Border Closure Has Induced Inflation, Crippled Businesses
Nnamdi Amadekwa, managing Director of Onyinye-Chukwu and Brothers; a trading Company specializing in sales, services and maintenance of all Japanese, Korea and German cars spare parts; secretary of the Executives of All Line Chairmen at the Ikoku spare parts market in Port Harcourt, shares his years of business experience with The Vortex Newspapers.
Can you tell us how you came into this business?
Well, I have been in this business for over 15 years it was started by my father, Chief Vilalis Iwuji, who was the fast businessman from Abia and Imo to open a shop at the Ikoku spare parts market. After my graduation from the University where I studied Economics, my father decided to push over the management of the business to me. Since then I have been managing the business and by the special grace of God, it has been progressing well.
How would you describe the business since you took over?
Generally, one thing peculiar in every business is ensuring continuing improvement and sustainability. Indeed the business has been on steady improvement in various ways.
We have also witnessed great improvement in technology which has equally helped in the ease of doing business; especially in the area of importation of goods and services. This was not the case some years ago, but these days, with advancement in technology, it is easy to access your goods anywhere in the world. There is no part of the world that a businessman cannot with easy order for goods and services and get them within time. So the business has been experiencing changes but we are moving forward.
Ikoku spare parts market provide major source of spare parts in Rivers State; can you as well tell us how you source for the parts you sell to customers?
We have international business partners and colleagues that we do business with all over the world. Locally, we buy our goods mainly from Nnewi and Lagos and from other parts of Nigeria. I can also tell you that because of the huge amount of money needed to import and clear goods from Japan, Korea and Germany, some people prefer to go to Dubai where they can also get goods and quality products that are assembled by manufacturers from other parts of the world.
Some of our brothers and partners are also bringing in good into the country for us. With the standard regulation set by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), the issue of fake, adulterated and substandard products imported into Nigeria has been checkmated and controlled. So most of the goods we sell here are quality products that are acceptable anywhere in the world. I think we are doing quite well in the business.
In your 15 years in this business; have you mentored anybody in the same line of business?
Yes, I have mentored over 6 persons in the business and will continue to train more people who are willing to learn the business. Most of the persons who passed through me are doing quite well in their own right.
You started from a foundation laid; how do you think those without similar opportunity can overcome the challenges of starting up?
In our kind of business, we don’t have the opportunity of easily getting loans and other support from the government. Nigerian government neglect small business entrepreneurs like us, without knowing that the sole proprietorship kind of business has the potentials to generate huge revenue to the government which can help to lubricate the nation’s economy. If only the government has been of greater assistance to the private sector, people would be able to easily start off businesses without difficulty.
But because we don’t easily access loans from the banks or the government agencies, it is usually hard for prospective starters to raise funds to begin their own businesses. You must know how to personally, on your own efforts grow your business before any bank can think of giving you assistance through loans. In this instance, business owners and those aspiring to go into business need assistance from government as a way to aid small business to grow.
What should be your advice to people wishing to go into businesses in the country?
First of all, you have to trust in yourself and your capacity to succeed. Secondly, as a businessman, you have to be fair, truthful to yourself and your customers. Don’t live in deceit eating what you have today and forgetting to keep for tomorrow.
Be committed to the kind of business you wish to establish and while doing that, imbibe the spirit of service so that when you finish serving people, people will also serve you better. And always be ready to render good and quality service to people in order to earn their trust, so that when you speak to people they will believe in your integrity. In other words your truth should be sacrosanct.
Also have good approach to customers because customer’s relation is key to success in any business. If you are intolerant, there is no way you will be able to keep your customers and business partners. Respect your customers; take them as part of the business, because if you toy with them, then you are bound to fail.
There ARE complaints about insecurity in the market, do you think, the government and the security agencies are doing enough on this challenge?
