By EBELE ORAKPO
Nigeria’s march towards a greener environment received a boost recently when Hugiano Trading & Marketing Limited launched its new product, PSC solar electricity generator in Abuja.
In this chat with Vanguard in his office, the Chairman of Hugiano Group, Dr. Kenneth Ibe-Kalu explains why the company decided to go into solar electricity products and the group’s quest to empower Nigerians through its national economic empowerment programme. Excerpts:
According to Dr. Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, Hugiano Group is made up of many subsidiaries with businesses cutting across transportation, trading, consultancy, manufacturing, etc. Kalu said the solar generator, the first of its kind in Nigeria, was introduced into the market not only to solve the problem of incessant power outage, but to give Nigerians a better alternative and save them from needless deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with the use of fossil fuel generators.
He said: “We have just started with the plug and play solar generator, the essence is to make it easy for users to understand the concept of solar electricity. If you are talking of generation of power from fossil fuel, it has a lot of pollutants.
If you talk about nuclear source, even the G-8 is running away from it because of the toxic waste. The world is preaching a greener environment and solar is free of pollutants, healthier and helps in protecting our ozone layer unlike others that deplete the ozone layer.
“We’ve had a lot of accidents in Nigeria. I heard of an entire family that died because they took their generator into the house thinking that opening the windows would enable the smoke go out but they did not know that the emission (carbon monoxide) is very poisonous. So solar electricity can help us avert such untimely deaths.”
He noted that people have always seen solar electricity as an elitist product until now. “With the plug and play generator, people can now see it as a product they can buy and go home and start using. No installation needed. So it is easy to define what solar power is now with the new solar generator,” he stated, adding: “A lease programme (longer payment plan) that will enable a civil servant to pay for the generator at an expanded period of 6, 12 and 18 months.
With that, a civil servant can pay between 10 – 20 per cent down payment to pick an equipment as long as he has a stable job and can afford to pay gradually. Because beyond money-making, we are part of the crusade for a greener world. It’s important for us to begin to diversify.
The generator comes in different sizes. There is the 0.85 KVA and1.7 KVA. That can help you in shedding some lighting costs in view of the fact that electricity tariff will go up by 83 per cent or thereabout.”
Asked why government has not fully embraced solar despite the advantages, Kalu said: “It’s not that we do not have the capacity as a nation to buy into any kind of idea or new invention in the world, our problem is corruption. We’ve taken a lot of steps to invest in solar programmes here and there but what is the quality of the products they are purchasing?” he asked.
On the group’s empowerment programme, Kalu said: “It’s a national economic empowerment programme. Under the programme, we provide opportunities for people to become owners of their own companies rather than employees. It doesn’t pay us much seeing people working very hard and earning very little so between January and February 2012, we have established about five subsidiary companies.
At the end of last month, the salary stood at N3 million in this office alone. What we did was to have all of them removed from salary structure and we incorporated them into the new subsidiary companies. Now, my ICT director is no more on salary because he is now the MD of Bulk Print and Packaging Company Ltd. Same for others.
As a parent group, we establish them, give them running capital and training and then they go ahead and start looking for ways to build and earn money for the company. So before the end of this year, our target is to build 50 new industries with people we don’t know.
” I am ready under the programme to invest in every sector. Our credo is ‘To build an enduring conglomerate to the glory of God where 50 per cent of our profit will be dedicated to serving God,15 per cent shared by the directors, 30 per cent dedicated to the empowerment of Nigerian citizens in the national empowerment programme template.
“To build the above, we shall develop implementation approaches covering all sectors of the economy.
By the grace of God in the next five years, we may be recording up to 2,000 companies. I’m not a greedy person, I want to transfer what I have into the next person and so any amount of money we make from all the subsidiaries, when it gets here, 70 per cent will be ploughed back into establishing new companies.”
The consummate businessman decried the undue emphasis on paper qualification in Nigeria. “The most important thing is not where you are coming from. We tend to adore paper qualification much more than what one can really do,” arguing that a situation where society sees the university graduate as superior to a polytechnic graduate is not good for the nation.
“A polytechnic graduate is supposed to be a technician who contributes more to the growth of the nation. Our curriculum is tailored to building white collar job seekers. We need a new curriculum whereby someone graduating from the university should have at least one extra skill, be it in leather and allied, fabrication, farming, shoemaking, anything. Brazil’s last President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a shoe shiner, so where you start is not the problem. That is the way I think we should be looking at life.”
Harping on the need to emphasise more on what one can achieve, Kalu said: “There are a lot of highly educated people in terms of qualification but when they are given an assignment, they cannot perform. So Nigeria needs to have a total turnaround.“