Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Prominent Igbo scholars, industrialists, businessmen and traditional leaders have upped the push for the proper development of their region in Nigeria through an investment drive which would see indigenous investors locate their businesses in the region.
The ‘Akuruo ulo’ call and action plan formed highlights of the two-day 5th anniversary celebrations and annual congress of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), held at Honeywell Hotel, Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Founded in 2014, ADF has been at the forefront of propagating the ideals of industrialization, welfare of the Igbo in the Nigerian project and massive development of the Igbo area from the standpoint of self-reliance.
The event was sponsored and hosted by an Umuchu-born businessman and philanthropist, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, whom members of the ADF described as a practical example of what they have been preaching. The entrepreneur had left his comfort zone in the United Kingdom and relocated both his family and businesses to his hometown.
The activities of the event commenced with a facility tour of Ezeemo’s businesses located in the community. From the Honeywell Hotel, to an expansive farm, down to the radio station, Potters’ business park where polythene products, beverages, feed mill, bottled water among others are produced.
They were also shown the production process, the computer engineering and training centre, various capital projects executed for charity and the multi newspaper printing press located in Awka.
Participants marvelled at the silent industrial revolution going on in the community which no doubt has also helped in reducing unemployment in the state.
Welcoming the delegation proper, Ezeemo asked God to give members of ADF the strength to achieve the objectives of the forum which he said would bring the security, stability and development needed in Igboland.
He challenged the Ndigbo to look inwards as viable option in line with their vision and mission.
“We seem to have lost in all fronts and in fact we have. Our share of national cake is being brazenly denied. Our right is being thrown to the dogs. In the scheme of things, we are side lined and treated as third class citizens in our own land. Our investments outside our zone are under threat as they are to be demolished and a virgin land given to us to develop. This has been going on and we seem not to understand it,” he lamented.
Going further, Ezeemo suggested 12 point steps to be taken towards restoring the Igbo hope of meaningful existence expressing hope that implementing those steps can change the Igbo narrative positively. He also challenged the ADF to be part either directly or indirectly in choosing whoever becomes governor in the south east states.
Earlier, President of ADF, Prof Uzodinma Nwala who gave the theme of the event as, “ADF today, yesterday and tomorrow,” said that the foundation came into existence after the international colloquium on the Igbo question in Nigeria before, during and after the Biafra, held in Enugu in 2014, where so many questions arose on the way forward for the emancipation of the Igbo nation.
According to him, since its birth, the ADF has distinguished itself as “a major intellectual guardian on Igbo affairs” by bringing unprecedented focus on the peculiar challenges of the Igbo nation.
Nwala disclosed that the invest-at-home movement, (Akuruo ulo) was conceived when they discovered that 400 per cent of Igbo businesses were domiciled outside Igboland and there was an urgent need to reverse such trend. He regretted that even today, the Igbo businesses were still under threat in Nigeria with no seaport and functional international airport in the area while efforts by Prof Barth Nnaji to bequeath a power plant in the south east has been stalled with litigations.
He however expressed optimism that the situation cannot be worse forever noting that even the Israelite Jews passed through such situation but they are now success story globally.
MD/CEO of ABC Transport, Mr Frank Nneji, while speaking on the Akuruo ulo movement and the future of Alaigbo, called for urgent drastic actions to improve investment and business climate in the region. He urged South East governors to work assiduously in making the business environment friendlier for investors.
He cited the World Bank ranking on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria which rated Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi and Imo at a very low ranking with Enugu also scoring a middle percentage.
He identified difficulties in securing Certificate of Occupancies from the government, multiple taxation, insecurity, power and poor infrastructure as factors militating against the business climate in the region but urged Igbo investors not to shy away from the region, despite all challenges.
Nneji said the choice of Umuchu as venue for the event was because an indigene of the community, Ezemo has fulfilled the think-home philosophy by investing hugely in the community.
The ABC Transport CEO also cited himself as example of business people, who repatriated their businesses home.
In their separate remarks, Chairman of Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu and the traditional ruler of Umuchu community, Igwe Godson Ezechukwu, charged the Igbo to stop crying anymore but take up their destiny as the most enterprising people in Nigeria who can make a difference anywhere.