The tragedy of the Okada generation

The most important resource to a nation is the human capital. This is because with it other resources can be harnessed for growth and development with ease. This is why most countries the world over strive to put in place policies that will have their citizens achieve goals in life through education in the first instance, with such other opportunities that will guarantee professionalism in a chosen careers. In some cases, the state puts a tab on their growth and progress, particularly the young ones, who, in most cases, form the largest part of the population from among whom leaders emerge to administer the country in the near future.

The importance of youths made them command reasonable attention to discerning minds so much so that both governments and non-govermental organizations, world institutions like UNESCO, including those institutions that we sometimes view with suspicion and disdain as the IMF and the World Bank, gladly make provisions for the development and education of this segment of the population. Even the scripture backed this position with the Lord himself decreeing that we should not despise the children “for the kingdom of God is for such like ones.”

It is arguable that beyond the politically expedient rhetoric, this country has no plan for her youths. This is evident in the education sector that has gone comatose with no signs of something concrete and positive happening in that sector so soon. Neither is there alternative to having some semblance of what will enable our active sector of the population contribute to our development process.

In all areas of human index, this country has progressively failed to measure up, while yearly we always come up with policies that will see to it that our youth, who are supposed to be the hope of our tomorrow, are further pushed down the rung of the ladder of poverty and deprivation. If we are not increasing prices of very essential items that will ensure that few factories gasping for breath are finished up and worsen the unemployment situation, as was the case with Obasanjo of the better forgotten era, we will be engaging in bizarre activities on the very day of the new year thus ensuring that Nigerians begin the new year on a sad and confusing note. It is Nigerian.

At the start of 2009, we all woke up to be confronted by a new decree from The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), compelling ‘Okada Riders’ and their passengers to wear crash helmet by way of guaranteeing safety of the head in case of accident. And the Lagos state authorities had since latched on this to collect the revenue it believes is due it, asking operators of Okada to come and procure it from the state at a cheap rate upon presentation of a tax receipt. Smart idea.

While not against the FRSC intentions, and particularly, not against Lagos State for collecting its taxes, something that must be done by any one who earns an income, I am worried about our legitimizing the use of Okada as a means of commercial transport with all the health and social implications. I am also wondering if the use of Okada is allowed in our carriage laws as one for commercial purpose.

What I can not understand is the decision to reduce the value of our youths who struggled to go through hell that our higher institutions represent to graduates only to be condemned to Okada riding. Worst still is the fact that the state is not thinking of how best to engage these young vibrant ‘hands productively other than to expose their lives to avoidable danger as in riding Okada along with all the health implications.

Often we promote policies that help run other economies to our own disadvantage as in the rush for crash-helmet. While the manufacturers in Asian countries are smiling to the bank with money being milked from Nigeria, our factories are groaning under very unfriendly and hash economic environment as a result of the nation’s inability to get its bearing right. It seems we have chosen to remain an import dependent country and remain a dumping ground perpetually.

Nothing seems to work here. Not when the presidency has given up on NEPA by budgeting for generators for 2009, an amount that looks very scandalous. The states and local governments are yet to make public their provisions for energy power for 2009.

The fact that some of our citizens are dead on account of inhaling fumes from the generating sets imported from our new found friends in Asia does not worry our President nor did he see it as a motivating factor to compel to act on PHCN. No.

We must continue groping endlessly in search of an Eldorado that we did not plan for in 2020, a mere 11 years away.

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REAL ESTATE ATTRACTION SETS TO MOVE FROM MOWE-OFADA TO MILE 2-BADAGRY, LAGOS-NIGERIA

Land speculators are already contemplating a field day in the Mile2-Badagry corridor of Lagos State. The new wave of expectation that currently suffuse the community of land owning families in this corridor was engendered by the now obvious determination of the Lagos State Government to expand the Mile2-Badagry Express Road to a 10-lane express road, the first of its kind in Nigeria.

The State’s Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Rotimi Oyekan affirmed this much when he explained at a discussion forum that once the road expansion project commences value of landed properties would start heading for the north in the corridor.

