A NEW DAWN FOR AKWA IBOM BUSINESS COMMUNITY HAS ARRIVED

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By UbongAbasi Ise

One of the most significant and exciting features in the Akwa Ibom State 30th anniversary celebration was, unarguably, the second Nationwide Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Clinic held at Ibom Hall in Uyo between Friday 22 and Saturday 23 September. Apart from providing the platform for the exhibition of exceptional home-made products and services to the visiting Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the clinic also served, basically, as a connecting thread linking MSMEs, government regulators and statutory donor agencies to the common task of driving economic development to a towering height. With highly informative technical and interactive sessions, the participants had ample opportunity getting update on new government policies and initiatives that geared towards improving the performance of businesses. Dr. (Mrs.) Glory Edet, Commissioner for Women Affairs and the Dean of Commissioners in the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council, while representing her counterpart, Prof. Eno Ikpe of the Ministry of Investment, Commerce and Industry, described the clinic as diagnostic, prescription and treatment exercise to improve the operational health of MSMEs in the state. According to her, the exercise was quite necessary in stemming the tide of increasing failure rate of most small businesses within the few years of establishment.
Vice president, Prof. Osinbajo through his technical Adviser on MSMES, Mr. Tola Johnson on the Day One of the clinic, said that the essence of the programme was to bring together all regulators of MSMES and to solve MSMES related issues.
However, the clinic was organized by the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and was facilitated by Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Investment, Commerce and Industry.

THE PERSPECTIVE OF AKWA IBOM STATE COUNCIL OF MSMES ON THE NEED TO RESTRENGTHEN MSMES IN THE STATE
The Akwa Ibom State Council of MSMEs, inaugurated in February 2016, was set up to serve as an aggregator to coordinate and guide the efforts of governments, international development agencies, and the private sector in the development of the MSMES sector in Akwa Ibom State. The Council is saddled with the responsibility to domesticate the policies, programmes and the activities of the National Council on MSMEs in a bid to promote inclusive MSME development in the country. Presenting the Council’s paper on the Challenges Facing MSMEs in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Celestine Etouwem of the State Chamber of Commerce made a concerted effort in enumerating different categories of businesses identifiable under the economic concept of micro, small and medium scale enterprises.
According to Etouwem, a micro scale enterprise is the type of business that employs the maximum of 8 to 10 workers , for example, restaurant s and small carpentry workshops. Small enterprises fall under the categories of companies that employ from 10 to 49 workers with example including hotels, private primary and secondary schools, while medium scale company is the type that can accommodate from 50 to 199 employees. Example of medium scale enterprises include construction company and the integrated farms.
In the paper, the State Council on MSMEs proposed the following, amongst others, that the Federal Government should direct the Bank of Industry to establish its branch in Akwa Ibom State; finance working capital; provide industrial parks; make power supply available and affordable; reduce the cost of communication; finance equipment purchase, support time to time training and retraining of entrepreneurs.

CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION, THE STARTING POINT FOR MSMES
The Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, is one agency of the Federal Government that is saddled with the responsibility to incorporate, register and regulate the management of companies, business names and incorporated trustees. The commission has the mandate to investigate the affairs of companies, look into Business names and Non-Governmental Organizations as well as enforcing compliance with all regulatory requirements as provided in the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The representatives of this commission were at the venue of the MSMEs clinic at Ibom Hall to assist the public in getting in touch with the most recent development in corporate affairs.
Speaking with The Sensor, Mr. Moses Adaguusu, the CAC Deputy Director on Public Affairs, stated that CAC has tried as much as possible to ease the registration process as well as making the presence of the commission felt throughout the 36 states of the federation. Accordingly, he said that there are online services made available for those seeking to register their business names and companies, and this could be done at the comfort of their homes. Adaguusu disclosed that payment of stamp duty could also be done online. According to him, “You don’t need to go to Stamp Duty to pay for the registration. If you are registering your company, then you can use your phone to pay stamp duty and your documents are sealed.”
Adaguusu maintained that the era of having middlemen such as lawyers, auditors and chartered secretaries in the registration process is over. “Another most recent development is that anybody can register his company himself. You don’t need chartered secretaries or middlemen to aid the registration process because we now have the company registration portal which enable people to register their businesses online anytime,” he said.
During the technical and interactive session, a CAC resource person noted that after online registration, the next step is for one to approach the nearest CAC office then pick the certificate, tender two passport photographs with address, means of identification such as International Passport, National ID Card, Driving License or Voters Card.
It was announced that the service charge for the registration of business name now stands at N10,500; for the limited liability company, the charge is not more than N27,000; while incorporated trustees such as church and social foundations are required to pay the sum of N37,000 with evidence of public notification.
Emphasis was also laid on Annual Returns as this required business owners to file their statements annually to show that their enterprises are still running.
However, the CAC office in Akwa Ibom State is at Obionyang Street, off Abak Road in Uyo, the state capital city.

