In order to curb the incessant fire explosions that have bedevilled Nigeria, the Executive Director, Servo Investment Company Nigeria Limited, Edwin Brown Jnr along with his partner, Yakubu Shehu-Concern, are canvassing for the legislation of Explostop, the most innovative explosion prevention technology, capable of preventing various kinds of explosions. In this interview with MARY NNAH, he talks about why this technology should be legislated in Nigeria and its many
What exactly prompted you into entrepreneurship?
The fear of hunger drove me into entrepreneurship. That is not to say I was never comfortable but you don’t want to rely on parents or sponsors for the rest of your life. And understanding the economy we come from, especially, the way the country is going, if we can’t preserve what we have now, our children will have nothing later. That just drove me. I didn’t study business, in the actual sense, though I studied business for a year but I ended up studying Political Science and graduated with a Political Science degree.
As a young person being in business, would you say you succeeded because you had the backing of your parents?
I started my business a year ago and I would say I succeeded because I was determined. Yes, my parents have been of great help; they have pushed me in the right direction and they have helped me contact the right people but on my side I have done very well for myself. I have put myself in contact with the right people, I have found myself in the right place at the right time and I have done the right thing always. I am not afraid to ask.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life?
Definitely my mother because growing up I have seen her do different things. This is someone that left politics about 14 years ago and since then she has ventured into different things. She has been into real estate, opened clubs, owned hotels; had restaurants and now she designs bags that are sold around the world. She is one person that I know has gone from entrepreneurship into making her hobby a business. So, she has been a great inspiration to me.
Recently you introduced Explostop into the Nigeria market. How does it work?
Explostop comes in a maze form made out of especially aluminium and a special alloy that we developed in Germany. There are three compartments in a petrol chemical truck tank. They can go into the manhole and then line the interior of the tank with the maze, thereby protecting the product and controlling any sort of fire that could break out. You can fit your built-in tanks with Explostop on the outside or have our special bottle technology produced put into the built-in tank thereby controlling any source of explosion that happens. It also comes in pellets forms that can be put inside your vehicle; you can put inside your generator fuel tank and it would stop any sort of fire, it controls and keeps it contained. The product does not contaminate the petrochemical products whatsoever.
There is a manhole in every tank and every tank is divided into three different sections. So they go into the manhole and go the different sections, preventing it from oxidation, oil spillages and so on and so forth. It takes a day or two to do the installations. So with this, we have come up with a preventive solution to insistent fire explosion in Nigeria.
What informed your decision to go into a venture like this one?
We are all aware of the increase in petrochemical disasters, mostly caused by truck tanks carrying product on our roads but also from butane tanks burning down homes and shopping complexes, refineries catching fire and so on. We also know that various government bodies have promised to do something about it, but alas, no action has been taken so far.
Sometime in 2018, there was an explosion and when it happened I spoke with my partner in Iran and I asked him if they had a technology that can prevent explosion. That was when he introduced the explosion prevention technology, Explostop.
So, a few days after he reached out and said his Spanish partners have something and he put us in contact with them. Then they called us for a demo in Spain and after that they gave us the sole right to bring it to Nigeria. So, we drafted an MOU which we signed. We then got an agent in Nigeria to pursue it for us, because, at that point, I was still working in my office in London. I hadn’t moved back to Nigeria and we partnered a Nigerian company and they started pushing it for us.
We sought out this technology and the lucky part is that we found something that could be of benefit. We are the generation that would grow up in this country. We don’t want to grow up in a country that is half burnt. It is only right to look at the problem and try to fix it. I also look at a number of things like the debris in the water, which is a completely different thing. But we have somewhat overlooked it. They have gadgets to sort this out, clear the waterbeds and make it safer.
But we are not doing anything about it and it is sad. So, you can see that we have fire problems, water problems and they are not trying to fix any.
However, we recently decided to go into the sole distribution of the solution, Explostop considering the fact that it is now more of a solution to a current epidemic. I and my partners alike believe it’s time to let the public know that we have tried to make an impact but due to greed and neglect exhibited by the government and also private corporations, the solution has become nothing more than a dossier on a desk.
In light of this, I strongly suggest that all petrol tankers, gas cylinder manufacturers, tank farms, petrol stations, and others must be adequately fitted with this solution and for that to happen I believe it must be legislated, especially in Lagos which is a hub for loading and distribution of PMS and AGO. And as you know, charity begins at home so we start from the centre of excellence and hope others follow.
We partnered Explocontrol to bring this technology that puts a stop to explosion from all sort of tanks, vessels, skid tanks, truck tanks and vessels tank farm and built-in tanks.
