In January 2018, 30 shoemakers left Aba, the industrial capital of Abia State and by extension, the South East for China to acquire the skills and secure the modern machinery in the industry. That did not just happen, but was the result of a well-planned programme of action based on the maximisation of the core competencies and areas of comparative advantage of the people Abia State.
One man was at the head of it. Early enough, Okezie came into government without taking his eyes off the ball. Among the varied programmes and policies, one of his priorities, was the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) as the base of economic development of Abia State – the major industry of the people.
The mantra was on his lips wherever he went. Right from the blast of the whistle in 2015, when he came into power, he began the full mobilisation for the project, which took him to Lagos, Abuja and other places where the people of Abia were domiciled to share his vision with the people.
The result of the combination of the multiple efforts the governor has put in this vision, became evident, when the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), released a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey report that measured deprivations related to education, health, and living standard of the people and Abia was among the top states.
This positive result from the highest rating body in the land, not only provides an indication of the future of the Abia economy and how it would look like in the coming years, but proves that the foundation laid and the seeds planted in those years of the beginning by the governor could not have been less visionary by a leader desirous of the economic and social emancipation of the people.
Nobody in Abia State can comfortably say that Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as a Governor has done it all but the NBS publication has shown that after all, Ikpeazu’s promise of delivering a better life for the people of the state is a clear reality.
Abia is a state where people are well known for their industrious lifestyle and hard-working nature. It did not start under Okezie Ikpeazu but the coming of Ikpeazu became a catalyst for rapid growth and development of all those involved in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Aba.
One concrete influence Ikpeazu had on SMEs in Abia State is his becoming their Chief Marketer, changing the narrative about made in Aba products. The Governor completely rewrote the age-long story of Aba shoemakers, and other designers and made them proud to say their products were made in Aba.
He vowed to wear only made-in-Aba products throughout his stay in office. Not only did he do that but he also took their products to important government agencies like the army, police, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Nigerian Railway Cooperation, thereby creating serious and available markets for them.
When he noticed the lack of modern equipment available to Aba shoemakers which will not allow them to compete favourably with the rest of shoemakers over the world, he set up the Enyimba Automated Shoe Company (ENASCO) where individual shoemakers can bring their designs and have them produced by advanced machines.
The government equally went ahead to launch an online business directory for small and medium businesses in the state, a men’s that currently boast E-commerce in the state making it possible for customers all over the world to buy products in Aba.
Ikpeazu exposed SMEs in the state to the world because the Abia SME directory contains business names, addresses, telephone numbers, locations, contact information, the type of service or products the business provides, and the number of employees among other things.
Ikpeazu restored the Abia SME and equally became a pacesetter in human capital development in Aba, the commercial hub of the state, a situation that has given youths impetus to go ahead with production.
Abia under Ikpeazu became the first state to have the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development that serves as a clearing house for all SME-related activities. The ministry forms the catalyst for business development, marketing and empowerment. Abia is also the first to establish an SME bank tailored towards helping small businesses thrive. These achievements are among the reasons why the rating of Abia has improved in many ways.
The Abia SME bank on its own is Microfinance Bank meant to meet the needs of Abia Small and Medium-sized Enterprises owners that are currently not being met by numerous commercial banks.
The bank is specifically providing micro-credit to SMEs to enhance economic growth in line with the Ikpeazu-led administration macroeconomic policy of empowerment and wealth creation for Abia people and others doing business in Abia State.
What makes the Abia SME Microfinance Bank located at No 17 Ngwa Road, Aba very unique is that despite providing micro-credit to Abia State SMEs, it equally offers efficient and innovative financial services and products to the economically viable SMEs segment.
Today, many areas of businesses in Aba in particular are having specialized clusters where their businesses are meant to thrive without restrictions, as the government equally says it will construct more roads with economic importance to ease trade and commerce in the state.
Perhaps, the efforts of the current administration in Abia State in SMEs will be appreciated more when one visits the Cameroun Park through the Powerline axis of Ariaria International Market to see how people from Central and West African cities like Bangui, Libreville, Bamako, Malabo, N’Djamena, Bioko and Kumba come to buy made in Aba goods for their numerous customers back at home in their countries.
