UACN Boss Extols Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce at 40

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As the Nigerian-British Chamber Of Commerce (NBCC) marks its 40th anniversary, the Group Managing Director/CEO of UACN Plc, Mr. Larry Ettah has extolled the Chamber, saying the NBCC had been there, all through the challenges in the Nigerian economy, advocating sensible policy reforms, promoting trade and investment with the United Kingdom and helping to advance commerce in Nigeria.

The UACN boss who spoke in Lagos at the 40th anniversary lecture and celebrations of the NBCC, said the chamber offered platforms for advocacy, policy articulation, dialogue with government and regulatory agencies, and had helped to sustain the flow of investment into Nigeria economy in spite of significant obstacles.

Ettah said: “The fact that NBCC has survived and indeed thrived through the changing administrations and evolving socio-political and economic transitions in the Nigerian nation is a testament to the vision of its founding fathers, and the commitment of its leadership through the years, and today it remains one of the foremost Business Membership Organisations and bilateral Chambers of Commerce in Nigeria and indeed Africa.

“For us at UAC of Nigeria Plc, our resilience perhaps is rooted in our provenance and a common patrimony with NBCC, a melding of edifying values between Nigeria and United Kingdom business interest. Through the years, we have been guided in our corporate conduct by values of integrity, innovation, customer focus, respect for individual, teamwork, openness and communication. Values that are part of our British Nigerian DNA. Values that have similarly defined NBCC in its 40 years. I commend the past and present leaders of NBCC and its entire membership and I am sure that forty years from today in 2057, the organisation would still be around and thriving.”

 While paying homage to the NBCC, the UACN boss said it was heartwarming that a conversation between two illustrious gentlemen in the name of Sir Adam Thompson, Chairman of the then British Caledonian Airways and Chief Henry Fajemirokun, CON (both of blessed memory), some 42 years ago, sparked a chain of events leading to the formation of the chamber in 1977 and culminating in the landmark 40th year Anniversary milestone of the NBCC.

Ettah used to occasion to charge the managers of the Nigeria’s economy to ignore falling oil price and implement a policy agenda to restructure and diversify the nation’s economy.

The UACN boss said Nigeria must not wait for oil price to rise before taking steps to restructure the economy.

He said: “Nigeria’s party based on oil rents ended in 1980 with the global oil glut as oil prices collapsed from over $40 per barrel to less than $10. The country passed through austerity, import licensing, Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), counter-trade, NEEDS, and now we have an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

“Today again, as we deal with another oil price decline, with similar economic consequences as the 1980s downturn, Nigeria cannot simply wait again until oil prices rise again. We must implement a policy agenda to restructure and diversify our economy; build an export base, stop government’s reliance on oil to finance its activities and build a productive, competitive domestic economy.”

Using the experience of UACN’s success story to illustrate his stance, Ettah said: “In 1977, our economy was totally different from today – The US Dollar exchanged for less than N1; interest rates were fixed by the CBN, which acted under instructions from the Ministry of Finance; Credit allocation was based on sectoral allocations decided by the Central Bank and banks all closed at 1:00pm on all days except Monday, when they closed at 3:30pm. Most banks were owned 60% by Government which appointed their boards, and many big hotels were also owned by government!

“The trending business of the time was breweries… and everyone soon started setting up their own. At UACN, we were a totally different business in 1977. Merchandising was a big part of our business – we imported and sold tractors, office equipment, air conditioners, chemicals, even consumables. We had Tractor and Equipment, G.B Ollivant, A.J Seward, Bordpak Premier Packaging, Perabeam, AT&P and Kingsway!!!

“Since 1977, in line with the demands of the economy, UACN Plc restructured and adapted, became a new type of conglomerate investing in foods, cereals and feeds, paint, real estate and logistics. It is worthy of note that our erstwhile contemporaries like CFAO, SCOA, John Holt, UTC are no longer our peers. The problem is that unlike UACN, Nigeria simply waited … almost two decades … until 1998/1999 when oil prices recovered. Then we resumed our party!”

 “Since 1977, in line with the demands of the economy, UACN Plc restructured itself and adapted, became a new type of conglomerate investing in foods, cereals and feeds, paint, real estate and logistics. It is worthy of note that our erstwhile contemporaries like CFAO, SCOA, John Holt, UTC are no longer our peers. The problem is that unlike UACN, Nigeria simply waited … almost two decades … until 1998/1999 when oil prices recovered. Then we resumed our party!”