By Levunus Nwabughiogu
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo didn’t hide his conviction about Abia, the indisputable commercial nerve center of the South Eastern Nigeria when he unequivocally remarked: “Nigeria has no business with China if all hands are on deck to develop Aba as a major industrial Base.”
This was no exaggeration. It is true as the Vice President spoke from the point of experience and knowledge.
During his acting presidency days, precisely on January 24, 2017, Osinbajo who is the head of Presidential Economic Team and had superintended over a couple of economic meetings and proposals launched the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs clinic in Abuja.
The clinic was meant to diagnose the challenges encountered by the operators of SMEs in the registration of their businesses and provide solutions. This was essentially in the bid to create more jobs for the teeming unemployed graduates.
Only two governors were at the launch that held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. They were Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Abdulfatai Ahmed of Kwara State.
To Osinbajo, Abia was strategic. Aba, the commercial city in Abia, is the home of SMEs. It is home for creativity and fabrication. The people are ingenious and should anyone wonder where the made-in-Nigeria goods are coming from, it is unarguably Aba. And this was why Osinbajo needed Ikpeazu at the launch.
To still underscore the importance of Aba, Osinbajo, on January 26, just two day after the Abuja launch 26 moved the presidency, in fact, the federal government to Umuahia to launch the Abia version of MSMEs clinic, making the state the first port of call.
With the success of the launch, the entrepreneurial skills of Aba people have continued to grow. But the governor was not complacent. He followed up and on March 1, he visited the Presidential Villa, Abuja with some top functionaries of Abia State Government, Aba businessmen and industrialists including the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Okey Enalemah.
Osinbajo, while speaking at the meeting said Aba was “very strategic and important to the country in terms of manufacturing and production”, also commending Ikpeazu’s “smart business approach to governance”
He later directed the National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, to ensure that registration of SMEs would not be cumbersome for business owners and operatives to which the agencies agreed to work within 60 and 90 days respectively.
Also speaking, the Abia governor stated: “This is a follow up to the MSME clinic which Mr. Acting President led to Abia State. If Aba is giving the needed and adequate attention, which include infrastructural and human capacity development, it has the potential and capacity as the SME capital of Nigeria, to position Nigeria as truly the giant of Africa.
“Our government is doing all we can do ensure the infrastructural turnaround of Aba, but we can’t do it alone, that is why we are thankful to the Federal Government for showing very strong interest in partnering with us to development Aba as the SME capital of our dear country-Nigeria.” Also speaking, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Enalemah, said that the synergy between the federal government and the states was necessary, further revealing that and NAFDAC and SON have agreed to work with the specific period of 60 and 90 days respectively in registering businesses in Aba.
“As you know Aba is a place well known for its products, industry and entrepreneurship. It is a very good example of how partnership can happen within the private sector and the government. Between states and federal government and between funding agencies and enterprise”, Enalemah said.
“So with specific reference to MSME, we have received commitments to some of our key agencies like NAFDAC that they will do everything possible to give any approvals that they need to give within 90 days, which as you know is quite ambitious and is something that we welcome very much. We received similar assurances from Standard Organizations of Nigeria, SON, that where they need to give certifications or set standards or whatever approvals that MSMEs will need from them, that they will work with 60 days time frame from start to finish, including testings and all the other things. “The important thing about this is the commitment of working with them to get the solutions or services from government speedily, transparently and readily”.