The Mile2-Badagry corridor may yet detract attention away from the Mowe-Ofada axis of Ogun. Mowe-Ofada location off the Lagos-Ibadan Express road had provided a natural northward expansion corridor for real estate developers and Lagosians desirous of owning their own houses. But while the Mowe-Ofada axis offers the opportunity of landed assets in a neighbouring state, the Mile2-Badagry corridor offers landed assets within Lagos State. For investment savvy Lagosians, land assets any where in Lagos State are said to be more valuable.

Already, developers that already have their sights set on the Mile2-Badagry corridor have started canvassing the infrastructural strength of the corridor over those of the Mowe-Ofada axis. One said that whereas the areas around Mowe-Ofada are just being developed, the Mile2-Badagry corridor has been progressively developed over the years.

Incidentally, price of a plot of land remains in the same range for both the Mowe-Ofada axis and the Mile2-Badagry corridor. Land speculators argued however, that landed property in the Mile2-Badagry corridor have more potential to appreciate because of the peculiarity of the corridor’s terrain. Bordering the landed space to the left hand side inward Badagry are beach land, which usually are choice property attraction for the rich. And dotting the water ways from Mile2 to Badagry town are island communities that may give way to highbrow real estate. The 10-lane expansion of the road into Badagry will naturally avail a thorough fare for a large population of Lagosians which would make an instant hit for real estate developers and consequent upward impact on the value of properties in the corridor.

