Dr. K.U Acholonu is the Chief Executive Officer , Bio-organics Nutrient System Ltd. (BNSL). In this interview, he speaksÂ on oil and its inability to address properly the issues of human capital development in the country as theÂ bane of economic growth and development in Nigeria. He alsoÂ gives answers to questions relating to human capital development andÂ unemployment. Excerpts:
Considering the present economic environment, how would you advise an investor in Nigeria?
First and foremost, you must get yourself 7 layers of tough skin. This is so because for every five years, one skin will peel off and so for 35 years, youâ€™d likely be in business if youâ€™re alive.
These days, manufacturers are finding it difficult to make it because of fake brands all over the Nigerian market, what do you think is responsible for this menace?
One point is that, the focus onÂ oil has caused almost all the problems. And not only that, it has led to the neglect of agriculture. This is breeding corruption into the Nigerian system.Moreover,the educational system has gone into recession. The economic problem was caused by educational recession.
The universities are dead.The professors are angry. The students are very unhappy, so nothing will work until the educational system and the values of the country are broughtÂ back; until agriculture comes up and people put hard work first and we leave the oil alone.
Can you explainÂ the seven layers of tough skin you mentioned earlier that one mustÂ possess while setting up a business here in Nigeria?
Yes, the first skin is that youâ€™re going to experience disappointment from people you expect to give you money to energise your ideas.
Two, the people you employed are not trained properly because of the lack of proper educational skills. The values of the workers are not really there. They do a lot of damage to the company that employs them. When you finally get the money, it might disappear because the people you are trying to work with could either be the people they are supplying to or buying from, and might not be honest enough to do honest business. They might want to involve themselves in sharp deals and then you have a problem.
Another one is, when you are down, you have to getÂ up again. If youâ€™re knocked down 7 times you have to stand up 8 times. Itâ€™s bound to happen because the total environment is against you, that is why you really must go on.
Sometimes friends will sell their goods to you but such goods might not be the quality you want. Then you have to go back and make it the best quality. And you might bring the best quality and somebody will say he wants a cheaper brand or a fake brand even. So you have to develop these 7 skin layers because all the challenges will be there.
What do you suggest to government on youth developmentÂ now that you said our educational system has lost its value?
As I said earlier, start with agriculture. ButÂ to get agriculture right, you need the right human beings, the human capital development policy. As soon as you get the human capital right, everything will fall in line. The right human capital will do the right things, andÂ withinÂ 5 years , Nigerian can bounce back. We donâ€™t need 2020.
I can tell you today is 2010, by 2016 and 2017 we will see a lot of improvement. As soon as you get the right human capital who are focused on accountability, transparency, hard work and focused ambition andÂ are ready to be criticised and accept criticisms and improve on a daily basis, we will surely get results. Look at the Chinese people, they work practically 24/7, and that is why nobody canÂ catch up with them .Even the Americans donâ€™t work 24/7 like them.
In line with what youâ€™re saying, Nigeria imports almost 85% of refined products as a result of non-functioning of existing refineries, and now FG is shopping for technocrats to manage petroleum and power ministries, do you think this will yieldÂ the desired result?
Yes, with the right human capital in the petroleum sector, but mind you it is not a one man thing. They must have a team, and the team must sit with the right values. They must be men and women who are focused on results, not people who are focused on putting money in their pockets. At the same time, we are not looking for saints, weâ€™re just looking for people who want to see things done. For instance, ifÂ N1m is given for work and you make sure N800,000 is used for the work, everybody will applaud you, we will not ask you where N200,000 is.
There are indications that CBNâ€™s reform is hurting the real sector. Banks are no longer lending, weâ€™re now running a cash and carry economy, what is your reaction on this?
Banks by nature are not reallyÂ the best bet to develop an economy. They assist an economy that has the right human capital. So itâ€™s neither the CBN nor the banks fault. Itâ€™s the worse human capital that are available. Itâ€™s Nigeria thatâ€™s causing the problem. I donâ€™t believe the CBN governor is the worst human capital. I believe heâ€™s above average human capital in Nigeria. He is probably doing much better than those people criticising him in my own opinion. I donâ€™t have issues with CBN policies. Rather I have more issues with the oil money that is available to CBN and the banks which theyâ€™re recycling with state governors and parastatals. So their focus cannot be on the real sector because they are recycling oil money.
The oil money comes from the foreign technologies of Shell, Mobil, Agip, Chevron, the big oil majors who spend a minimum of 10% of their revenues on scientific research and employ on average 1 PhDÂ in Science, and EngineeringÂ per 100 workers. So there is not much we can do when we have an economy thatâ€™s keyed towards oil.
Whatâ€™s the specialty of BNSL?
We specialise in formulating, testing and applying vitamins, minerals, trace elements to all live stock, to make sure we have vitamins, minerals, trace elements security which lead to animal protein security. And we apply the same vitamins, minerals and trace element to beverages, all flour, all bread to make sure they have human capital that are properly, mentally developed to faceÂ global challenges.