IMPROVING THE VALUE OF PRODUCTS WITH STANDARD ORGANIZATION OF NIGERIA (SON)
As Akwa Ibom State Government is prioritizing industrialization, the services of the Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON, are very essential in ensuring that the mass of products unleashed by mushrooming factories and industries are of standard quality. Speaking with newsmen at the MSMEs Clinic, Mr. Don Pedro, the South-South SON Regional Coordinator, said that with the certification of products both domestically-made and imported, consumers would have more confident in such products.
He noted that manufacturers with the SON certification mark on their products are of advantage of acquiring the services of the Bank of Industry.
He disclosed that his organization would be intensifying effort in clamping down on the producers and dealers of sub-standard and uncertified products. Pedro therefore urged owners of enterprises in the State to get their product with the SON especially in the current regime where the service charge for certification has been reduced by 50% in accordance with the directive of the Federal Government.

BANK OF INDUSTRY’S GEEP MONEY AND MARKET MONEY LOAN
Bank of Industry, BOI, has the mandate of providing financial assistance for the establishment of large, medium and small projects; as well as expansion, diversification and modernization of existing enterprises; including rehabilitation of ailing industries. The Bank was established in October, 2001 following the reconstruction of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) which had been in existence since 1964.
About 2,500 Akwa Ibom people forming themselves into cooperatives are currently standing the chance of benefiting from the intervention programme of Bank of Industry under Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, GEEP. As at Friday 22nd September, during the kick-off of the MSMEs Clinic, some beneficiaries were signing Halleluiah songs as they received bank alert of N50,000 interest-free loans dished out by the Bank of Industry.
Mrs. Uloma Ike, the Head of BOI Micro Enterprises explained that N50,000 loan was set aside for the first-timers maintaining that the loans were part of the effort to ensure that small businesses grow and improve the living standard of the people and generate job opportunities. She maintained that the reward for the timely repayment is the increment of loan to N100,00 for the complied persons.
In the clinic, the participants were briefed that obtaining the BOI Market Money Loan is very simple as the individual needs to apply as a member of a certain association with Bank Verification Number, existing business particulars, and he would pick the form free of charge from BOI agents, micro-finance banks and from the leaders of cooperative associations.

INCREASING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES WITH NATIONAL AGENCY FOR FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL (NAFDAC)
NAFDAC is the federal Government agency mandated for the control, regulation exportation, importation, advertisement, distribution and the sales of NAFDAC-controlled products. This is to ensure and safeguard public health by ascertaining that standard quality products are made available for the public consumption.
Speaking at the Clinic’s technical and interactive session, the NAFDAC resource person, Mrs. Eje , enumerated the steps taken by NAFDAC before any food product could win the approval of the agency. According to her, attempt would be made to find out if the personnel have the requisite training; NAFDAC would also seek to know the number of personnel required for the production. Then the next step would be the inspection of premises to be sure that it does not pose any threat or risk to the product. The facilities would also be checked to ensure that they would not react to the products. Next step to take is to find out the safety of where the raw materials are coming from; the process of production would also be evaluated in a way to ensure that the standard quality of the product is guaranteed. Then NAFDAC would then look at the ingredients before taking the sample of the product to the lab for analysis, after which NAFDAC would stamp the number for the approval.
Eje said that there are field officers for routine inspection and surveillance, and there is administrative fine for any erring producer, and in some cases, NAFDAC would close down their businesses for a period of time.
She revealed that the agency has consumer complaint register which helps in investigating anomalies in the products.
The resource person also mentioned that the Federal Government has directed NAFDAC to reduce the registration fee by 50%. With N20,000 now, food producers can register their products to obtain NAFDAC approval.
With NAFDAC registered products however, owners of enterprises could run smooth business and also obtain credit facilities from financial institutions.

WORKING WITH NEPC FOR PROMOTION OF NON-OIL EXPORT-BASED ECONOMY
As the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), is emphasizing the diversification of the country’s economic base away from oil by way of developing and marketing domestic products outside the shores of the country, Mrs. Azuka Offor, the South-South Coordinator at the clinic asserted that NEPC has created and articulated programmes for the growths of non-oil enterprises. For enterprises to benefit from this, they should form themselves into associations, and then register with NEPC. The council’s office in Akwa Ibom State is located at Ikot Abasi Street in Uyo.

INDUSTRIAL TRAINING FUND AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO BUSINESSES
Mrs. Christie Onwu, the deputy director of the region, said that if a company bids for federal government contract without registering with the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, then they stand the risk of losing the opportunity. Since ITF gets no subvention from the Federal Government, then corporate bodies are required to pay 1% of the total amount of their annual payroll to ITF. However, this agency of Federal Government is in charge of SIWES/industrial attachment for students in the tertiary institutions. It also has the responsibility of providing training for entrepreneurs, youths and women. Mrs. Onwu disclosed that ITF has trained about 2,500 youths in Akwa Ibom State since 2013 in the area of fashion design, paint-making, poultry, fisheries and so on, and would soon reach out to women in the stae through Women Skill and Enterprises Programme, WOSEP. ITF office in Akwa Ibom State is at 6 Esuene Street, off Abak Road in Uyo.

