For the people of Ubomiri, a community in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State, it was a visit that would remain in their minds for a long time to come.
Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), recently visited Ubomiri community in Imo State. She was there with her team on a facility assessment tour of Shanghai Engineering Works Limited, a factory built by Mr. Festus Uzoma Mbisi- ogu, an illustrious son of Imo State based in the Peoples Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates.
The visit was part of Dabiri-Erewa’s commission’s oversight function of assessing what Nigerians in the diaspora were contributing to the development of their rural communities.
The factory, which engaged in holistic production of building materials, was established in 2012 and has created direct employment to over 200 persons. Special skills have also been transferred to Nigerians by Chinese expatriates engaged by the company.
Dabiri-Erewa said at the factory: “Mbisiogu is an epitome of the Federal Government’s clarion calls to Nigerians in diaspora on the need to think home and invest in Nigeria. Despite the challenges of this company, they are producing quality PVC pipes, bullet-proof and normal doors, roofing tiles and are even planning to go into cladding.
“We are encouraging Nigerians in diaspora to come home and invest in their own villages, communities or any part of the country, so as to create jobs for the youths in the country. They are producing things of good quality that we don’t even need to import at all in Nigeria.”
She applauded the company, saying its products were of global standard and even better than what is obtainable in the international market.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is very much committed to assisting Nigerians to look inwards for their raw materials production sourcing,” she said.
The prominent journalist and former member of the House of Representatives commended the staff and management of Shanghai Engineering Works for the organisation’s rapid growth. She said the Federal Government was making efforts to ensure regular power supply.
Dabiri-Erewa recalled that the area was bushy by 2010 when Mbisiogu bought the land but expressed happiness that the company had opened up the rural community to the outside world.
In his response, Mbisiogu, who is also chief executive officer of Blue Diamond Logistics Company that operates in four countries and is into importation and exportation, said he was motivated by the patriotic calls of the Federal Government on the need for diaspora people to repatriate their funds home and establish economic ventures.
The business icon said before he began the business of production, manufacturing and fabrication, he was into importation of a variety of products. He lamented that such was not in the best economic interest of the country.
“I feel fulfilled each time I see the number of people in the company’s employment, both directly and indirectly, more especially the transfer of knowledge and skills to the indigenous people,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction at the level of support and encouragement his organisa- tion was receiving from the NIDCOM and enjoined the commission not to relent.
Mbisiogu, who denied nursing any political ambition, recalled that he was only concerned about the development of his people. He said he had also built and equipped an ultra-modern health centre for the people of Umuchima ancient kingdom in Ideato South Local Government Area of the state. He equally noted that he had installed more than
20 boreholes for various communities in the state. He explained that the core aim of setting up the factory was to produce inclusively everything concerning building materials.
The business guru further disclosed that he met Dabiri-Erewa about three years ago in China, and she was emphatic on the need for Nigerians in diaspora to think home and be change agents in the vision and mission of moving the nation forward through their commitment to funds repatriation, investment, skills and knowledge transfer.
“My vision is to ensure that over 80 per cent of what the nation needs in terms of building materials is locally sourced and produced within global standards and internationally best practices,” he said.
He noted that before establishing the factory, Nigerians in China were shipping no fewer than 100 containers of building materials to the country on a monthly basis.
“But since my factory commenced production, it has declined to 40 per cent or less, as my factory has changed the story. “Again, the people of the South-East are very happy. Before, the building materials traders used to buy their materials from northern and western Nigerian markets. But today, they buy from the factory here at cheaper rates, devoid of unnecessary inconveniences. I am so much impressed about this as we receive accolades and awards of excellence regularly,” he said.
Hon. Jeff Ojinika, former federal lawmaker and senior adviser to the Imo State Government on inter-party affairs, who also was part of the team that conducted a tour of the factory’s facilities, com- mended the staff and management of the company for achieving what he described as production feats.
Ojinika said: “Basically, the company is one of the heartbeats of the nation’s economy. Construction is the hallmark of the nation’s development. Obviously, every other sector of the economy revolves around the building industry. Thus, any economy in which there is no on-going construction, that economy is as good as dead.
“Construction involves a lot and it stimulates the nation’s economy. Thus, the handiwork of Shanghai Engineering Works Limited stimulates the nation’s economy and, therefore, they deserve support and encouragement, as they equally address unemployment through job creation and utilisation of local raw materials,” he said.
He further observed that the company was using between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of local raw materials, and predicted that, as it progresses, the local content would be optimally 100 per cent. He appealed to other Nigerians in diaspora to see the need to help in improving the nation’s economy through synergy with other industries or people.
In his contribution, Uche Alisigwe, the secretary of Imo Transport Corporation likened his observation to an answer to the message from Imo State to the people in diaspora on the need for their participation in rebuilding Imo as a holistic project. He passionately appealed to the populace to embrace unity of purpose in the efforts to rebuild Imo State.
As the entourage moved to Umuchima in Ideato South LGA, Imo State, where the multimillion-naira ultramodern health centre was built, equipped and staffed, it was celebration galore. The villagers, on sighting the official cars, came out en masse and started singing songs of praise to God and their benefactor, Mbisiogu.
Dabiri-Erewa, in appreciation, actively participated in the dance fiesta.
Surprisingly, Dabiri-Erewa was in tune with the local songs rendered in the Igbo dialect.
The villagers poured encomiums on Mbisiogu for building the health centre, providing them water and electricity
as well as extending his philanthropy to widows, widowers, the indigent and underprivileged members of the community. They also commended him for offering scholarship and skills programmes to many sons and daughters of the community.