NIGERIAN ENTERPRENEURS SCARE: GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT DESTROYED BIG-TIME BUSINESSES

Only the naïve entrepreneur in Nigeria is excited with the contemplation of floating a manufacturing concern. The wise ones, schooled in the experiences they have had to contend with in the ever changing dynamics of manufacturing and other investments tasks in the production lines have fled the scene to the shelter of trading and merchandising. This, for good reasons. The challenges of conducting manufacturing and related production activities in the country, though, besetting, are however benign when compared with the ease with which government oft volte-face on policies and action stamp out the promises or existence of a once upon-a-time manufacturing plant.
In this review, we track some of the celebrated industrial concerns that had been heckled into non-existence by government policy summersaults over the years, official actions or inaction that have become the scare of entrepreneurs.
Presidential Initiative on Cassava Production
In 2002, cassava suddenly gained national prominence following the pronouncement of a Presidential Initiative. The intent of the Initiative was to use cassava as the engine of growth in Nigeria. In the ordinary sense, the perception is that cassava is indigenous to the country, official statistics claim that Nigeria grows more cassava than any other country in the world with a production capacity of about 34 million metric tones a year.
The Presidential Initiative on Cassava production and export was initiated in the year 2002. The goal of the initiative was to promote cassava as a foreign exchange earner in Nigeria as well as to satisfy national demand. The challenge of the initiative was to make Nigeria earn 5 billion US dollars from value added cassava exports by 2007. The objectives of the Presidential Initiative on Cassava was to expand primary processing and utilisation to absorb the national cassava production glut, identify and develop new market opportunities for import substitution and export stimulate increased private sector investment in the establishment of export oriented Cassava industries, ensure the availability of clean (disease free) planting materials targeted at the emerging industries, increase the yield, productivity and expand annual production to achieve global cassava competitiveness, advocate for conducive policy and institutional reforms for the development of the Nigerian cassava sector and integrate the rural poor especially women and youths into the mainstream of the national economy.
The federal government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo backed the initiative with funding support while encouraging banks and other government and multilateral agencies to drive the initiative through funding support.
Suffice to say that in response to the government drive, an industry revolving around cassava plantation and processing started emerging. Opportunity seekers were encouraged to invest because of the obvious outward flourish of government. The signs were obvious too, under the Presidential Initiative on Cassava, Nigeria mandated millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread, a percentage mix of ethanol in refined petroleum motor spirit (petrol) in the nation’s refineries. These were moves aimed at increasing the utilization of the tuber crop.
Other statistics pointed to the profitability of entrepreneurial engagement in cassava related activities; the domestic demand for cassava starch is about 130,000 tonnes per annum and 200,000 tonnes per annum for high quality cassava flour. The domestic demand for ethanol is 180 million litres – all ethanol is imported In Nigeria. None of these markets are being satisfied by local supplier even till today in Nigeria.
Individual entrepreneurs were attracted into the field and the buzz made the rounds of great things happening in cassava production in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the fancy was just for a time, even before the exit of the Obasanjo’s regime, there were obvious signs of government distancing itself from the clarion call to cassava farming and processing, soon after the assumption of office of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, immediate successor to Obasanjo, federal government articulation of the cassava initiative lost its din.
The lacklustre enforcement of the policy of mandating flour millers to integrate 10 percent cassava flour to wheat flour in making bread and other confectionaries were altogether abandoned. Of course, the idealism of the refinery blend of ethanol with petrol had been a mirage according to entrepreneurs that had found their ways into cassava processing. “The nation’s refineries only functioned epileptically, rather, the bulk of refined products are being imported from foreign refineries, so the idea of the ethanol could not have worked out at all.” A cassava processor said
The government of Yar’Adua nailed the fledgling sector by abandoning the ethos of the Obasanjo initiated presidential initiative on cassava initiative. Importations of cassava processed by products and all have been allowed in the country with import tariff of 20 percent value.
“Apparently, this has sounded the death knell for that endeavour.” Another cassava processor said. “Local conditions have made it difficult to produce and process cassava, the thinking was to protect the industry until such a time that it would be able to compete favourably with importation but I understand that government decided to make this reversal because of the need to mitigate increased food prices. But then, we think that it would have been better to strengthen cassava production and processing in the country to boost food supply and to earn more income for government through export.
In the final analysis, the fact is that most entrepreneurs have had their investment and efforts gone up in smoke, another promise subverted by inconsistent government policy shift.
NIGERIAN LAMP PLC
One of the outstanding business endeveavour the recently demised Chief Beyioku Adebowlale of the Adebowale Store fame would be remembered for is his Nigerian Lamp Industry Plc. A courageous indigenous effort to play in the main stream manufacturing sector, when Adebowale built the Nigerian Lamp plant in his native Epe in Lagos State, it was reported to be the first of its kind in Africa. The plant was equipped to manufacture light bulbs and fluorescent.
It is reported that Adebowale was encouraged to make a foray into the manufacturing effort away from his electronic products trading concern in the Adebowale Electronic Store by the positive outlook of government incentive for indigenous manufacturers to commit to the economy in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, by the time the plant came on stream, it was like hitting dirt on first day of commission, government had made a reversal on policy, rather than protect local industries, government lifted the restricted importation of bulbs and fluorescents tube and other lamp forms. The market place was immediately flooded with Asian and Far East Asian countries bulb brands, which were cheaper though low in quality.