Undoubtedly a rich nation by every standard, one third of over 200million population size of Nigeria citizens are terminally poor confronted with existential challenges, which to ameliorate, the Federal Government introduced a poverty reduction template, targeted at lifting 100 million Nigerians from poverty belt zone by 2030.
Though the government says is attainable, if stakeholders play their expected roles effectively, poverty continues to balloon in the country rather than receding, with a poverty report released last week by the NBS – Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), underscoring the stark realities.
According to the NBS’ MPI, 63 per cent of persons living within, Nigeria ( about 133 million people) are multidimensionally poor, meaning that poor people in Nigeria experience over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.
It is against this backdrop that the feat achieved in Abia, through the deliberate policy of Ikpeazu to focus on the core areas of the Abia economy by lifting the small businesses and maximising the opportunities therefrom, must be situated and the reason he deserves a lot of accolades. Certainly, things will never be the same again. Abia is now on the move.
IDL ‘Master of Fun’: Two days of mixing business with pleasure
How often has it been said – you do not mix business with pleasure. How true is it? Well, with a full impetus, the answer was delivered in clear terms to this age-long dictum, last weekend – not in all cases do business and pleasure not mix! In fact some businesses and pleasure are like Siamese twins – inseparable. That much was proved by Intercontinental Distillers Limited (IDL), Nigeria’s foremost producers of wine and spirits for the two days they locked down parts of Lagos.
Between Thursday, 24th and Friday, 25th of November, 2023, every visitor or passerby within the precincts of Isaac John in the Government Reserved Area (GRA), Ikeja, must have noticed something unusual as the route was lined with cars of all shapes, models and sizes. Inside the imposing Radisson Blu, located in the highbrow street, showed the company spared no cost in returning the favours of their customers by giving them first-class treatments – a carnival of some sorts, worthy of every expression.
The event, which was the 2023 edition of the IDL Distributors Award, to reward customers for their loyalty, also included the re-launch of Teezers cocktail brand, and the unveiling of the new packaged products. But it was clearly beyond that by the other activities daintily choreographed to fit into the entire show. Like the fine work of a weaverbird the guests, right from their arrival on Thursday to the time they finally retired to their rooms, some in the early hours of Saturday, witnessed a sequence of events sure to remain in their memories for many years.
Emerging from their rooms on Thursday evening, the distributors and other guests were first treated to a dinner after which they sat down to enjoy a superlative performance by Nice, one of Nigeria’s current celebrated music stars followed by a welcome party that stretched far into the night, enabling them to meet, greet, mingle and exchange banters, amid tables filled with exquisite food and drinks from the company’s stable.
The next day was kicked off with a breakfast, health and business talks, followed with lunch, makeup, green carpets and picture sessions that preceded the major event of the awards and the unveiling of the new product and designs to the guests at the banquet hall of the hotel, which was filled to capacity with the guests.
The glittering presence of some of Nigeria’s A-list celebrities in the Nollywood and BBNaija brands, accentuated the kaleidoscope of colours from the gaily-dressed awardees, guests, management and staff of the company, as well as their friends and well-wishers, which blended with the interludes of musical performances to create the perfect concept of entertainment, enjoyment and pleasure.
IDL management with some of the awardees
Aare Hope Gbagi, IDL’s Head of Sales, captured the raison d’etre of the event when he told the audience it was the company’s idea of rousing their major stakeholders – the distributors out of their daily routines of business to a different arena of relaxation, necessary for their physical and mental health, particularly considering the stiff and challenging economic situation in the country.
Congratulating the distributors, whom he said deserved special welcome for surviving the harsh business climate in the country, particularly the various challenges of the year 2022, he added: “This ceremony presents us with a unique opportunity to pull you our distributors out of your daily routines of buying and selling to a beautiful atmosphere to unwind and relax and by this idea, contribute our own quota in improving your mental health, which is part of our discussions earlier this morning.”
Elaborating on the necessity to fete the distributors, Engineer Patrick Anegbe, Managing Director of the company, said the event was a testament to the amazing partnership IDL shared and the impressive achievements both accomplished together in-spite of the unfavourable business environment in the country.
