Yolamchi Ukaga, Aba
The Abia state government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Total Value Integrated Services Nigeria Limited, a private investor, to develop the proposed site for an industrial cluster for finished leather and garment makers in Aba.
The industrial site, at Mbato, in Obingwa local government area of the state, was earmarked for the project, but left undeveloped, by previous administrations in the state.
However, the present administration has set machinery in motion to realise the project and thereby boost industrial development of the state, South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.
Aba, the commercial hub of Abia state, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and a bulk of this number are engaged in leather works, steel fabrication and garment making, which could be attributed to the popularity of the city.
It is estimated that Aba hosts 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers.
The ingenuity of Aba artisans, especially, the garment and leather clusters-comprising of shoe, belt and bag makers, attracted the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the federal government, to set up a Common Facility Centre (CFC) in the city, to support the clusters to further develop their skills.
The first phase of the project, estimated to gulp about N30 billion, would be completed in 24 months, according to Mba Nkuma Eme, permanent secretary, ministry of industry, Abia state.
Mba, who represented the Abia state government at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the state government, Total Value Integrated Services Nigeria Limited, Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS) and Union of Tailors and Fashion Designers of Abia State (UTFD), praised Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for his vision to accommodate the artisans in a conducive environment.
According to him, the governor in assumption of office elected to himself to improve the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in the state, which the state has comparative advantage over other states of the federation.
“I have found out that our governor is in love with artisans. He has completed an automobile mechanics cluster at Ogbor Hill area of Aba, set up a modern shoe factory in Aba and sponsored the training of 30 shoemakers in China, who are currently manning the Aba shoe factory.
“His desire is to keep all artisans in clusters, where infrastructure will be made available for them to improve on their standards and increase their production capacity.”
He stated that Total Value Integrated Services Nigeria Limited has the capacity to inject over N30 billion needed for the project and commended the management of the firm for their decision to partner with Abia state government to realise the project.
He urged the leather and garment makers in Aba to support the investors, by buying into the project, noting that the facility when completed, would have constant power supply, police station and close circuit television (CCTV), free internet facility, sections for banks, food courts and fire service station.
Chris Simon, chief executive officer, Total Value Integrated Services Nigeria Limited, who thanked Governor Ikpeazu for partnering his firm on the project, promised that the project would be completed and commissioned by the state governor before he leaves office in the second quarter of 2023.
He explained that the first phase of the project to be completed in 24 months, would provide 15,000 shops with banking spaces, food courts, security, fire service office, free internet facility and steady power supply.
In his words, “We are working hard to ensure that this project is completed before the governor leaves office in 2023. We have successfully carried out such projects in other parts of the country. Consequently, if we say we are going to deliver in 12 months, we deliver in 12 months, if we say we are going to deliver in 24 months, we do that. We assure you that we will also keep to our promise to deliver this project in 24 months”.
On the mode of payment for the beneficiaries, Simon explained that his firm agreed with the ministry to spread the payment over 4-years.
“We have created a flexible payment system for the off- takers. The ministry and leaders of the benefiting associations have agreed that the payment would be spread across four years period.
“The off-takers can decide on a payment plan suitable for them. They can pay weekly, month or yearly. Everybody will be accommodated in the facility”, he stated.
He appealed to the artisans to key into the project, which he said is close to the heart of Governor Ikpeazu.
Okechukwu Williams, president, Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia state (LEPMAAS), described the event as special for artisans in Aba, noting that the plan to develop the site has be on for years and thanked Total Value Integrated Services Nigeria Limited for deciding to partner Abia state government to realise the project.
This is as he also appreciated the Governor Ikpeazu, for his move towards developing the finished leather and garment sectors in the state.
“Ikpeazu’s activities have turned the sectors into mega-businesses. Made-in-Aba products are now popular all over the world, through his campaign.
He explained that most of the artisans in Aba are currently operating in make shift facilities, stressing that a well-built cluster with steady power supply and other amenities, would spur the artisans to increase production and quality of their products.
He urged the beneficiaries to be committed in the project, by being prompt with their payments.