Nigerian Lamp, unfortunately, had become a publicly quoted company, Nigerians had subscribed to is initial public offer, but with the influx of cheaper products and brands into the market, the company’s operation became blighted and soon after became literally comatose. The company that never took off for operation eventually was placed under a receiver manager. This officially announced the demise of the once upon a Time promising company.
ROKANA INDUSTRIES PLC
Rokana Industries, had, back in the late 1980s caught the attention of the dentistry world with its production of the uniquely styled Jordan tooth brush. The market penetration of the Rokana brand of tooth brush was fast and quite domineering. It is reported that in its first year of introduction, the Rokana brand had pushed other imported brands to the back of the shelves. Jodan tooth brush was, considered the authentic Nigerian brand though the brand is a British franchise.
The dominance of the brand won’t endure for long however, because the Federal Government felt no need to specifically outlaw the activities of importers who would rather import fake Jordan tooth brush into Nigeria than to import other brands.
This more or less killed the vibrancy of the brand in the market place, it is however to the credit of the endearing qualities of the brand that it still subsists till day despite the continuous import of its counterfeit. The limitation is that Rokana, the producing company which is also a publicly quoted company floated by the immediate past commerce minister in the Yar’Adua’s cabinet Mr. Charles Ugwuh, has remained more or less moribund on the stock exchange’s price listing as investors ignored it even when the stock market was upbeat.
DOYIN INDUSTRIES
Doyin Industries is still a flourishing concern, this would not have been so if the man behind the manufacturing concern had not been well grounded in the ways of manufacturing in Nigeria. Of course he had been badly burnt from his engagement with manufacturing.
Samuel Adedoyin, the man behind Doyin Industries started out in business as a trader and he made quite a success of it that he diversified into manufacturing of household and food items and body care products. By 1996 he mobilized credit to build an awesome factory to manufacture his company’s range of products, and he was daring enough to take on multi-national companies. Travails soon ensued, electricity limitation to power the factory and the credit sourcing for funding the factory project became a burden, the market was also flooded with cheaper products from Asian countries.
The operations of the company soon became hamstrung, credit issues from City Express Bank became a public embarrassment for the Kwara State born industrialist, eventually, a production line of the industry had to close down and workers lay off.
DUNLOP
Dunlop Nigeria Plc is the latest of once buoyant companies to hit the dirt. The company had endured the harsh economic environment and had over the years returned impressive earnings to investors in the company being a public quoted company a greater majority of 95 per cent of the company’s shares belongs to several state governments, public companies and no fewer than 93,000 private Nigerians.
In 1991, it acquired majority shareholding in PAMOL (Nigeria) Limited, a rubber producing company to ensure uninterrupted supply of the right quality natural rubber, a major raw material in tyre manufacturing.
The company pioneered the radial car tubeless tyres in West Africa; produced the first crossply tyre in tubeless in Nigerian market; was the first Nigerian tyre company to hold the E.C.E 30 Certificate, an export requirement for car tyres to Europe; and first manufacturing company in Africa (beside South Africa) to hold the ISO 9002 certification.
It would soon be revealed during the former minister of commerce visit to Dunlop factory late last year that the company was merely struggling to stay afloat. The managing director of the company had complained about infrastructural deficiency, especially energy (electricity and recently, gas outages) and import duty regimes, inconsistent tax regimes which combine to place local manufacturers at significant disadvantage.
A major gripe of the company was its N8 billion expansion into the Heavy Truck Radial segment which was frustrated by reversal of government policy on tariff for imported truck/bus tyres from 40 per cent to 10 per cent at the beginning of 2007. This according to the company’s officials, created unfair and inequitable advantages for importers of finished tyres.
The dichotomy between tariff for car tyres (50 per cent) and Truck/Bus tyres (10 per cent) is said to have been abused by importers, both in terms of tariff and haulage evasion.
The situation confers undue advantages on importation rather than local manufacturing, now, the company has declared its incapacity to continue manufacturing activities in the country. Unofficial source said it would resort to tyre importation with grave implications for the rubber from its subsidiary, Pamol.
FAMAD (FORMERLY BATA) PLC and LENNARDS NIGERIA PLC
Before the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme, Bata’s ubiquitous outlets were the ultimate in foot wear shopping for all ages, Bata with its lesser cousin, Lennards Nigeria Plc. After 1986, the promise of flourishing was effectively shut out of the footwear manufacturing outfits. Government could not stem smuggling activities.
Synthetic shoes from Dubai and other Asian countries and high quality leather foot wear from Europe smuggled large scale into Nigeria particularly suffocated indigenous production. Ironically, the nation’s export in their raw forms the materials needed for footwear manufacturing. The products are exported, refined, recycled and packaged abroad to be sent back to Nigeria as import.
Till date, no appropriate government policy has addressed the inadequacy in the sector that has turned FAMAD (BATA) and LENNARDS into moribund companies.
VOLKSWAGEN AND PAN NIGERIA
In the 1970s Nigerian was the centre of attraction in the African continent with its hosting of the Volkswagen and Peugeot Automobile Nigeria plants. Nigerians, before the economic deluge of the last quarter of 1986 were sure of brand new cars proudly assembled in Nigeria. The assembly plants were supposed to be transitional in the nation’s march to becoming a full fledged vehicle manufacturing country.
The dream was cut short by government policy. Government steel rolling mills could not produce an ounce to support the desire to attain full production capacity, just as the value of the naira had suddenly depreciated in the years running to the close of the 1980 decade, and government back in the days, unofficially gave the go ahead for the importation of second hand vehicle (Tokunbo) at outrageously low tariff without consideration for age of vehicle to be imported.

