•VP lays foundation for multi-million naira Eastern Distilleries non-alcoholic beverage factory
•visits ancient Pokobros Group of companies
By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – It was a red carpet reception for Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, last week in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state as industrialists in the commercial city, under the aegis of Habour-Bridge Head Industrialists Association unianimously gave him a rousing welcome to their respective factories.
Among the two major factories he visited in Onitsha were Pokobros Group West Africa Limited and Krisoral Group of Companies Limited, while other industrialists converged on the premises of Pokobros which is also the office of the industrialists association, for the grand reception.
Pokobros which is the oldest industrial giant in Anambra state, having commenced operations as far back as 1980s, is one of the leading manufacturers of Whiz oil products, Vita Rice Fufu paste, pharmaceutical/chemical products, farmers, rice millers, transporters, hoteliers and garment producers, while Krisoral is producer of many brands of Aromatic schnapps, beverages and pharmaceutical bottle corks.
Before the red-carpet reception at the Corporate headquarters of Pokobros, Osinbajo had briefly performed the ground breaking ceremony of Eastern Distilleries and Food Industries Limited, a non-alcoholic premium brands factory which is one of Krisoral conglomerates located at the Power Mike Sports Stadium, Harbour Industrial Estate, Onitsha, which when completed, is capable of employing over 800 people and providing indirect employment to over 2500 others.
He was accompanied to the ground breaking event by His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and Chris Ngige, the Honorable Minister of Labour and Productivity.
The Vice President, while laying the foundation stone of the facility, expressed happiness over the resilience and fortitude of Chris Oranu Chidume, Managing Director of Eastern Distilleries and Food Industries Limited, even at the face of extreme difficulty and promised that the Federal Government would support entrepreneurs in the country like him, to sustain their businesses.
He described Eastern Distilleries and Food Industries Limited as a unique company that would become great in Nigeria and commended the management and staff of the company for steering the company successfully to its present state.
The Vice President said he was in Onitsha on the instruction of President Muhammadu Buhari and promised that the Federal Government would support entrepreneurs in Nigeria to continue to assist government in creating employment for the people, especially the youths.
In his words, “I have seen the sheer enterprise that is going on in this place, the business acumen, the entrepreneurial skills and it has become very clear that this is truly the hot-bed of industrialization in Nigeria and I am very pleased to see all of these.
“I am here on behalf of Mr. President, to see for myself first hand, the types of industries that are going on locally and of course, we have chosen to come here first, because this is one of the most active places in the country. In whatever way we can assist, we will and we are already discussing with Governor Willie Obiano, who has laid out so many things he expects us to do and hopefully, we will be able to do them.
“You could also notice that I came along with the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, because job creation is so important to this administration. So, I am excited to be here. I have seen a lot and I will be reporting back to Mr. President and whatever we can do to support the Harbour Industrial Estate in Onitsha and other industrial estates in the country, we will do it”.
Governor Obiano who was also visibly impressed with activities at the site, noted that the company would continue to grow to provide employment for the people of Anambra State. This was also echoed by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige.
In his brief remarks, the Legal Adviser to Krisoral Group of Companies, Onitsha, Mr Chiadi Chidume who spoke on behalf of the Group Managing Director, GMD, Chris Oranu Chidume, commended Osinbajo for his visit and disclosed that their ultimate goal was to provide employment opportunities for the teeming youths.
He therefore expressed optimism that Osinbajo’s visit to factories in Onitsha would become a moral booster in terms of employment and sustainability of the Nigerian economy.
During his red-carpet reception at Pokobros Corporate Headquarters which incidentally is the headquarters of Habour-Bridge Head Industrialists Association, the association, under the chairmanship of Chief Dr. Paul Okonkwo, (MFR), Chairman/Managing Director of Pokobros West Africa Limited, made a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to address the perennial problems militating against industrialization in the area.
They listed some of such problems as flooding, foreign exchange, poor power supply and high cost of electricity, review of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN list of items excluded from foreign exchange, designation of Harbour Export Processing Zone, EPZ, construction of second Niger Bridge and provision of functional River Port in Onitsha.
Specifically, the association stressed the need for a better cooperation between government and manufacturers in order to expand non-oil production activities and subsequently create more jobs for the teeming youth population.
The industrialists regretted that since 2012, over 7,000 factory workers have been laid off, while many factories folded up as a result of poor power supply, lack of credit facilities to industrialists and difficulties associated with foreign exchange transactions, adding that more factories are still folding up at the moment.
According to Okonkwo, “Let the government give us credit facility from the ecological disaster fund so that we can revamp our ailing industries because we pay our taxes and Value Added Tax, VAT running into millions of naira. Government should also give us a functional sea port in Onitsha comparable to the ones in Kaduna and Kano to reduce our logistic challenges”.