The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechuwu Enelamah recently embarked on an industry tour of some select companies in the southwest to gain firsthand experience of what their challenges are and how government can intervene to keep them afloat. Jonathan Eze
The two-day industry tour of Ogun and Lagos state was an eye-opener, a revealing and worthwhile adventure and it afforded the dynamic Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, a unique opportunity to interact and interface with local manufacturers.
The organisations visited were Fidson pharmaceutical Plc, May & Baker, Kimberly Clark Nigeria, PROFORCE and Standard Metallurgical Company Limited. The tour climaxed with a town hall meeting with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Ikeja, Lagos.
Fidson Healthcare Plc is a Nigeria-based pharmaceutical manufacturing company. The principal activities of the Company are the manufacture and distribution of pharmaceutical products.
The train started from Fidson corporate head office in Obanikoro area of Lagos. The minister arrived before 9am and was received by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the company, Dr. Fidelis Ayebae and other management team, who conducted him round the premises.
Shortly afterwards, the convoy moved swiftly to its factory situated at Km 38, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Sango-Ota, Ogun State.
Enelamah, was quickly introduced to the chains of produced drugs on display at the entrance both in tablets, syrups, drips-normal saline, dermatological drugs, water system sanitiser, among others.
The MD confidently told the minister that its infusion products are produced without any human intervention making its chances of contamination next to zero.
Ayebae added that it is a company policy to source for raw materials for their drugs locally and packaging materials as long as they are found in Nigeria.
Mr. Imokha Ayebae of Corporate Finance ran the minister through with the company’s presentation and profile. He noted that policies determine the future and direction of Fidson. The MD commended the minister and the federal government for the reforms being carrying out affirming that companies are no longer dying because the government is serious.
The minister, worried by the influx of fake drugs in the market, asked Ayebae how the issue of substandard drugs is affecting them. His response: “Locally manufactured drugs threat is zero but drugs that are fake are international brand and as we speak, it is huge between 20 and 25 per cent.
‘When we discovered this, we were very worried and as a professional group, we are taking the show up. Right now, we are in the process of engaging NAFDAC very aggressively. The meeting will hold next week, we are worried because we know that life comes before business. For this, the long term solution for us is to make medicines locally; the medicines are more reliable when made locally. We are taking this fight up and we have informed our members that once we finish engaging NAFDAC, we will make this a public issue” he said.
As a way forward, he urged the federal government to appoint a substantive DG of NAFDAC. He added that they had met with the minister of health on the need to supply local manufactured drugs to all primary health centres, secondary and tertiary institution using the Essentials Medicine Access Programme (EMAD). He argued further that local manufactured products are still the most affordable. The entourage was taken on a tour of its factory for almost three hours.
Enelamah commended Fidson and emphasised the need for partnership between government and local players and community. He added that one of the benefits of being a student of strategy is the knowledge that anything that is not long term or sustainable is cheating oneself.
May & Baker Nigeria PLC
At May & Baker, the MD, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor received the minister. He said the pharmacentre was commissioned by former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. He listed all their achievements and the huge amount invested so far that led to their certification. He noted that Nigerian companies at a time were being denied tenders by international donors, hence the need to build something big according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.
Okafor added that he had issues sustaining the facilities because of funding. He commended the Bank of Industry (BoI) for supporting them and the federal government for ratifying the joint mutual agreement for the production of vaccines.
Okafor, lauded government’s effort in improving the country’s business climate through policies and the Executive Orders.
“Your presence shows you want to get first-hand information on challenges impeding the pharmaceutical industry. I must commend BoI because without the bank, this company would be non-functional. We were able to access about one billion naira from the bank two years ago,” Okafor said.
He urged the government to resolve challenges delaying clearance of goods at the seaports, cost of gas and influx of imported substandard medicines and power challenges.
The minister commended the company and promised to look into some of their challenges. His words; “My approach to problem solving is that I like you to first accept responsibility, you should be able to say what can we do to improve, these are issues on ground and how can we solve it.