INVESTMENT EXPERT SAYS BANKS EXPANSION TO OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES IS ANOTHER RAT-RACE

An investment expert, Mr. Jide Ogunleye, has questioned the rationale of Nigerian banks newly found fervor for expanding their operations into African countries with low economic generation capacity. Ogunleye, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Denaro Capitals, said the acquisition and establishment of Nigerian banking brands in countries in West and East Africa lacks appropriate investment judgment.

“I believe that the establishment or acquisition of Nigerian bank brands in these countries is simply an ego tripping by most of Nigerian banks that want to join in the feel of internationalizing their operations. It’s like another rat race to determine which of the banks can boast of establishing its brand outside the country.” Ogunleye said.

“But sincerely, I don’t think it makes investment sense to spend so much money to construct a bank branch in a country where the Gross Domestic Product is not up to that of Lagos State. This is beside the fact that most of the citizens of these countries have been shown by reports to prefer their own banks. I can tell you that a new branch in any urban centre in Nigeria will yield better returns for the banking brand than those outposts they are establishing in the other countries.”

“I am not saying that there is something generically wrong with establishing branches in other countries, but in the case of most Nigerian banks, I feel the choice of those countries do not make a good investment decision. I do not know how the Nigerian bank brands want to take on the indigenous financial institutions in those countries with their solitary single branch. This is beside the regulatory hurdles and fees they have to pay to get the branches established.

“Now, if the argument is to serve the needs of Nigerians resident in those countries, we would need to know the population of Nigerians in the countries, and I can tell you that with the exception of neighbouring Benin Republic and to a little extent, Ghana, the population of Nigerian residents in these countries does not provide for a flourishing bank branch.

“If a Nigerian bank opens a branch in London, South Africa or in the United States of America I think that would be understandable because of the obvious dynamics available in these countries. The population of resident Nigerians are not only appreciable but given the natural inclination for Nigerians to identify with their home brands when they are in the diaspora one can easily conclude that such branches in these countries would be beneficial to shareholders of the banks and Nigerians in those countries.” Ogunleye argued.

FRUSTRATION SETS IN FOR COMMANDCLEM INVESTMENT SCHEME’s INVESTORS

For expectant investors that had invested sums ranging between N20,000 and N1million before June 19 2008 in the Commandclem Social Security Scheme, it seems the promise of the wind fall from their investment in the scheme is taking too long to materialize. Those that spoke with FORTUNE&CLASS WEEKLY said the wait for the conclusion of the court process that will enable the operators of the scheme start paying them is becoming frustrating.

The story behind the wealth making potentials of the Commandclem scheme is quite interesting. Protagonists of the scheme market it to intending investors as the ultimate path to escaping poverty through registering to become a patentee of a special paint product invented by a Nigerian way back in the 1980s or 1990s, in truth, non of the marketers can be specific about the date of the invention. By registering in the scheme, the investor is said to become a co-patentee to the supposed inventor of the product, a man named King Clement Uwemediimo.

Registered patentees, according to the scheme’s marketers, would be positioned to earn a life time monthly allowance of N30,000. Even after the death of the patentee, his or her offspring would be entitled to the monthly payment. There are other categories in the scheme differentiated by registration fee. The highest possible class in the patentee category is the Knight. A patentee qualifies to this category on paying a registration fee of N4,000,000. The promised benefits to a patentee in this category can’t all be listed, but it include lifetime monthly earning of N300,000, constant contract jobs and holidays in exotic places around the world.