He said: “Today, we embrace the theme “Beyond Limits” which perfectly reflects our collective journey of surpassing boundaries and pushing ourselves to new heights. Each and every one of you have steadfastly navigated through challenges and persevered in the face of adversity. Your dedication and unwavering commitment have uplifted our business to new levels of excellence.
“To be more specific, the Theme, “Beyond Limits” to you our distributors implies:
- Experiencing products that go beyond your expectation.
- Experiencing opportunities in sales of both successful and new brands for the growth and success of your business.
For us in IDL; the theme implies:
- Showcasing innovative products.
- Strengthening customer loyalty and building long term partnerships.
- Highlighting the company’s commitment to continuous improvement and pushing limits.”
Speaking specifically on the challenges, he added: “One of the most significant challenges we faced as a manufacturing company and partners was the high cost of doing business. Market conditions became increasingly unstable; prices of input materials continued to rise almost on a daily basis; energy cost went up due to high cost of diesel. The foreign exchange (FX) required for raw materials, equipment and spares was not readily available and our roads continued to remain in deplorable state, making movement of goods from one part of the country to another difficult and expensive.
“Our dear business partners, despite the unfavourable business environment you had to contend with in 2022, your performance at the end of the year was impressive. This is indeed commendable and we are sincerely thankful to you all.
Dorothy Anegbe, displaying her trophy
“IDL as a company also strived relentlessly in 2022 to tackle the challenges encountered head-on through strategic planning, operational efficiency and investment in technology. We have pioneered processes that empowered us to thrive in the face of adversity. To ensure more availability of our brands to our esteemed distributors the future, we have invested heavily in capacity building. You will therefore start to notice improvement in supplies of our products from the beginning of next year.
“We will continue to exhibit our strength in research, new products developments and innovative activities to keep our brands above others in Wines and Spirits industry in Nigeria and make doing business with us more interesting. I want to make a passionate appeal to our valued distributors to always ensure that you buy across the range of our brands whenever they make purchases. This will ensure improve growth and profitability for your business.”
The introduction of the Teezers cocktail brand, which also now comes in three flavours of orange, ginger and lemon to the audience, clearly underscored the reason IDL maintains a leading role in the entertainment industry, where premium drinks remain the major partner. The audience watched as the performance of a group of young men and women told the story of its re-launch through a breathtaking choreographic show, decked in suspense and eventual revelation.
Mobolaji Alalade, the company’s Head of Marketing, who put the show together, explained that the fresh move came out of the need to close the gap of the limited cocktail variants in Nigeria with the needs of the consumers.
Hear him: “Today marks a new beginning – a beginning of changing the fun narratives within the Cocktail Sparkling Drink Category of the Wines and Spirit business in Nigeria and Africa at large. This game changer is the relaunch of Teezers Lime/Lemon as well as the Teezers Apple Sparkling Cocktail Drink and the introduction of two brand new variants -the Orange Flavour and Lemon and Ginger Flavour which is non-alcoholic.
“With the limited variant options available within the Cocktail drink category, the highly youthful Nigeria population have been yearning for more fun options. Intercontinental Distillers Limited (IDL) equipped with research findings and consumer feedback rose up to the challenge of closing the gap and has now redefined the category with the revamp and consequently the relaunch of its already existing variants as well as the two new exciting additions – Teezers Orange for those who love the refreshing citrus flavour and the sense of energy its vibrant colour gives, while the Lemon and Ginger non-alcoholic flavour will cater specifically to children and teetotallers so as to ensure no one is left out.
Some of the celebrities at the even
“Today, Teezers Sparkling Cocktail Drink has been upgraded from 300ml to 400ml in a contemporary, trendy, easy to carry bottle definitely offering our Consumers more. The brand label has been redesigned in sync with the spirit of the new age while the logo now radiates the elegance and youthful fun filled nature of the brand.
“Apart from presenting to you the new look of Teezers and the new additions to its variant bouquet, we unveil our new marketing campaign ‘More fun’ which underscores the brand’s unique preposition as the Master of Fun. As such, the brand will be engaging directly with the core consumers across all leisure destinations at all touch points in Nigeria.”
