over 70 degrees centigrade. As a result, the water is being bottled in its natural state as it comes out of the ground. And the healing properties of the water have been attested to by consumers, especially those who have been battling one ailment or the other. A medical doctor, Dr. John Nana, told THISDAY then that the water has healing properties because of its high ph level.

“The normal ph of water for human consumption is about 6.5,” Dr. Nana explained. “The ph level is 1 to 14. From 1 to 6 is acidic and from 7 to 14 is alkaline. It is a known fact that sickness cannot exist in an alkaline environment. That is why Lasena water has healing properties. With a ph level of 7.78, it has the highest alkaline level in the whole of Africa and arguably just the second highest in the whole world.”

Extending the ‘Healing’ through the Sauna…

While the natural and healing properties of the water have been turned to business enterprise with capacity to expand to a multi-billion naira investment, the diversification is on already. When this reporter cornered Dr. Musa Lance Elakamah, the chairman of the Oak Group penultimate week, he explained that now that the artesian water has now established its presence in the market, the focus is now on the sauna and the recycling plant.

The issue of the recycling plant came as a surprise to this reporter who was part of the February media tour. But Elakamah explained that the recycling plant and the sauna have always been on the cards and part of the new investments of the Oak Group.  He explained that the sauna is in three stages and two of those three stages have been completed.

“Like I explained to you guys when you came here the last time. The first stage is the sauna and a small restaurant. The second stage is the warm swimming pool and block of chalets where those who come for sauna bath can stay overnight. What is ready now is the car wash, the suya spot and the sauna itself which is the main thing. And it will be ready in the next few weeks.”

Elakamah said he was aware that saunas in the country are artificial. But the selling point for Lasena Artesian Natural Steam Bath is natural. He said nothing was added to it neither was the water being heated by anything.

“It is natural,” Elakamah explained. “The water is going to the sauna as it is coming out of the ground at 70 degrees centigrade. That is the difference between our own and other saunas. It is natural heat and what this means is that all the minerals in the water being bottled are also in the sauna. These are calcium, silica, magnesium, potassium, nitrate and zinc. So if you inhale the water in the sauna, you are healing yourself. Sicknesses like diabetes, rheumatism and so on are due to acidosis. When you sweat naturally, your pores will open and all the toxin and acidic waste will be released. It is a very simple and natural way of healing. Ours is the only one in Africa for now. You have a couple in Namibia or another country but it does not have the temperature that our own water has.”

Elakamah, who retired as deputy director-general of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE, explained further that since the water goes to the sauna directly and the sauna itself is enclosed, it can maintain same temperature for four days even if more hot water is not pumped into it.

“It is as hot as it was for the first day four days later even if fresh water is not pumped. The inside of the sauna is tiled to ensure retention of heat. It is the best sauna you can think of around here. It is just a way of thinking outside the box and looking at the business aspect of the artesian water beyond the bottling. We are given to the society a complete wellness centre.”

Already, some expatriates who know the value of natural sauna are already visiting the centre even when it has not been fully opened for business. Elakamah also informed THISDAY that some very important personalities from highbrow areas are already visiting the centre. He said the centre will soon be formally opened and the populace can enjoy the health benefits of the artesian natural water.

‘Recycling to Save the Environment…’

However, beyond the sauna is the recycling plant less than hundred metres away from the sauna wellness centre. Elakamah said that is one thing many people are not aware of. According to him, it is important to help the environment; especially when many Nigerian still don’t know how to dispose of empty plastic bottles properly. Unknown to many, inside the Oak Group complex is a plastic factory that produces plastic bottles and caps for other bottling companies. He said even waste plastics have to be recycled to help the environment as much as possible. He explained further that plastic is material that is not bio-degradable.

“You have to know that plastic is a not bio-degradable. In other words, it cannot decay. Therefore, anyone who is into plastic factory that does not have a recycling plant is endangering the environment. That is the bitter truth. So we did not want to endanger the environment and that is why I set up that recycling plant.”

And he does not end there. He told THISDAY that the company usually commissions people to go around and bring down empty plastics.

“We also ask people to help us clean drainages in Lagos, Mowe, Abeokuta, Ibadan and so on to bring to us waste plastic bottles. We usually marsh them and recycle them. Those who bring these empty plastic bottles, for your information, are not doing it for free. We pay them. We are environmentally friendly because at no time, when rain falls, these bottles are washed up to canals and they block them and all of are endangered. Go round these premises. You can never see a single empty plastic bottle. Not even within our premises but around here. We go out of our way to pick them up and recycle them.”

Elekamah said the recycled plastics are not even used by his Group. Instead, they are sold to the Chinese who buy them and use them to make buttons for cloths and also tug rope for ships, polyester shirts and so on. He explained that there is no waste in plastics. Even beyond this, government is supposed to be compensating him.

“In advances countries, government should be compensating us. They should look at those who are into recycling. Government should be compensating them for helping the environment. People are employed in the recycling plant and we are paying them and also, we pay people who go round to pick these empty bottles.”