‘’The most important legacy we have as a government is to deal with the issue of enabling environment and that means understanding that government wants to work with you to be able to solve it. The whole idea is to interact with the private sector, we can solve some of these issues, this year or next year, but we will solve them” he noted.
Kimberly Clark Lagos Mill
Situated at Fatai Atere way in Matori area of Lagos, the company produces essential baby items like diapers, Huggies amongst others. The management was pleased with the visit of the minister and used the opportunity to intimate him of their operational challenges.
The Senior Legal Counsel for sub-Saharan Africa, Mrs. Tayo Fagbamigbe disclosed that the company had invested more than $650 million in terms of talent development.
“Even in this difficult economic downturn, we have zero per cent redundancy till date. We want to stay in Nigeria though we have not been making profit. She added that power and trading across borders are basically their problem.
Responding, Enelama said; “These problems are not unique to Kimberly Clark. We as a government want to work with the private sector in a sustainable, holistic way to create a better environment and we mean that in every sense.
On the issue of delays in the ports, Enelamah disclosed that Nigeria does not have the option of remaining the same and that Nigerians agree that the ports need to be reformed.
“We are coming up with the reform to make the ports better, we are committed and we will reform. The last meeting with the acting president was cut clear around trade borders, how do we eliminate all these check points and toll gates so that we will have a world class export facility that is why we want to work with companies in Nigeria and do everything possible to be able to export so you have a winning partner in us as a government. We want to see you exporting without tears,” he said
‘’I am fully convinced that in the next 12 months,18 months or two years, the trajectory of our reforms would pick up and pick up dramatically. But a lot of these also depend on private sector players. Some of the reforms we have done in government, giving directives, like the Executive orders that we issued, we need the private sector to engage the government and make sure that they are implemented.
Proforce Limited is a 100% wholly-owned Nigerian company with a vision to be a leading armouring and defence products provider in the world. Its armoured vehicle manufacturing plants are located in Ode-Remo, Ogun State, and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Ayobami Omotoriogun, told the minister that PROFORCE has a long-standing pedigree and history in the development and design of world-class armoured/bulletproof cars and tactical vehicles with well-defined threat levels of protection.
The MD and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ade Ogundeyin narrated how the company and its subsidiaries started and attributed its growth to grace of God.
According to him, Proforce has developed a large portfolio of products for the military and civilian markets. ‘’We are able to customise solutions to fit clients’ needs, while maintaining the industry’s highest levels for quality and performance.
Enelamah disclosed that the main thrust of the Buhari’s government is basically to diversify this economy in a way that increases their local production” he said.
He said the only way to achieve this is to partner with industries, manufacturers, players in the private sector, adding that, federal government just don’t want to pay lip service but wants to understand the problem and be able to solve them.
According to him, government wants to work with the private sector in a sustainable and holistic way, as their vision is to make Nigeria the right place to do business.
“I believe it will happen but it will only happen with partnership, so we are interested in solving individual cases. Systematically, we will work together to create a better environment, create more jobs and services and we want industries to grow. If you look at the size of the country, you will always come back to the need to invest in local industries and support them in a way that is a long term sustainable,” he stated.
Standard Metallurgical Company Ltd
SMC is a steel manufacturing company with mission to continually produce steel products for both the construction and industrial sectors. According to the MD, Dr. Mohammed Saade, the project is multi-phased, adding that it has started manufacturing a high quality reinforced rebar and wire rod in coils of various sizes.
The minister was taking round its Sagamu factory seated on 90 hectares of land. The company’s production capacity is 300,000 tonnes annually.
Enelamah commended the team and assured them of government support at all times.
The minister concluded his southwest tour with a town hall meeting with the manufacturers association of Nigeria at Ikeja.
The president, Dr. Frank Jacobs commended the federal government for meeting their needs through relevant policies that have largely assuaged their burdens.
Enelamah urged the association not to always speak about their challenges alone but to suggest solutions on how to best handle them.