Mr. Onur Kumral is the Managing Director VKS group of companies, with its subsidiary, Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited, set to establish the first ever syringe manufacturing company in sub-sahara Africa, in Akwa Ibom State. In this interview with Godwin Akpan recently in Uyo, the Turkish spoke on several issues, including the reason behind the coming in of Jubilee syringe in Nigeria.
QUESTION: VKS Nigeria Construction Limited has been in the country for three years now, undertaking major construction works in Akwa Ibom State. In 2016, your company made some strides in the area of road construction in the state. What are some of those achievements you recorded last year despite the recession experienced in the year under review?
ANSWERS: The year 2016 was a tough year for growth not only in Nigeria but everywhere in the world. There was recession globally. The economy of the world was not in good shape. But for our company VKS, we had to grow. We do not mourn about setbacks, we make steps to correct and prevent setbacks. ‘Yesterday was good, tomorrow will be better’, this is the principle of our company.
We always make conscious efforts to grow and make progress. Every year we have our projections and work assiduously to meet our projections, prospects and benchmark. We are growing as a company in all the countries we have presence and we will never stop growing. The year 2017 is the year we have chosen to bring industries to Nigeria. These we have started with Akwa Ibom state as our first destination for industrialization. Governor Udom Emmanuel is keen about bringing industries to his people. And like we have been doing, we will achieve our targets before the year runs out. So it is not just growing in construction, we want to go in to other sectors and start taking actions against the recession. We always choose an enemy to win, and this year our enemy is the recession. And we will win against recession; I am hundred percent sure about that. In VKS, we do not accept any excuse. If my company can grow, then any other company can grow and give employment to the people.
VKS in 2015 employed about 250 Nigerians. In 2016 we raised it up to 650. This year our target is to give employment to over 2000 Nigerians.
QUESTION: Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited, a subsidiary of VKS, is establishing the first Syringe factory in sub-sahara Africa, with its headquarters in Akwa Ibom State. Why is this state the choice destination for the industry and not other huge cities in Nigeria?
ANS: The academicians when talking about development, says; ‘development comes by policies’. The truth is that Akwa Ibom has good development policies. Gov. Udom Emmanuel has good policies for sustainable development in his state. You know that sustainable development is the development that answers current needs of the people and not just looking at the future needs only. With what he is doing now, he is clearly providing answers to the present needs of his people, which will subsequently open the gates for the future and future generations. For the year 2017, Udom’s goals can be compared to the United Nations sustainable development goals. Can you imagine that Akwa Ibom development goals came out long before the UN sustainable development goals came out? This shows the thinking pattern of the government in place and this is the boost we got moving into the state.
Jubilee Syringe upon completion will be the first syringe company in Nigeria and the second in Africa after that of South Africa. There is this situation in Nigeria right now. The country is losing huge dollars daily through importation and there must be deliberate efforts by all to stop it. If you are losing your dollars, you arrest the situation by simply stopping importation. And this arrest is possible only when you start producing and manufacturing inside your country. If you manufacture, you save huge dollars and use it for something else. That is why we are trying to encourage manufacturers to come into the country by establishing huge firms first. Do not forget that these syringe factory raw materials are in Nigeria, produced by Nigerian Petrochemical companies.
QUESTION: When are we likely to see the take-off of Jubilee Syringe and what production capacity are you targeting for a start?
ANS: We are working towards getting the company commissioned by September which will coincide with Akwa Ibom state creation day. Between August and September this year, we should be able to hand over the company to Nigeria fully functional. The trail productions will start in May while in August full production will commence. This is possible because the raw materials are in Nigeria only the machineries would be flown in from abroad. We are looking at a capacity production of 350 million pieces of syringe per year for now. This company is conceived and built with the full option of expansion because of the growing population of Nigeria and of course, Africa. The present population of Nigeria needs about 4 billion syringes per year. With this, you can imagine how much you spend importing these products outside. It is our belief that in three years, we would be able to triple our production capacity to a billion syringes.
QUESTION: As an investor with huge reputation, what is the inspiration coming into investing in Nigeria and the assurance that the country will be a fertile ground for such huge investment?
