- 19 Firms Shut, 250,000 Jobs Threatened by WEMPCO Crisis
The current crisis facing the Western Metal Products Company has led to the closure of no fewer than 19 enamelware firms, while 250,000 jobs along the steel and enamelware value chain are also about to end, investigations by our correspondent have revealed.
WEMPCO is reportedly facing a huge debt burden of over N90bn, planning to sell its flagship five-star Oriental Hotel on the island and considering exiting Nigeria.
This may mean the end of its 700,000 tonnes-capacity steel plant.
Our correspondent gathered that the 40-year-old firm was the authorised sole distributor of cold-rolled iron sheet, used in the manufacturing of roofing sheets and annealed iron sheets used in the manufacturing of enamelware.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, in order to protect the local manufacturers, had included cold rolled iron sheet and annealed in the list of 41 banned items from access to official foreign exchange.
The implication is that all the firms that produce roofing sheets and enamelware in Nigeria may have to shut down in the event of WEMPCO’s exit.
Already, all the firms manufacturing wheelbarrows and shovels are said to have shut down while others are winding down gradually having run out of stock of raw materials.
It was gathered that WEMPCO’s trouble stemmed from the influx of substandard roofing sheets smuggled into Nigeria from Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.
The local firms were said to have been mandated by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to keep the standard of roofing sheet at 0.015mm in thickness.
This posed competition challenge against smuggled roofing sheets which were 0.013mm and 0.014mm.
The smuggled versions were also said to be preferred by buyers because they were cheaper.
Low patronage set in for WEMPCO and its stock of unsold products went bad from staying too long in storage.
By last year, the company had closed down almost all its plants as they were no longer producing.
Our correspondent also spoke to some of the buyers of WEMPCO products who recounted a different version of the story.
All of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the firm was not consistent in filling orders.
It was alleged that they either took too long in delivering the product or delivered items different from the specification.
WEMPCO was also alleged to have abused the exclusive rights and waivers that were granted to it by the Federal Government.
Our correspondent learnt that whereas the previous government had granted the firm heavy waivers to aid it in production of cold-rolled sheet locally, the firm had instead embarked on heavy importation of the product.
Trouble started for it when the current administration came into power and decided to cancel the waivers.
It then became a Herculean task for WEMPCO to fill orders as the importation route had been closed and they could not produce to meet local demand.
Customers, who paid money into WEMPCO account, neither saw their money nor the goods they paid for. The bank held onto customers’ money because WEMPCO was heavily indebted to the bank, it was alleged.
When our correspondent sought an audience with Robert Tung, the Managing Director of WEMPCO, he declined the calls and did not respond to text messages sent to his line.
Our correspondent put a call through to a consultant to the firm, Jide Mike, but he denied ever working for WEMPCO; he also said he knew nothing about the company.
FG Introduces NEXIT Portal for Npower Batch A and B Beneficiaries
The Federal Government has introduced a new online portal for exited Npower beneficiaries of batch A and B.
According to the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, the portal was launched in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable exited Npower beneficiaries apply for available federal government empowerment options.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by Nneka Anibeze, the media aide to the minister, on Friday.
The ministry said the NEXIT portal will be used to determine the suitability of exited beneficiaries for various CBN-affiliated programmes.
She explained that selection will be based on the conditions and criteria set by the apex bank.
Ms Farouq, therefore, urged interested exited Npower beneficiaries to log on to the NEXIT portal and provide the required additional information for possible placements into central bank’s intervention options.
“The Minister expressed her deep appreciation to the CBN Governor Mr Godwin Emefiele CON for his support adding that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs remained committed to the vision of Mr President to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
“Minister Umar Farouq pledged the Ministry’s willingness to collaborate with relevant agencies of government and other stakeholders towards the realization of that vision and congratulated the exited beneficiaries while wishing them well in their future endeavours.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria is very proud of the milestones you have achieved during your period of service to the nation. As we prepare to exit into prospective endeavours.”
Ellah Lakes Partner Ondo State Government to Develop Oil Palm, Cassava in the State
The management of Ellah Lakes Plc said it has partnered with Ondo State Government to develop and manage 5000 hectares of land for the purpose of cultivating oil palm and cassava in Ondo State, Nigeria.
The company stated in a statement signed by Kenechi Ezezika, Company Secretary, Ellah Lakes Plc.
Speaking on the development, the Chief Executive Officer, Chuka Mordi said: “This is a significant landmark for the Company in the development of our landbank, & we are very excited to be working with ODSG.
“I am delighted that we are fulfilling our strategic objective of progressively expanding our land bank & diversifying our portfolio and production base. I am also glad to say that the intercropping programme in Edo State is progressing steadily & we have achieved our first milestone of 100Hectares of Cassava with the participation of personnel of the Agricultural Development Program (ADP), in Edo State”.
The Special Adviser on Development & Investment to the Ondo State Governor/ Chief Executive Officer of Ondo State Development and Investment Promotion Agency (ONDIPA), Mr. Akinboye Oyewumi, who also spoke on the development said: “We are pleased with this collaboration with Ellah Lakes Plc., and we look forward to a mutually beneficial, valuable and fruitful venture.”
Unilever Nigeria Appoints Mr Jaime Aguilera as a Non-Executive Director
Unilever Nigeria Plc announced it has appointed Mr. Jaime Aguilera as a Non-Executive Director of the company effective from January 2021.
The company stated in a statement filed with the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Mr Jaime Aguilera worked with Coca-cola, Nestle and Procter & Gamble before joining Unilever as Executive Vice President Unilever Eastern Europe in September 2016.
Therefore, his experience spans from Europe, Americas and Asia.
His key expertise areas are “in Sales & Marketing and he has lead teams in Spain, Brazil, South Eastern Europe, Middle East, Mexico and Global teams.
“In 2009, he joined Unilever Spain as EVP & Chairman and then moved to his current role as Unilever Executive Vice President Africa, leading the Unilever business in Africa. Jaime is of Spanish origin and is an alumnus of the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas- ICADE. Jaime majored in Economic Sciences, Management & Business Administration.”
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