Posted by Ijendu Iheaka | 4 June 2018 | 1,291 times
The Abia Government has blamed the core investor for the delay in realisation of the Umukalika Leather/Garment Cluster facility project in Aba.
The state Commissioner for Industry, Chief Henry Ikoh, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Aba that the investor, Reticulated Construction Nigeria Ltd. was not doing what the government had demanded of them.
He said the state government would soon decide on the way forward and what to do with the investor.
“If you call me in two weeks’ time, I shall be able to tell you if we are going on with him (the core investor) or not.
“What we planned is not what the government is seeing on ground at the site now,” he said.
According to him, though work is ongoing at the site, as the government has acquired a 500 KVA generator for its operations.
On alleged extortion of the project’s stakeholders by officials of his ministry, which they noted was also hindering take-off of the facility, Ikoh said he was yet to receive any complaint.
He, however, said that the N7,000 the off-takers were to pay was a “small amount of money” for forms to enable the government know the type of shop each applicant would need.
The commissioner said the state government was committed to clustering major businesses in Aba, adding: “Umukalika is for real and it is going to happen”.
Ikoh said that the government had also created and was working on what he called “the mechanic cluster” at Ovom Community in Obingwa Local Government Area for motor parts dealers and mechanics.
However, Mr Emem Coffie, the Managing Director, Reticulated Construction Nigeria Ltd, the contractor handling the project, said the company was waiting for guarantee from Abia state government to commence work.
He said that since they took over the job in 2015, they had spent so much money but when asked what the money was spent on, as there was virtually nothing at the site, he got angry.
Coffie said that his company had only collected N200,000 from the sale of forms to off-takers, and so could not do much until the end-users make enough commitment to the project.
According to him, the Umukalika cluster project is a Public-Private Partnership project as contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) his company signed with Abia government and the off-takers.
According to him, the off-takers are to buy application forms for N7,000, fill and return it with initial deposit of N50,000 to show commitment before his company can begin work.
He said that these were some of the terms of agreement between both parties upon which his company could get the assistance of a bank to commit to building the project.
Coffie, however, said “things are on course” regarding the project.
A correspondent of NAN, however, visited the site and discovered that it was virtually empty, except for a block of building, which was just at the foundation level.
NAN also observed that weeds had also covered the rest of the openings dug for the foundation of some of the facility’s buildings.
It would be recalled that the state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, had promised to develop industrial clusters in Aba when he assumed office in 2015, beginning with Umukalika Leather/Garment cluster.
But three years down the line, the plan to establish clusters for these creative, artisanal sectors had been mired in perpetual delays.
The President, Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Aba (LEPMAS), Mr Okechukwu Williams, said that there was the need to cluster the leather and garment sectors in Abia.
He said that this was because a cluster assembles small and medium scale manufacturers under one roof, providing them with common facilities like power, water, access roads and equipment.
According to him, clustering the sectors together will ensure increased productivity, creation of jobs in the affected sectors and fostering the competitiveness of their products against imported ones.
Williams said that the Leather Workers would prefer to be given another site with landed documents to enable them get banks that could build the facility for them in record time.
The President, Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers (AFTAD), Abia State, Mr Onyebuchi Nwaigwe, said there were many problems facing the realisation of the Umukalika cluster facility project.
He said that the realisation of a leather and garment cluster facility in Aba would require government knowing what the end users would need in the facility and what they were willing to do to have such facility.
He said that the personnel government sent to supervise the projects were not sincere, hence the delay and non-commitment shown over the years in the project resulting in its non-realisation.
Nwaigwe, therefore, urged the state government to hand over the Umukalika Cluster project to sincere and upright people who would not seek to “make millions” from it to ensure its realisation.
Both Nwaigwe and Williams agreed that the size of the Umukalika project would serve only one of the sectors.
They said that merging leather and garment workers at the place would result in some workers remaining at their old shops at Ariaria after others had moved to Umukalika.
They advised the state government to take a census of the leather and garment sector workers in Aba to know their numerical strength before deciding where to relocate any of them.
According to them, the census will save the government the stress of doing a haphazard job that will result in government’s inability to solving the targeted problem. (NAN)
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