ANS: Of course we were inspired by the track records of Mr. Udom Emmanuel who has been in the financial institution for quite a long time with huge reputation. He gave us the assurance that Nigeria is the right market for such huge investment. His support has been quite tremendous and we are quite encouraged by this. We assured him that with such support from his government, we were ready to swing into action in the state. There is great potential in Africa. The continent is blessed with lots of wealthy people, well educated and knowledgeable individuals scattered all over the world. But the people, maybe because they are sitting in Africa they cannot see the potentials in Africa. One of the examples of these great leaders is Udom. When you are discussing with him, he discusses with you as a technocratic. He gives you the figures, not just support; he shares your problem with you. And this is the greatest encouragement we need to invest everything we have. This is the only remaining market in the world, Nigeria recession is not because of Nigeria, it is a global phenomenon. But it can be overcome with deliberate policies and political will.
QUESTION: Is this initiative that of the Akwa Ibom State government or a privately driven initiative?
ANS: This is a hundred percent privately driven initiative and investment. But to attract investors to your country, you must encourage them; investors need encouragement. This is what Akwa Ibom State government has provided us, and this explains why we have come to Akwa Ibom State to invest. Apart from the encouragement through partnership with the state government, the state is the safest place in the country in terms of security. And of course, you know that no investor would risk investing in an unsafe environment. In Akwa Ibom, we are quite safe and our investment is safe.
To some people, Akwa Ibom State might look far away from the market, but the good policies of the government on ground have given us the confidence that this is the best location to do business.
QUESTION: Would you say that Jubilee Syringe will compliment the Ibom Specialist Hospital in terms of medical tourism?
ANS: This is absolutely correct. Of course every investment brings others. The Ibom Specialist Hospital is a very huge boost to bringing this investment here. I think this is possibly the best hospital in sub-sahara Africa, with huge facilities and some of the best medical man power. If the best hospital in sub Sahara Africa is located in Akwa Ibom State, why can’t the number one syringe factory be found in the state?
QUESTION: How far have you gone in terms of the physical infrastructure of the factory?
ANS: We started the construction works some three months ago. The factory is about 8000 square metres. All designs were made abroad, because this is a medical building. We could not just design it ourselves or just with our team, we had to consult everywhere in the world. The physical structure has been completed; the roof system is beacon space frame, a very unique roof system. All the machines have been ordered, the most important machines which are the injection machines, will be ready by February. As I have always said, establishing this factory here is not the end of the story, it is the start of the story. It is not just bringing in the syringe factory alone; we intend to bring more investments into the country. Our confidence is in Udom Emmanuel and we are very attracted to his vision. People keep telling me the factory would make more sense in Lagos, but I say no, Akwa Ibom need the factory more.
QUESTION: Do you think that Akwa Ibom State has the man power to mount this investment or do you intend to bring in foreign expatriates?
ANS: This state is blessed with trained personnel. You have young and educated people in the state. As part of our company’s policies, we intend to take some of the locals to Turkey to let them see the auto machineries for themselves, learn how to use, install and know the workings of the machines, so they can operate the equipments when operation begins. This means we are training potential staff of our company and preparing them for the task ahead. We believe in local man power, we don’t believe in bringing expatriates. Yes we can inject few expatriates, like Mr. Zubire Gulabi, who is the MD of Jubilee Syringe. You know this factory is the first in sub-sahara Africa, so someone with huge experience needs to be at the helm. But I can assure you that in ten years, Mr. Gulabi would possibly be retired, or drafted to another factory, while the local guys would take up the managerial responsibilities. What am saying in a nutshell is that proficiency in the job is all about training. This is why we are not bringing people from abroad; we are taking people from here abroad to train.
QUESTION: What is your relationship with Gov. Udom Emmanuel?
ANS: Our relationship is quite cordial and purely on professional basis.
QUESTION: Do you think the state has adequate power supply needed for the smooth take-off of the factory?
ANS: Initially we were thinking of generating our own electricity, but the governor said that was not necessary since the state-own power generating company – Ibom Power can supply us with adequate power simply by putting up a substation where the factory is located. Akwa Ibom has 198mega watt of electricity to use for industries. So power won’t be a challenge. So in answering your question, we will buy power from Ibom power plant, we are still discussing on the technicalities, like sub stations and how much is needed and all of that. Hopefully by March, we will be having our own substation and the issue of power, like I said, will definitely not be an issue.
QUESTION: Apart from the factory your company is bringing into Akwa Ibom, has VKS handled any major infrastructure in the state?
Ans: Yes, we have done some road construction in the state and there are other jobs VKS is still working on which I cannot let it out just yet. We still have lots of plans that are still on the pipeline. The main focus when we came was construction but now we are focusing on industrialization which is the main focus of this administration.
QUESTION: What should the average Nigerian expect when the factory finally commence full operation?