The promises are quite impressive. But the downside is that benefitting from the impressive promises of the scheme is tied to the success of a court case. According to the marketers, King Uwemediimo had sued Mobil Nigeria Unlimited to court for patent right infringement. Is said that Uwemediimo had sold the right of the product, a special paint with which crude oil tanks in the ocean are painted so as to preserve the tanks from corrosion by the salty ocean water. The demand of Uwemediimo, the marketers said is a sum of $39.3billion. However, perhaps to make the offer more juicer, some marketers quote some more humongous figures like $67 billion or $8.7 trillion depending on the marketer selling pitch.

Suddenly, an industry seemed to spring up around the Commandclem scheme at about November 2007 when it was made public that the an Akwa Ibom High Court was going to sit in the Nigerian Consulate in New York to hear witnesses from Mobil on the patent right infringement.

A group of young men must have smelt the opportunity in the Commandclem court case. An organized campaign was initiated to market conclusion of the scheme as an investment.

The first sales line of the marketer is that an interested investor must be registered with the scheme before the court’s final ruling on the matter on June 19 2008. The second sales line is that Commandclem is favoured to win the case no matter the odd. The third pitch is that the court will order the all oil producing companies in Nigeria to calculate two dollars on each barrel of crude oil produced in Nigeria since the invention was allegedly sold to Mobil, and that, the market added up would amount to trillions of dollars. It is from this judgment sanction that participants would be paid their life entitlements.

The marketing pitch, apparently worked. Advertisement jingles were placed on radio programmes, while alleged representatives of the scheme even went around television stations for awareness campaign. Newspapers advertisement spaces were also bought to announce the scheme that would turn Nigerian poors into overnight rich people that would share in the humongous back log of patent fee that would be paid to Uwemediimo. Even on the internet, blogs and sites were dedicated to invite investors to register before the final judgment of June 19. Offices were opened nationwide for people to register.

Not a few Nigerians were taken in by the pitch. FORTUNE&CLASS OBSERVED a high traffic of people in offices of the scheme in Lagos State. In fact, one Okaiwele Austin requested on his blog site that interested investors should pay N5000 into his account before he would post contact details of the scheme operators to them. The officials of the scheme warned that no registration would be allowed after the June 19 2008 final judgment, this further fueled the high traffic.

But now, the cold reality of some of the unreal expectations of the scheme may be dawning on the investors. In the first place, the decision of the court can not be contemplated by any party to the suit. While it has been confirmed that there is truly, indeed, a court matter pending on the subject of a patent, the ruling of the court case is that of no other person than the judge. And the ruling can favour either Commandclem or Mobil. Besides, even if it is assumed that Commandclem wins the case, the cost sanction against Mobil may not be as huge as expected. In fact, if the court sanctioned Mobil in the cost expected by the Commandclem marketers, it would be the first of such in the world.

Anyway, the situation report at the moment is that expectant investors in the scheme back in 2007 are becoming frustrated over waiting for so long and to make it even bad, nobody can assure them of how much longer they are going to wait. The court that was expected to sit and make its ruling on the matter on June 19 did not sit because the judge was absent. The case was said to be adjourned to July 22. Again, on the adjourned date nothing was heard of the suit. Now, in November, not even the marketers of the scheme can provide updates on the court process and when it would be disposed of.

For a scheme that is tied to the judgment of the court, investors have started grumbling aloud that they were cheated into believing that the case was near conclusion before they registered but now that some of them have their money tied down to the scheme for more than a year, they are saying it seems they were hoodwinked.

PS: It has been brought to our notice that an aggressive advertisement of  Commandclem Social Security Scheme is ongoing in popular media houses in Ogun State, Nigeria, therefore, we believe it is our duty to advise the investing public to look before they leap. Thank you.

LAWYERS SAY LAGOS STATE’s JUSTICE DISPENSATION PROCESS FLIPS BACK TO OLD DAYS OF GO-SLOW

Some years ago when the Lagos State Government embarked on a reform process to transform the judicial processes in the State from slow pace of justice dispensation especially in civil and business matters by introducing the fast track route to the dispensation of justice, many across the nation applauded the initiative. The Lagos State new model of judicial process became the standard to be copied. And in truth, we got it on good source that the government of Osun State, indeed, copied the model to the last letters. However, a recent review of the judicial process in Lagos State by some legal experts indicated that there has been recidivism to the go-slow days when legal issues took years to be concluded by the State’s judiciary. This reversion to the tradition of the old days, according to stakeholders in the legal profession in Lagos State, is not unconnected to the large scale employment of judges in the State judiciary whose only claim to judicial excellence is their connection to influential politicians and office holders in the State.

