FG’s policies crippling maritime business in S’East –Okafor, MD/CEO, Elite Elegance Tech Industries Ltd


By Brown Chimezie

CHIEF Leo Okafor is the former President, Alaba Inter­national Market and former President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State. In this interview, Chief Okafor, who was also one time President, ECOWAS Trans Border Traders As­sociation, took critical look at past Federal Government’s policies on seaports with respect to importation of goods and submitted that the post civil war policy, which re­stricted importation of goods to only Lagos port, has crippled businesses in the South East and triggered the exodus of Igbos from the region to different parts of the country. He said for the region to develop economically, South East governors and leaders of thought from the zone must seek to change those policies. He speaks on other national issues.




Development of Alaba International Market

That market became the largest electronics market in Africa and, by extension, the world, because you can’t find anywhere in the world where such large number of people converge. It is only in Alaba Market you will find such thing.

We came to be, through the doggedness of the Igbo man. We settled first at La­gos mainland, and then they pushed us out. We went to Alaka. From Alaka we were pushed to Alaba Suru. From there we were again moved. It was under the administra­tion of former military gov­ernor of Lagos State, Admi­ral Ndubisi Kanu, that we sought for a permanent site. So he allocated the present site of Alaba International Market to us. That time it was a vast marshy forest. Nobody believed that hu­man beings could live there. But you know the Igbo man; keep him in a desert or for­est he would turn the place to paradise. That was exactly what happened. We started developing the place, build­ing roads and shops. And in order to create awareness, we paid buses from Mile 2 to Ojo to shout Alaba! Alaba! We just pay them and they would go to and fro creating awareness for us.

When it was time for us to move from Alaba Suru to our present location, about 70 per cent refused to come along with us. These ones moved to Ketu in Kosofe area and settled there. Both markets operated side by side. It was in early 90s that they later joined us. By then the market had started boom­ing. When you look at our travail, you will discover that it is only through God’s inter­vention that we were able to make it.

How market empowered Nigerians

Up to 100,000 traders as­semble in that market every­day to do one business or the other and you know what that means. All the people that came to Alaba were average struggling men and women at inception. We were not importing then. We went to companies to buy. Those days, foreign companies like PZ imported and we went to them to buy and sell. So you can see how that place empowers people. Today millions of people are doing well. They are all the off­spring of that initial struggle. There is no company there that doesn’t employ at least five people and we have up to 10,000 companies operat­ing in the market; you can see the multiplier effect. I am also a product of that market. I went there with nothing and today, to God be the glory, I’m an established person. I don’t see any other organisa­tion apart from government that can boast of empower­ing people like the Alaba In­ternational Market.

Impact of new 10-lane Badagry Expressway on business

It will be a tremendous feat when that project is completed. I’m telling you, it would boost trade and com­merce in that corridor. In the last 10 years, because of massive development in that axis, and other markets that are springing up in that area, the traffic in that area from Mile 2 to Badagry is always hectic. People get so much discouraged to go there. So the traffic congestion affects business negatively in the area. Very few people come from the Island and mainland to the market because of the traffic situation. So when the project is completed, it would boost trade in the area. The concept behind the Ala­ba Market also includes tour­ism. So with the light rail and 10 lane highways, the market would become more acces­sible as people from other West African states can come around to shop while others would do window shopping.

Assessing Lagos government development projects

I tell you the truth, you will give it to the All Pro­gressives Congress (APC) government for its foresight and mega city vision. For the government to be able to initiate such laudable goals means that it has the inter­est of the state at heart. This should serve as a model for other states in the federation. I believe that if the govern­ment takes this vision to the national level, it would go places.

So many years ago, Brazil borrowed money heavily to develop infrastructure in that country. Today, it is one of the most developed countries in South America. Lagos State is also investing heav­ily in terms of infrastructure; in the future, it stands to gain a lot from these investments.

Replicating Lagos entreprenurial spirit in S’East

I want to tell you that it is left for the governors of the South East states to take the initiatives and create the enabling environment. Busi­ness thrives where there is infrastructure. Igbos are ad­venturers who migrate to any place where their investment would be secured. In the 80s, we were all based in Onitsha and Aba. That time, the Cal­abar Port and Port Harcourt harbour were functioning. It was then easy to import goods, clear them in any of the South Eastern ports and then take them to the major markets in the hinterland. Then traders come from all parts of the country to buy goods in Onitsha, Nnewi, Aba and other markets in the region.

All that was to change when the Federal Govern­ment, after the civil war, enacted a decree, which re­stricted all imported goods to Lagos port and Murtala Mu­hammed International Air­port. These draconian poli­cies stifled business in the South East forcing millions of Igbos to migrate from the South East to Lagos, which is closer to the approved sea­port. So until that law is re­pealed through amendment of the Act in the National As­sembly, the dream of Ndigbo relocating their businesses to the South East would con­tinue to be wishful thinking, which can never materialise.

Source : SunOnline

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.