Indeed, the event, packaged by ISO-BLACK Concept Limited, a vibrant multi-channel brand communication solution and support services concern, lived up to its billing as the Master of Fun in Nigeria. The huge success of the third edition of the agency’s involvement, which included the design, deployment and execution of all the programmes, not only underscored a full grasp of the environment, but provided a demonstrable evidence of taking the gown to town in the fun business.
For the over 300 distributors that were feted at the occasion, and others who did not make list, the words of Dorothy Anegbe, Managing Director, Ogbohu Nigeria Enterprises, Sango Ota, who picked the star prize during the event, would continue to ring a bell.
“I pray that God should continue to be with them. They will grow from strength to strength and we will be able to come here and collect award.
How else to prove a partnership that works and the saying that indeed, for IDL and its stakeholders, business and pleasure indeed do mix.
‘Realnews 11th anniversary lecture’: Two days to fresh agenda on Nigerian and African growth
For the past decade or so, the yearly Realnews lecture series, has become a forum for not only assembling some of the biggest and brightest brains in Nigeria and beyond in one gathering, but presented a platform for picking their brains necessary in setting agenda critical for the growth and development of the country and Africa.
Tuesday, November 7, will be yet another occasion for the now elite gathering when another theme would be put on the table. Coming at a time when Nigeria has once again transitioned to yet a fresh phase in its current democratic experience, this year’s theme: Threats of Illicit Funds Flow to Africa, presents a fresh impetus for the nation regarding its influential role as the undisputed leader of Africa.
That in itself has gone further to underscore the import of the yearly parley as an event for harvesting ideas and plotting the charts to find solutions for some of the knotty issues not only on domestic issues affecting Nigeria, but Africa in general as they contend with their places in the global agenda.
Over the years, the organisers had invited two Chairmen of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to speak on the ever challenging issues of organising elections in Nigeria, a move, which is predicated on finding real solution to how Nigeria could get out of the consistent and seemingly intractable electoral bad behaviours.
In search of solutions, Maurice Iwu, who superintended over the national elections in 2003 and 2007, at the 2014 edition, was brought in to speak on the theme: Nigerian Democracy: Getting it Right in 2015, ahead of that year’s general elections, while Mahmood Yakubu spoke on Political Transitions and Africa’s Economic Development: Preparations for Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections at the 2018 Lecture.
Other speakers include Buba Marwa, a Brigadier General who spoke at the 10th edition in 2022 on Drug Abuse among Youths in Africa: Implication for Nigerian Economy and 2023 Elections, while before him at the ninth edition, Simbi Kesiye Wabote, an engineer, oil industry expert and current Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) took his stand to speak on Nigeria in the Unfolding Integration of the African Market: The Oil and Gas Perspective.
In 2020, at the eighth edition, it was the turn of Boss Mustapha, then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, who spoke on Managing COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa: The Nigeria Experience, while a year before, former President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana gave the 2019 lecture, entitled: Beyond Politics: An Economic Narrative for West Africa.
The 2017 fifth lecture on African Leadership in a Turbulent Era was delivered by Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of Education and former World Bank Vice President, while in 2016 fourth anniversary Lecture on Security and National Development in Plural Democratic Society was delivered by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, former United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative to West Africa and Sahel, just as the 2015 third edition was delivered by Chukwuma Charles Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and presently Governor of Anambra State, on November 19, 2015, with the theme: It’s The Nigerian Economy, Stupid?
Each of the editions, no doubt had contributed its own block and planks, such that today, a solid platform has been constructed as a foundation for a massive intellectual edifice that has become the backbone and reservoir for decision making choices, exactly what Maureen Chigbo, founder, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Editor-in-Chief of RealNews, arguably one of Nigeria’s most versatile and thriving online platforms aims at for initiating the scheme.
To highlight its success so far, many blue-chip companies and organisations are currently lining up in support of the hosting of the 11th Anniversary Lecture holding at the Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday.
The organizations, according to a statement signed by Chigbo herself, include NCDMB, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM).
Chevron Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), FirstBank Nigeria Limited (FBN), and Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Dangote Group, National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Johnwood Hotel, Abuja, and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are also providing their own supports.