BUSINESS POSSIBILITIES WITH FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICE
Contributing to the revenue profile of Nigeria is one obligation that should not be avoided by corporate bodies and the citizenry as funds are needed to run government and to create enabling environment for business to thrive. The Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, was at the clinic to highlight the relevance of FIRS for the participants seeking to register their enterprises as well as the importance of taxation for those seeking to apply for financial assistance from statutory donor agencies or financial institutions. Mr. Benneth Agu, who is the regional director of ABC States (i.e Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and Cross River), said that FIRS is working in collaboration with CAC for the registration of businesses. To register a company, the first thing is to register for Value Added Tax (VAT) and obtain Tax Identification Number (TIN) as one of the basic particulars required at CAC. Businesses were tasked to file their returns on or before 21st of every month. Also, corporate bodies were urged to coordinate their employees to pay their taxes by filing their payrolls with the FIRS. The office of FIRS in Akwa Ibom is located at Sir Udo Udoma Avenue.

SOME BUSINESSES AT THE EXHIBITION
The following enterprises caught the attention of The Sensor at the exhibition floor:

Noval Investment Limited
One of the products that caught the eyes of the Vice President and the State Governor was the ones exhibited by Noval Investment Limited at Ibom Hall lobby. The company displayed wares ranging from keke shaft hose, minibus shaft hose, wheel barrow tires, foot-mats. Besides, the company, being a rubber and plastic producing factory, also boast of expanse of rubber plantation. Etubom Sabestian Udoh, the managing director of the company, told newsmen that the company has more than 300 staff on the payroll. Since the business is capital-intensive, Noval boss called on government to assist in funding the company so as to expand operation and employ more youths.
However, the factory address is located at Kilometer 6, Uyo-Itu Road and has its depot office at 338A Oron Road in Uyo.

AKEES Toothpick And Pencil Factory
Our correspondent came to the stand belonging to one of the State’s wave-making industries, the AKEES Toothpick and Pencil Factory. Right there, pencils and toothpicks were on display. Speaking with our correspondent, Mr. Bassey Friday Moses, the General Manager of the factory said that the company has no fear of competition as there is no competing producer of pencils in Nigeria at the moment. He said that the market is very wide because even in the entire West Africa, there is no pencil producing company. “Imagine the number of schools we have in Nigeria, and the number of pupils that uses pencil, I can say that we have a very large market,” he added.
Moses said that a lot of jobs have been created for the teeming youths through AKEES Toothpick and Pencil Factory. The General Manager maintained that the clinic has provided the opportunity for the company to showcase Governor Udom Emmanuel who has been able to charge the citizenry to rise up to the faith of greatness. However, the factory is located at Kilometer 2, Ekom Iman, Uyo.

Alpha Technical services
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was impressed by what Alpha 1 Technical Services displayed at Ibom Hall lobby – the traffic light with defaulters alarm, which is said to be the first ever technology of its kind produced in Nigeria. The Alpha 1 managing director, Engr. Ndotenyin Ekanem, once told The Sensor that his company’s greatest innovation remains the intelligent traffic light with defaulters’ alarm because of its tendency to contribute in solving complex traffic issues in the society. He told the Vice President that the technology is yet to be installed in Nigeria for public use.
However, Alpha 1 is an indigenous company that deals in services ranging from manufacturing of traffic light control panels, automatic change over, industrial automation, instrumental/controls, electrical installations, power plants/heavy duties, biomedical engineering, and solar power supply and control. Mr. Ndotenyin Ekanem is the managing director of the company. The office is now located at Aka Road, Uyo.

D Rock Investment Limited
The Sensor correspondent found Mrs. Comfort Valentine in a very relaxed mood as she proudly showcase pails of D Rock Paints at the Expo. She said that her products are highly recognized in the state, and that D Rock products are patronized at Uyo airport. According to her, the company has the capacity to produce 120 pails per batch. She said that she needed more capital for the expansion of the company. D Rock deals in production of paints such as emulsion, screeding paints, texcoat, etc. The office address is at number 64 Aka Road in Uyo.

Davco Nigeria Company
Mr. David Akpan, the managing director of Davco Nigeria Company, was at the clinic to showcase his company’s products which include cassava processing mill, palm kernel cracker and so on. Davco’s office address is at 156, Uyo Road in Ikot Ekpene. Mr. David Akpan told our correspondent that the real people that could turn the wheel of industrialization are those that could use their hands and not pen, and so government should be earnest in empowering real manufacturers and entrepreneurs at the grassroot level.

Itamax Enterprise Limited
“Right now, we are exhibiting the major staple food in the country which is rice. And the one we have here is called Akwa Diamond Rice. We produced, processed and packaged it in Akwa Ibom State. We have the mill at Ikot Essien in Ibiono Ibom local government area, but our farms are in Uruan with extensions at Ini and Ibiono…” Those were the words of Comrade David Bassey of Itamax during his interaction with The Sensor at the expo.
Bassey mentioned that in 2015, Akwa Diamond Rice won the national award of excellence at Abuja Agro Summit adding that his company has all takes to process and package rice to a perfect brand.

Contact UbongAbasi Ise on 0818994609 | ubongabasiise@gmail.com

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