It is one of the ironies of modern day Nigeria. Daily, Nigerians flock to churches in search of miracles. The miracle seekers include millions who are jobless or looking for better jobs. Sadly though, many of the Churches where they pray and pour out their souls to God for jobs are sites, where some mega-factories that employed thousands of Nigerians decades ago sat. Today, the factories have given way to churches, while Nigeria’s unemployment rate spirals to the highest ever. What does it portend for the nation’s economy? TAI ANYANWU provides insights
About 30 years ago, Hardel and Enic, a company belonging to Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, had an imposing location beside the National Art Theatre, Iganmu Lagos.
It employed over 5,000 Nigerians directly and indirectly earning a living for themselves and their dependents. Hardel and Enic was a construction company that was engaged in the construction of major roads in Nigeria, like Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway during the military era. Today, the site is occupied by Covenant Christian Centre, founded by Pastor Poju Oyemade. Covenant Christian Centre has over 5,000 congregants.
Among those are people, who go to church to pray for jobs, fruit of the womb, prosperity, miracles, and diverse material and spiritual needs. Also, about 30 years ago, Ugo Foam Industries, arguably one of the biggest foam and pillow manufacturers in the country in those days, was situated along Akilo Road, Ikeja Lagos.
The firm, which had branches all over Nigeria, employed over 6,000 people. In the late 90s, the once prosperous company succumbed to an adverse industrial environment and went down unceremoniously. Pastor Tunde Bakare, founder of Latter Rain Assembly, acquired the site, at the cost of N54, 000. Today, his Latter Rain Christian Centre sits on what used to be Ugo Foam factory site.
Eleganza Industries suffered the same unfortunate fate. Back then (in the70s up to the early 90s), Eleganza Industries, whose founder is the flamboyant business mogul, Rasaq Okoya, dazzled Nigerian consumers with captivating locally produced household items such as kitchen utensils, cutleries, food warmers, ice chests, electric fans, cosmetics and ballpoint pens.
The manufacturing concern also employed about 5,000 people. Its major warehouse near 7Up Bottling Company, Ikeja and other magnificent showrooms that dotted the skyline of its various marketing outlets, used to be a beehive of manufactured goods.
Some market leaders back then described Okoya’s plunge into massive manufacturing concen as a patriotic answer to what was perceived as Japanese economic incursion into the global market in the 70s and ‘80s. By that entrepreneurial disposition, Okoya created a paradise of service for the nation, enhancing the local economy and raised the country’s GDP.
That was the golden age of manufacturing in Nigeria. Incidentally, the once flourishing Eleganza Industries is struggling and is almost on the verge of extinction, as a result of unfavourable business climate in Nigeria.
Having retired to the fast developing Lekki axis of Lagos, Okoya, turned his attention to real estate development. The huge factory site was left to rot. Prior to that, Okoya had cited epileptic electricity power supply, unfriendly climate for industrial boom in Nigeria; characterised by nonchalance and poor midwifing of the industrial development process, on the part of government, as some of the factors that plummeted his patriotic plunge into manufacturing.