When the technology was contracted solely to my company to distribute to Nigeria, the last thing we thought of was to advertise it to any extent. We had all participating parties sign that it doesn’t go out because of the security that comes with it. Some countries outside Africa use this for defence mechanism and they also use it to protect their pipelines. So, this isn’t information that should go out. But considering the fact that it has become more of a solution to the current epidemic in Nigeria, my partners and I believe that it is time to let the public know we have tried to make an impact.
But due to negligence exhibited by the government and private corporations, the solution has become nothing more than a dossier on a desk. We have taken this as far as NNPC, the (Oil Spill Description Agency) OSDRA, storage companies and to private corporation. We have also taken it to Lagos State government and quite a few agencies are aware of what it is about. But being impressed does not stop the fires. They know it is something the public would know about. When we do our presentation they know about our non-disclosures. But they have kept it on their desk and pretty much sitting on it. We are aware of the disasters mostly caused by these tanks carrying products on our roads. We have also heard of butane tanks burning homes and complexes. We’ve read the news of refineries catching fire. We also know that there are different bodies that promised to do something.
In Nasarawa, sometime last year, there was a huge fire which motivated me to do something. What my partners and I have decided to do is to pursue legislation and the government can legislate or pass a bill that all truck tanks, gas cylinder manufacturers, tank farms, petrol stations, other forms of petrol vehicles make use of this technology. Primarily, this would stop a lot of the disaster that is happening on the road. In the last month or so, we have had about four truck incidences; lives have been lost in the last couple of years.
Isn’t it easier to get the private sector to buy in, than government?
We have also spoken to private sector. We have spoken to companies that are thinking of distributing downstream. They know of this and all they asked us to do was to submit a proposal, something that will catch their interest. I actually sat down with a company and they said ‘let’s discuss downstream, our refineries are not down yet, they are not.’ They only recently assembled their trucks in July last year. Their trucks were going through assembly and the perfect time to put in this technology was then. The technology lasts a lifetime. If you are able to put it in your trucks before your trucks start receiving products, then you spend less on insurance, save the road and your trucks. But since July last year, I haven’t heard a word from them. And this is a company that doesn’t start operating until April this year. Now, there is one company they said when they start, they would use the technology. But this is one company out of so many companies in the country.
How long exactly have you been doing this?
We brought it into Nigeria the first time in May 2018 and took it to NNPC where we were redirected to NPSC and in February 2019 we were able to have a demonstration for the NPSC and after that I came back to the country in July, I took it myself to the NNPC again. So, roughly about a year now, we have been trying to sell this to Nigerians before I decided to focus legislation in Lagos. So, in the last two months now I have been in talks and trying to get the contacts of the people that matter in the energy sector.
How has the reception to this technology been in Nigeria?
They have said that the product is good and it is helpful and that they like it. The reaction has always been positive, even though there has been no outcome to that reaction.
How affordable are your products?
I can’t discuss that but I would say that it cost less than replacing any damaged vessel.
So, what is your message for Nigerians regarding the legislation of this technology Nigeria?
I would say that we come from a country where it is not often heard that Nigerians sue the government or private companies that put them in disposition. Like in overseas, if there is an oil spillage, or a petrol station catches fire and lives are lost, families are able to sue the company or government. So, understanding that we come from a country where this activism is not common, I would say that they should help my company to help the country. They should push for the legislature of this product to happen. They should push for this safety measure and precaution to be taken because this goes beyond protecting the products in the vessels for the company; it is also protecting lives on the roads. The effect of the accidents that takes the lives of mother and child, and other innocent people around by the time the explosion happens, is tragic. So many lives are lost in the constant explosions in the country. So, the only thing I would say that they should help us push for the legislature of this products so that lives and property can be saved.
What other things do you do apart from marketing this technology?
I am mostly into real estate, agriculture and general contracting. I have done as little as supplying textbooks to universities to selling office complexes, supply of agricultural products overseas and a few other things. We floated our company in London and after that we opened a Nigerian branch about a year ago, so now we are also registered in Nigeria.
What is it like doing business in Nigeria compared to doing it in Europe?
Well, bureaucracy is almost the same thing all over the world but I would in overseas, if they recognise the potential in the product, they don’t hesitate to invest, especially when they know it is going to save lives or bring profits. But in Nigeria, whether or not it saves lives, or brings profits, as long as it is not profiting one person or a group of person directly, they don’t seem to really care. Although I won’t say dealing with people overseas has been a walk at the park, it is almost as difficult as it is here but it is easier to close deals when they recognise potentials.
What vision do you have for your company in few years to come?
Seriously, I want my company to be recognised as a company that made impact on the economy of this nation. Understanding this product that we are bringing, is going to create nothing less than 500 jobs in Nigeria because we definitely not going to outsource our manpower. And this as well if legislated; the government also has a lot to make from it.