From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Chairman and Chief Executive of Shanghai Engineering Works and Industrial Limited, Festus Mbisiogu, has disclosed that he decided to site his factory in Imo State in response to the clarion call by the Federal Government for Nigerian businessmen in the Diaspora to invest in the Nigerian economy to help create employment for the youths of the state, as well as ensure that importation of building materials from China was reduced to the barest minimum.
He, therefore, called on both the state and federal governments to make the business environment more conducive for manufacturers like him by providing access roads, tax waivers and making electricity available to reduce the cost of production.
He spoke with Daily Sun:
What motivated you to establish your factory in Imo rather than in Lagos?
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, his Minister of Industries who is now the Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, had visited China where I am based. He had meeting with Nigerian businessmen where he requested that they should invest at home.
So, when I heeded the call I decided to site my factory in this community of Amawuihe Umuocha in Ubomiri, Mbaitoli council of Imo State. I could have sited the factory in Lagos but as they say charity begins at home; so I decided to site it in this village, which is not even my own village. Shanghai Engineering Works Limited was commissioned in 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan and represented by Dr. Sam Ortom then Minister of Industries.
One of the major reasons of siting the factory here in Imo State is primarily to support the efforts of the state government in creating employment for the teeming youths in the state. As I speak, I have over 100 workers at the factory who are from all parts of the state.
What has been your major challenge of operating a factory in a rural community?
The major challenge has been electricity. We have been operating with generating sets because we operate 24 hours because of the type of machines we have here. But we have acquired our transformers to connect the factory to the main grid, which will also provide stead electricity to the community.
While we are still working on that, we have to grade the access road to the factory because before I sited the factory there was no road to the place, and in addition I also provided water for the community as part of our social corporate responsibility.
My major reason is to create employment for the youths in the state and if you multiple 100 workers who earn nothing less than N50,000 monthly, you will know the impact that we are making. Again, I have to pay for the accommodation of the majority of the senior staff who are not from this community as a way of incentive for them to remain in this rural community.
Ordinarily, the funds that I had expended in providing social amenities for the community and even the provision of road infrastructure is supposed to be the responsibility of the state government as a way of encouraging manufacturing in the state. But I did not get any help from the state government.
But the state has been appealing to Imo people in the Diaspora to invest in the state?
I learnt that there is a particular area that the state government had designated for industries, but I am yet to see any industry there. But my advice is to the state government to put a deliberate policy on industrialization because Imo State is the least industrialized in the entire South-East.
What the state government needs to do is to create the enabling environment like making lands available, provision of infrastructure. They can also partner with the Bank of Industry to help guarantee loans for the small manufacturers. Also, it can assist those in the agro- allied industries and farmers by partnering with the Bank of Agriculture, to help them as being done in other states.
When the Bank of Industry came here they were impressed with what they saw on ground. I am the third person in the entire South-East and the only person who is into whole scale manufacturing of building materials which is to reduce the heavy importation of materials from China.
Right now, Nigeria imports about 80 per cent of all kinds of building materials from China. So, my idea to create a one-stop shop for building materials in the state, ranging from stone roof tile to PVCs. This is the reason that I am building another factory within this complex. I have imported the necessary machines for the production of these materials.
I have been living and doing business in China for 13 years, and I am member of several investment forums in China. I have also been a link between states in Nigeria with Chinese businessmen and investors and they are willing to invest in Nigeria.
So, the state government should take advantage of my contacts to woo Chinese investors to the state. I have brought a delegation of 21 Chinese investors to Nigeria twice and they are always looking for an avenue to invest whether in the manufacturing or in the Agricultural sector.
The state government should rather support the efforts of those of us who are into manufacturing by giving whatever help they could give to manufacturers by at least by providing tax rebates to them, and making access to land easier; this is because government alone does not have the capacity to create employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state.