Encouraging local furniture makers for employment generation

In this piece, Augustine Aminu looks at the importance of encouraging local furniture makers in Nigeria by the government at all levels.

One of the best ways to enjoy bountiful economy is by generation of employment for the citizens of any given country and this can be achieved by self-reliance and encouragement of local manufacturers as was done by the Chinese and other countries of the world that are enjoying good economy, when they shunned reliance on foreign products for their own. This could be done, if the government and the governed can shun the habit of preferring foreign products that can be produced locally for their foreign counterparts.

For this to be realised for the benefits of all, there is the need to not only encourage the local manufacturers by the government at all levels through: patronage, contracts, incentives like grants, loans at nothing or little interest, free taxations, friendly policies, shunning of tribalism, favouritism, nepotism, provision of infrastructural facilities, such as regular electricity supplies and accessible roads among others. If the local manufacturers are given their deserved encouragement, there will be employment and vices such as terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, robbery and threat for secession, among other similar things will be minimised; as it is said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

The Federal Government (FG) may have been doing enough by encouraging local manufacturers, so as to diversify to other sectors, as well as minimise the over dependence on mono economy of oil sector. To ensure that the local manufacturers in Nigeria contribute to economic development through their areas of endeavour, FG established Bank of Industry, BoI was established for easy assessment of loans.

Recalled that before the discovery of oil, whose price at the international level has continued to fall, produce like timber was contributing immensely to the economy, because Nigeria was at that time producing enough timbers for local consumption and export too.

Today the most pressing problems being encountered by developing countries of Africa and Latin America are unemployment and over dependence on foreign – made products. These problems can be minimised had it been that the local manufacturers are being given the needed encouragement, which if done, would go a long way to generate employment for the teeming unemployed Nigerians.

Apart from fertile and arable land, Nigeria is blessed with the best wood one can think of. No wonder foreign and indigenous companies like Alibert Nigeria Limited, F. C. Ugoala & Sons Ltd in Dei – Dei, Abuja, among others established furniture companies in some states. Studies have shown that there are many furniture companies and markets in Nigeria that can compete, but with few of their foreign competitors to the ground. Among them are some furniture companies in Furniture Village in Idu – Koro, FCT.

These employment creators have allegedly been decrying poor patronage at the hands of the federal and state governments. If what they have been decrying is something to go by, these industrialists, if encouraged would move the economy forward. A clear study would show that most cases of insecurity are caused by idleness. By preferring locally manufactured products to the foreign one, this country is losing a lot foreign exchange. When these industrialists are empowered and patronised, a lot of foreign exchange will be saved and one never knows, Nigerians may be exporting their furniture to the outside world.

One of such indigenous companies that has not only given employment to Nigerians, but also trained many is Prince Interior Furnishing and Furniture Company Nigeria Limited located in Furniture Market, Kugbo, Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The Managing Director of the company, Prince Emeka Egwuekwe who spoke to our man exclusively during the commissioning of an upholstery factory in the market said he started his company with little or nothing in the year 2, 000, just as he advised FG to empower local manufacturers for employment to be created in Nigeria.

According to him, “I am talking till tomorrow that if our government can empower us through one way or the other, the problems of unemployment will be minimised in Nigeria. You can see the way the market looks like. If they can put infrastructure in place, give us one or two machines and properly empower us, we shall out-compete our foreign counterparts in the industry. Nigeria is blessed with the best kind of woods like mahogany, cedar, among others you can think of in Delta, Cross Rivers, Edo and Ondo states, just to mention, but a few. Some of these woods, you can see in Israel, but God made them available to us here in Nigeria. Furniture – making is an untapped gold mine and nobody wants to take it serious here in Nigeria.”

He said while discussing with the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment on the need to invest in furniture industry, as well as reminding him that Russia generates energy from saw dust, the furniture giant said that at the discussion he (the minister) promised to take him to Mr President to make a presentation for them to give it a thought. Egwuekwe said due to its contribution to the economy, he told the minister that the importance of the sector to the economy didn’t need a second thought. “We should utilise what we have to get what we want,” the MD said.

Among the major challenges they have been encountering, according to him were epileptic electricity supplies. Though he said some of them who have grown in the industry were able to acquire generator, but he regretted that they spend a lot in gas. Another serious problem he has been reiterating on was that the sector needs empowerment. He said that it would go a long way, if little out of what FG have been giving to farmers who invest and loose them in areas like Maiduguri, among other unsecured areas is given to those in furniture who invest in secured areas.

“If this sector is empowered and encouraged, it would create employment for our teeming youths who roam about, looking for employment. I tell you that vices like insecurity, yahoo yahoo, among others will be curtailed, because if you are busy, either attending to customers or doing work, you won’t think of crime or similar things, because idle mind, they say is the devil’s workshop,” he reiterated.

“When asked, he attributed the survival of the recession to non-capital -intensive of the industry, even as he added that were able to survive it during the time of Yar’Adua as Nigerian president in 2009. Still speaking on the need to empower local industries, he said they would out – perform their foreign counterparts and contribute immensely to the economy should billions of Naira being budgeted for foreign furniture are being spent on locally manufactured ones that have begun to out – do them, the economy would move forward.

“Recession didn’t start today. We experienced it in 2009, during the time of Yar’Adua as president of Nigeria and we survived it, because the sector is not capital – intensive. It only needs domestic support from the government. If billions of Naira that is usually budgeted for foreign furniture is used for locally made ones that are even out-competing their foreign ones, it will be a boost to the economy. Our foreign competitors you are taking money to come to this country to buy the woods. The finishing aspect of the furniture is where we have challenges, but with the modern machines and equipment we have recently acquired, we have begun to compete few of those of our foreign competitors to the ground.”

Hammering on the need for all hands to be on deck for the country to move forward, he said the magic behind the survival of China started when the China saw that the only way to survive was through self – reliance.. He said to achieve this, the government of China had to close their boarders, went to private sectors to demand how to help them. He said the government of China acquired machines for those who needed them from Italy and Italians in turn came to buy Chinese products from China.

On the synergies between his company and agencies like Small, Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, among others, he said that during the commissioning of the upholstery factory of the company, SMEDAN said they plan to partner with the company, but he was quick to add that they have been on the matter for years. Egwuekwe said as the national president of furniture makers in Nigeria, they had over 4,000 Nigerians making a living out of the market, adding that his company has over 160 workers under its employment. Still calling for the empowerment of the industry, he said most people who were forced out of their places in the north have resorted to making good living from the industry in the market. He even disclosed that the company has started the process of being enlisted into Nigeria Stock Exchange Market.

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