Coleman Technical Industries Limited, owners of Coleman Wires and
Cables, recently commissioned its ultra modern factory complex at
Arepo, along the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway, Ogun State. Mr George
Onafowokan, the company chief executive officer took time out during
the event to speak with Naomi Uzor about some of the challenges the
promoters faced as they tried to establish the complex. Excerpts

What is Coleman Technical Industry all about?

Coleman Technical Industries Limited, owners of Coleman Wires and Cables, was incorporated, 1st of July 1975, while full production of wires and cables commenced in January 1998. The company has since grown to be one of the major players in quality wires and cables production in Nigeria.

Who are the founders of Coleman?

The founding fathers created Coleman with the clear-cut focus of contributing to the growth of fully integrated Nigerian owned industries with sustainable succession plans that will outlive its founders as well as several generations yet to come. I must pay glowing tribute to our founding father, Asiwaju SK Onafowokan, for his uncommon vision, encouragement, support and uncommon determination at achieving this set goal. I recall vividly the fateful day he invited my brother and I, Engr. Michael Onafowokan, from UK to come and take over the organisation with a threat that if we fail to come within a particular time frame, he was going to sell the company.  As good sons, we yielded to his call and motivated by the saying that “innovation is blind to every obstacle and only embraces change”, we took the challenge of taking over the company when the company was doing less than N200 million per annum turnover to what it is today.

How did Coleman as a company manage to put up a structure like this?

 George Onafowokan.
George Onafowokan.

It is also imperative to mention that when this expansion was embarked upon, people felt our management must be crazy to embark on such a gigantic project at this time of our nationhood. But we believe in corporate Nigeria and resilience of the Nigerian economy and that Nigeria will be better with the new crop of professionals at the helm of affairs at the Federal Ministry of Power in person of Dr Lanre Babalola. With people like that we should be able to make a pronounced change as excellence can be attained if you care more than others.

How much was invested to put up the structure and how did you source the money?

We invested about N10 billion, part of it is our money and a lot from the bank.

With the current high interest rate?

We will try and negotiate with them and they are also bearing with us. We are creating value, we are creating wealth, we are creating employment and they are all part of it and they have been reasonable so far.

What are the major challenges faced in the industry, especially with so many quacks around?

Well, the challenges we have is adulterated products that are coming in and we keep reporting that to the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) which is the organ that controls both importation and manufacturing of cables, but somehow, they still find their way. But one thing we should give kudos to SON for, is that it is only one product in Nigeria that Nigerians have accepted to be better than imported goods, and that is cable. Cable manufactured in Nigeria is considered to be much better and it is true because our own conductor is correct because we are under strict supervision of SON, whereas, those coming in are of lesser quality and could cause fire. As a result, we keep talking to SON so that this menace can be stopped. At the last count, 820 industries are said to have closed shops in Nigeria, mainly because of inadequate power supply. What measures have you put in place to ensure adequate power supply?

What we have done, because in cable industry there are even some aspect of manufactured cable that you cannot do depending on Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.  You have to depend only on generators, otherwise your loss will be so colossal. What we have done therefore, is to have a standby against another standby. But at the same time, we also know that government now is trying to make effort, because PHCN has started asking us for cables that they need to do this urgently. They need to do that urgently, so that they could be able to meet the target of 6000 mega watts set for themselves. But like I keep telling them, that 6000 mega watts is also low, because immediately you have this 6000 mega watts in, you will find that some industries that are today servicing themselves with their own generators, will now go back to PHCN and if they do that, the 6000 will become inadequate.

Do you have plans of establishing a structure like this outside the shores of this country?

Outside Ogun state, yes. We are already talking to them in Suleja and Owerri. We are likely to have these two plants on before the end of 2010

Do you think the global meltdown will have any effect on this company?

No, Nigeria is not a credit economy. Let’s not deceive ourselves. Mismanagement is the only problem Nigeria has.
What were the major challenges that the company went through bringing up a structure like this in less than a year?
The liquidity situation last year was very difficult but with God we saw it through. Where the bank support stopped, we were able to push it through and today, it will be very difficult to put up an investment of this nature in this economy. But our vision in Nigeria is not only this factory. Our vision is to have a factory almost on a yearly basis over the next five years because we believe in industry and we believe that this economy can sustain industry even with the problem of the infrastructure.

Looking at the problem of infrastructures in Nigeria, how can this be resolved?

The government has its own issues but sometimes we do not encourage the government to look inwards because they do not see investment in that nature to look inwards. So if the government is failing, they are failing because they can’t get Nigerians to back their ideas. They are not getting local industries to back these ideas. But were there are local industries, we will have to challenge them and say what is your problem, what do you need us to do, what do you need us to deliver to make this power work. Where there is deliverability of cable, we now have it, we can account for 50 per cent of the total production for the country in one factory and we are ready to put our money where our mouth is. If we do not do meet this 50 per cent, we will add additional infrastructure to meet this infrastructure to meet this expectation.

What does Nigerians stand to benefit from this investment?

We are going to save a lot of foreign exchange because we are not going to use foreign exchange to import this cable. It is procured locally and we can deliver, we are going to be the fastest organisation of cables that will deliver on time.


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