ANS: The truth is that this development is coming far too late in the country. What we are trying to put on ground here is what should have been done years back if the political will was there. Establishing a syringe factory in Nigeria is definitely not something we should be celebrating at this time and age.
The market is here. There is the potential for four billion syringes to be sold in this country. You have raw materials, the local man power, very educated doctors, pharmacists, and with all these there is no production line? It means we are late; I am putting myself also to that. So bringing this factory to Nigeria now is not something that is unbelievable. What will be unbelievable is if Nigeria produce syringe and also the machineries used in the syringe production. So Nigerians should expect the best and get ready to work because, this factory is here for them.
QUESTION: What will be the production standard, can you guarantee a world acceptable standard when production begins?
ANS: VKS Group of Companies is a Turkish company with a great reputation and cannot possibly go beyond its standard. The technology we are bringing is the best and the latest anywhere in the world. We will be producing in the European standards. Why are we doing that? First, the Nigerians deserves it, so we give it to them; the highest quality. You know what? People keep asking me if the price of the product will be affordable and I say yes it will be affordable even with the high standard of production. Jubilee Syringe is going to be the cheapest and the highest quality. This is possible because if I do not import products, I do not pay importation tax which is about 30 – 35 % difference. Again, the raw material is just an hour away from me because I am buying it directly from Nigeria. So why can’t it be the cheapest? When you consider importing the products abroad, and going through the process of clearing with the Nigerian Customs and going through other processes, you will understand why Jubilee Syringe will be the cheapest. Like I said, there is a huge market here, huge potentials, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, this could not have come at a better time.
Those in the business of medicine will be quite happy about this development. Towards the end of this year, you will see huge traffic in the state because of this factory. Akwa Ibom State is going to be the hub of medical equipment in Africa, not just West Africa. The distributors are all happy and impressed. Syringe manufacturing factory is not an easy thing, but we can say that this would be found in Nigeria. Some distributors stopped the importation of injection syringe two months ago because of dollars rate, but with the coming in of Jubilee Syringe, that will be a thing of the past.
QUESTION: What is the working relationship between your company and Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Works?
ANS: Ephraim Inyangeyen, the Commissioner for Works is the most hand working guy I have ever met in my life. His passion and commitment to seeing this vision come to reality is second to none, and we are encouraged by such drive and sincerity of purpose. We have great working relationship with the Ministry of Works in the state.
Let me use this opportunity to appreciate the people of Akwa Ibom State for the hospitality and friendly disposition. I want to plead with the people of Nigeria and Akwa Ibom in particular to be a little patient with their leaders. Industrialization is not like building of roads or building houses. Industrialization takes time, resources, patience, finances, markets, training and all of that. That is why I would love to say that, please be patient; I am not talking about being patient for ten years, no! I can assure you that Mr. Udom is very sincere about bringing industrialization to his people, and before long, you will all appreciate the leader in him.
Chief Sunny Onuesoke is a former Governorship Aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta state during the 2007 governorship election. He is currently the Special Project Director, Governor’s office, Asaba, Delta state. In this interview with Journalists, he spoke on Nigeria at 56, the need for stable electricity in Nigeria, why President Muhammadu Buhari must start the recently launched ‘change begins with me’ programme from his house and among others.
On October 1st, Nigeria will be 56 years old, as a politician, briefly compare this democratic regime with that of the military?
I don’t want make statement about 1960 till date but I want to be generalistic about democracy in Nigeria. Without fear of favour, at 56 we have not been able to practice 20% of democracy in the country, a lot of irregularities, human right abuse, constitutional abuse and among others. That is not to say that we have democratically succeeded in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of association, democratic generally, we are still very backward after almost half a century plus. I won’t give credit to democratic build up but as for democratic settings, if we measure from 1960 to date, it is absolutely zero.
Are you indirectly saying that military regime is better than democratic government?
I am not obviously saying that but you cannot separate Nigeria’s democracy from military regime. The attitude of the President of keeping portfolios to himself, some governors keeping some portfolios to themselves, it is undemocratic. If we say democratic system of government, you don’t interfere with any of the arms of government but if you look at the executive of the country from the federal to the state level, you see large control of the executives over the judiciary and the legislature. So we have not gotten total democracy from 1960 to date.
In order for us to practice real democracy; what do you think Nigeria leaders should do?
Democracy is relative, if you are oppressing the minority in a democratic setup, it is not democratic. The minorities should be allowed to enjoy what the majority enjoys, that is why I started the advocacy of reconciliation minus domination equals to restructure, that is my new advocacy.