Chigbo, who is also the President of Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), the umbrella body of more than 100 registered professional online news platforms in Nigeria, in the statement, expressed deep appreciation to the entities, praying God to bless them and give their management the wisdom to lift their organisations to greater heights and prosperity.
Expressing the same sentiments to all the banks, institutions, companies and other organisations that have placed online advertisement on Realnews website in the last 11 years, she said: “Without their support we would not have remained in business all through the years to do what we love best – investigative journalism.”
Explaining the features of Tuesday’s parley, she said the lecture, which would have Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director of NPA, would be delivered by Edwin W. Harris Jr., Director General of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Senegal, while Ahmed Kuru, Managing Director of Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) would keynote the conference.
Scheduled for Sheraton Hotel by 10am, the event would also feature Kayode Adebayo, Director of Proceeds of Crime Department, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Felix Obiamalu, Associate Director, Legal and Sanctions, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), as discussants.
The event would also witness the investiture of all the speakers into The Realnews Hall of Fame immediately after the Lecture, the statement, said, quoting Chigbo as saying that the Realnews Hall of Fame was established to honour only those who played key roles during the anniversary lectures.
“Realnews, a general interest magazine, is an online publication that thrives on investigative journalism. We have expertise in reporting the oil and gas sector with its attendant environmental challenges. We aim to unearth exclusive stories about real people and the challenges they are facing in their day-to-day activities. We do this bearing in mind that government can only act to influence the lives of people positively if they are aware of their true situation. Hence, our objective is to use our investigative skills to ferret out information in the sectors we focus on and produce an unbiased report which will actually influence the government and decision-makers to take actions that will make society better.
“Realnews is populated by seasoned journalists who believe strongly in the tenets and ethics of the profession. The online publication believes that journalism as the fourth Estate of the Realm can contribute its quota towards building a fair and just society where fundamental human rights are respected and citizens have the freedom to pursue their interests anywhere in the world without hindrance. Its editors have a combined experience of several decades in active journalism practice and are highly dedicated to serving humanity. Hence its motto: For God and Humanity.
“Realnews Anniversary Lecture Series was established to commemorate the best minds in our society and to tap from them to enrich the discourse in our national development,” the statement added.
Abuja court denies respite for Osinachi’s husband *Says, he has a case to answer
Despite claims that he was roundly cleared by medical reports indicating that his wife died of natural illness, Peter Nwachukwu, is not getting any respite yet, as a High Court, sitting in Abuja, is insisting that he is liable to the sudden death of Osinachi Nwachukwu, a popular gospel artist, last year.
Justice Njideka Nwosu-Iheme of the Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Wuse Zone 2, which dismissed the no-case submission filed by Nwachukwu, stated that the prosecution did indeed establish a case against the defendant.
Following the 23-count filed by the Federal Government indicting him, in connection with the death of the popular musician, Nwachukwu was remanded at the Kuje detention facility until further hearing after pleading not guilty, ahead of the preliminary trial, which began on June 20, 2022 and finished on March 10, 2023, in which the prosecution called 17 witnesses to testify.
Though Osinachi, who passed away on April 8, 2022, was considered to have died of throat cancer at first, family and friends later claimed her death was connected to assault by her husband who was later arrested.
But reports from the National Hospital in Abuja later issued an autopsy, which stated that there was no mark of violence on the deceased and attributed the cause of death to include “generalised organ pallor; bilateral leg swelling; fluid in the sac containing the heart; tumour deposits in and on the heart, lungs, kidneys; massively enlarged heart and fluid around the lungs which restrict breathing.”
It was this report that Nwachukwu’s lawyers, I.A. Aliyu, took to court to file a no-case submission, arguing that the husband of the deceased had no case to answer, having been cleared of the charges of culpable homicide and domestic violence.
“Osinachi died solely as a result of outgrowth tumors, which resulted in cardiac tamponade, the primary cause of death and abnormal growth of tissue (cancer) which is the secondary cause of death,” he said, urging the court to release and acquit him of all charges.
But Nwosu-Iheme, in rejecting the no-case motion, ordered the Osinachi to open his defence in the case, which has generated a lot of controversy and public interest both in Nigeria and beyond.
December 3, 2023 1:14 pm
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