A source confided in FORTUNE & CLASS Weekly that all manners of individuals with a claim to a degree in law are finding their ways on to the bench, yet these lacked the prerequisite of distinguished legal practice and commitment to the nuances of the bench. The story is said of the daughter of a political big wig in the State who was appointed a judge and assigned a court to administer but only ended up supervising the information technology department even though she is not a qualified ICT professional. It is also said of another that had long been engaged in business as cloth seller but was employed to the bench on account of her connection to another political big wig. These and many other misaligned employments to the bench had turned the State’s judiciary to a snarling, labourous justice dispensation platform. Even now, some lawyers are saying that Osun State government that borrowed the nimble fast track model from Lagos State has greatly enhanced its justice dispensation process compared to what obtains in Lagos State.

CEMENT PRICE WAR STARTS NEXT WEEK: OTEDOLA TO SELL AT N700 PER BAG, JIMOH IBRAHIM NICON CEMENT ON THE WAY

Who holds the Ace?

Who holds the Ace?

When the Federal Government approved licenses for 13 Nigerian firms to import bagged cement into

Nigeria, the Government’s stated intension was to put an end to short supply and ensure the crash of price of the product in the country. Yet, most Nigerians would not still believe the prospect of a crash in price of cement, because, according to cross section of Nigerian residents in Lagos State, when prices of commodities go up in the country they don’t often come down.

Some suggested that a cartel had perfected its stranglehold on the supply side of cement that no matter what measure the government puts in place, as it had over the years, the strong cartel had always found a way to undercut supplies thereby sustaining high prices for the essential building material.

This state of helplessness may, from next week, start changing with the direct involvement of Mr. Femi Otedola to get involved on the supply side and manufacturing of cement. According to a source close to the Epe-Lagos State born businessman who had made a name for himself in the petroleum downstream sector, Otedola’s first shipment of his Otedola Portland Cement (OPC) would be launched sometime next week with a strong identification with Nigerians desires to be able to buy cement at affordable price.

“I can surely tell you that OPC is about being offered to Nigerians and in the character of chairman (Otedola) the product has to be affordable. I think the retail price that is been considered for the 50kg bag of cement is N700. That is about 40 percent slash from the current market price. Chairman believes that this price slash will help break the backbone of the monopolistic cartel that had dominated the cement market for a long time.” The source that is directly involved in the landing of OPC confided in FORTUNE & CLASS.

Otedola has a record of price dumping, a business model that another source in his Zenon Oil & Gas Company said, has by and large, impacted on the mass of Nigerians.

“For Otedola, a little profit is better than huge gains. You remember he blazed diesel price slash in Nigeria when the petroleum product became so scarce and expensive. It is simply about adding value for Nigerians who are in dire needs of products that are, otherwise, common goods but had now turned essential because of the activities of monopoly inclined operators.” The source said.

“I can tell you that we are planning an elaborate launch of Otedola Portland Cement starting from Mushin, the densely populated suburb of Lagos which would symbolize the populism appeal of the cement.” The source directly involved in the cement landing explained.   

 “Even beyond this, I can also reveal to you that Chairman is putting finishing touches to selling petrol at his AP stations for N59. You can expect this in the next six weeks. This would naturally force competitors to also reduce price for the benefit of Nigerians.”

Coming on the heels of recent rapprochement between Otedola and Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Chairman of the NICON Group, might have also persuaded the lawyer businessman to consider diversifying into cement manufacturing in the country.

“The idea is to flood the Nigerian market heavily.” The source informed. “What Chairman told Barrister Ibrahim is that if he comes into the supply side he would also be helping to make cement available to Nigerians at affordable prices. I am aware that very soon Barrister Ibrahim will be announcing the arrival of NICON Cement.”