Briefly access the APC led government for the past one year and five months
I don’t want to even talk about political parties but how Nigeria can be develop through technology, agriculture and discovery of other solid minerals. What we need in this country is permanent electricity; I want Nigeria to alternate electricity with petroleum. With electricity we will exceed abundantly. Without constant electricity there will be no productive agriculture and technology, let us not discuss APC and PDP because they are insignificant to the development of this country. Do you want me to believe that APC will change Nigeria when 70% of those in it were PDP members before 2015. Are you calling someone like former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Bukola Saraki, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara APC messiahs? Why are you separating APC from PDP, they are the same party, it’s just a nomenclature title of change of name. So you don’t have to tell me whether APC can handle Nigeria for the next four years, what positive impact do you think they can do to the country when they are the same old members of the PDP.
Due to the recession, the National Assembly recently called on Mr. President to rejig his cabinet, what is your take on this?
Why the call on him to rejig his cabinet, what is he going to rejig for, is it for efficiency, capital productivity or for what. The current cabinet of President Buhari is 75% PDP members, so how many times do you expect the president to rejig before the expiration of his tenure. If you say are saying the country was destroyed by PDP for the past 16 years and 50% of your ministers are PDP, who then are you fooling?
What then is the way out of the recession?
Mr. President should handle the economy to the private sector to rejuvenate. The way forward is permanent electricity; let’s disabuse our mind from petroleum to electricity. We are talking about bio and solar technology, 45% of cars in the United States of America are electric powered cars while in Germany 60% are electric powered cars. Give us electricity and not democracy and petroleum because the world is moving ahead. A flight recently left Doha in Qatar in the Middle East for 13:30hrs to the United States with 14 passengers’ in an unmanned Solar Powered Aeroplane. Buhari should give us electricity and Nigeria will prosper.
What is your comment on the ongoing budget padding issue bedeviling the National Assembly?
There is nothing like padding in the budget. When I say we don’t have anything like padding in the budget, it’s a very simple thing, it is the duty of the executive to bring their proposal to the National Assembly, and it’s the function and constitutional right of the National Assembly to remove, add, input, include, make corrections of what the president brought to the house. If as a legislator you noticed that nothing in your constituency was inputted in the budget, don’t you have the right to protest. If you give 50% priority to the north, what stops you from giving same 50% to the southern region by virtue of the federal character? What Yakubu Dogara did was that he scrutinized the budget and found out that the area he came from, much attention was not given to it in the budget and of course he added to it, what is wrong in doing that? It is the principle of the legislator all over the globe to screen, delete and add to the budget that is not padding. With this ongoing padding issue, I am very convinced that many Nigerians are yet to know the tenets of democratic politics; they are very ignorant of the legislative business. There is nothing like budget padding in the legislative arm, they only screen, remove and add. If a legislative arm receives budget proposal and passed it without screening, removing and adding, it will be called a rubber stamp house. What Yakubu Dogara did was very okay, it is the duty of Abdulmumin Jibrin to alert his colleagues of all wrongs before passage of the budget. Assuming he raised alarm and told Mr. Speaker that the projects he added were much, and advised him to spread them, it could have been better, not after the passage of the budget and he started crying wolf of budget padding. I am disappointed in Jibrin, I wonder the kind of school he attended. I think Jibrin is crying over splitted milk, I believe he is jealous of Mr. Speaker, if not he could have made his observations as chairman of appropriation committee before the passage of the budget. If at all that the security agents should investigate issues surrounding the budget then it must be Jibrin. In line with this I call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of Jibrin.
Recently, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal went against the restructuring of Nigeria, what is your view on this?
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has never been a good legislator, when he was at the National Assembly, he was advocating for the restructuring of the country but now that he is a governor, he is now going against it. He is just trying to execute his phobia of fear. It shows that he has no focus to rule the state. This is the only country in the world where state governors go to the federal government to collect allocation that is not real federalism; we are not practicing federalism in Nigeria but unitary system of government. True federalism is when you allow the states to discover themselves and pay some revenue to the central to run foreign affairs, Central Bank, Supreme Court, Ministry of Internal and External Affairs and Defence. While the rest are handled by the state government at their own capacity, there are a lot of mineral deposits in Sokoto state but just because he is a lazy governor, he wants to continue to depend on cheap money from the federal government. Tambuwal should rejig himself and discover the potentials of Sokoto state. I am disappointed in Tambuwal as a friend.
Briefly comment on Mr. President recently launched ‘change begins with me’ programme?
If Mr. President want us to believe in his change begins with me programme then he should reduce Aso Rock private jets to two instead of nine. Restrict his travel abroad with lesser entourage. He should go to our hospitals here for medicals and not hospitals in USA and London. His colleagues that attended the recent UN conference went there with less than five delegates but he went there with over 40 delegates. The governors and some ministers that went with him have no role to play there. The conference was met for Presidents and not ministers nor governors. His recent movement to the UN was a waste and against the policy of change begins with me.
Insecurity is on the high side in the country, with the activities of Boko Haram, IPOB, MASSOB, Niger Delta Militants and Fulani Herdsmen, what do you advise the government to do to come out of it?
My advice to the president is to withdraw all security personnel attached to civilians and politicians and use them to police the streets. That is the solution to insecurity in Nigeria.
The Federal Government recently called on the militants to seize fire to create room for dialogue, after much appeal from stakeholders, they seized fire for some weeks, in that interval the Federal Government started arresting some of the militants which made them to renege on their seize fire agreement and started bombing of oil facilities again, what is your take on this?
The solution still remains dialogue with the federal government; I don’t support sabotage of our natural resources. As an environmentalist and a stakeholder, I am against bombing of pipelines, because there are decades of aftermath effects on the environment. I prefer the dialogue process of the federal government but in a situation you issue threat during dialogue, I am against that. I want total reconciliation where the militants will come up with their grievances and channel it properly to the government. I am against the zigzag dialogue process; things must be done in a normal form. The militants does not know the negative effect of these bombings on the environment, crude oil has more than 100 byproducts, it is also associated with multiple diseases, either through plants, water and air. I am not a party to bombing of pipelines as a yardstick to draw the attention of the federal government to the neglect of the Niger Delta. We want dialogue through capable men with impeccable character, not 419ers. There are a lot of erudite young men in the Niger Delta that can discuss with the federal government for final solution to militancy in the area not past political office holders who will go for the dialogue for selfish reasons.
What is your comment on the grievances of the NDGJM who focused on bombing of oil facilities on the upland over alleged recognition of only Ijaws in the Niger Delta by the Federal Government?
I am an advocate of dialogue, and my tribes, the Urhobos are not use to pipeline vandalization in the upland of Delta state. Spillage only happens through bad pipeline and not sabotage. That is why I have been of the advocacy for the oil servicing companies to always change their pipes from time to time. I don’t think the NDGJM are Urhobos, there are some persons from other tribes who want to include us in their illicit act. Even the Niger Delta Avengers is not made up of only Ijaws as I have made to know. They are made of tribes from the south south and maybe south east. I don’t think the federal government recognizes only Ijaws in the Niger Delta. The advocacy of every militant group had been for the Niger Delta and not Ijaws or Urhobos but all tribes in the Niger Delta. So any group of persons thinking that the struggle is for only Ijaws is wrong because there are many ways of agitation and not through bombings of oil facilities alone. It is very primitive to bomb oil facilities in the name of agitation. The Niger Delta Avengers and NDGJM should come out and drop their arms, and I know Mr. President will definitely receive them.
Are you in support of Mr. President on ban on importation of food products like rice and others?
I am in support of Mr. President to put a ban on importation of rice and other food products. What is rice that we cannot produce? I am advocating for the total ban of generators and food products importation into the country.
What are your reasons?
Because we have enough land, human resources, capital and everything needed to produce food to sustain us. Were we importing rice in the 60s, why the sudden importation of rice? If Mr. President has lift the ban, he should reinforce it. Have we not been eating Ekpoma rice before now, I know very well that with scarcity, we will discover our talent. Even the noodles we import can be produced with cassava flour locally here.
With what you have said so far, do you think we still have reasons to celebrate democracy come October 1st?
We should not celebrate; we go into sober reflection and think of the way forward. What are we going to celebrate, is it doom, those killed by Boko Haram and the destroyed pipelines or the blackout in the country or the hunger ravaging every nooks and cranny in the country. Is it because we can speak English like the British that we are going to celebrate or what? There is no reason to celebrate.
What is your view on Mr. President’s anti-corruption crusade?
The president should move on with the development of this country and play down on drive against past corrupt leaders. He should just block leakages and move on. He said the system was corrupt that was why he contested for the presidency but what we are seeing now is retrogressive of all the good things we have manage to achieve in the past. The Nigeria economy is down and he is talking about corruption when we cannot feed properly. I advise him to discard his anti-corruption crusade and focus on the development of Nigeria economy.