Actually the business environment here in Ikoku is quite challenging and not conducive for business growth. This is because we face a lot of threats from criminals, hoodlums and cultists around here. We are being harassed and attacked daily by these people. The situation has made business difficult for traders and customers in the market.
People are now scared to come here to do business. They now prefer traders bringing the goods to their offices and homes which may be cumbersome because not all traders will be able to serve all customers by going to their homes or offices to deliver goods to them. It would have been better the customers come on their own to the market to personally purchase their preferred goods but they can’t all do so because of fear of being attacked or robbed by these criminals in the market.
What would you say is the impact of closure of the nation’s borders on businesses?
The border closure is really affecting us and our business badly and the situation is putting serious pressure on businesses, particularly small businesses.
The border closure has induced inflation in the country and is now crippling the growth of small business concerns that depend on the movement of goods and services across borders to survive.
The prices of goods have increased and people now are hoarding goods and inflating the costs of goods and services. By the time goods are hoarded it will make prices goods and cost of doing business to go higher. Moreover, the little we make from the sales, we now channel for the upkeep of the family. So even prices of food stuff have increased. You can see we are really handicapped by the skyrocketing prices of goods and service in the country. The means of keeping the family is higher now and this may cause many businesses to fold and close down.
What do you think government should do under the circumstances?
The government should find a way to remedy the situation, quickly open the borders as a matter of exigency. If it is because of the problems of porous borders and securing them, then the government should ensure that only professionals and people of integrity are engaged to man and mange the border to properly checkmate illegal importation of goods and collection of revenue for the country.
The way forward, I think is to train the needed manpower to curtail and checkmate the fraudulent activities at the borders. I do not think closing the borders is for the interest of all Nigerians; because the closure has cost us more harm than good. To ameliorate this hardship, government should consider reopening the borders and urgently engage the appropriate and trained security personnel to adequately and effectively man our border posts.
What is your final advice to traders and customers in the market?
Well, business is a good thing to do and if you organize your business well, you will reap and enjoy the benefits. One thing with business organizations is the need to remain committed to what you do. By the time you show commitment to it, God has a way of showering his blessings on you. To me business is a good thing to go into, but while doing it, you need to have trust in God to help you out.
Line Executives, Task Force
Hold Sensitization Campaign
The leadership of All-Line Chairmen at the Ikoku spare parts market in synergy with the Rivers State Task Force team on street trading and illegal parking has held a sensitization and awareness program for traders and visitors in Ikoku market and its environment.
The awareness activity according to the organizers of the event was to find solution to the intractable problems of traffic congestion and street trading in the market.
Chairman of All-Line Chairmen in the market, High Chief Iwu Alaribeole told The Vortex, that the sensitization programme was arranged by the executives of all the line chairmen in the spare parts market in collaboration with the State Task Force team to ensure total compliance with the order of the task force on illegal parking of vehicles and street trading in the area.
According to High Chief Alaribeole, it is a way of appreciating the good works of the task force and to impress it on the agency to always seek for peaceful and amicable resolution of issues arising in the market.
Alaribeole said the sensitization exercise was successful as it took the team to all sections of the market and appealed to all traders and visitors to the market to always adhere to the rules of include parking and trading mapped out by the task force.
The chairman while appreciating the turnout of traders and customers during the campaign also solicited the continued cooperation of the traders and the task force team in ensuring the orderliness of the market.
Also speaking to The Vortex, secretary of all the chairmen in the market, Nnamdi Amadekwa expressed delight at the success of the campaign, noting that the awareness created by the event is a sign for better things ahead for traders in the market.
The Vortex business correspondent who visited the spare parts market and its adjoining streets reports that the area has been witnessing free flow of traffic, as visitors and customers in the market have maintained orderliness in the parking of vehicles.
Members of the task force were also seen carrying out routine orderly control of vehicular movements in the vicinity.
The Ikoku spare parts market had for years posed grave problems to traders and customers, as customers and traders usually find it difficult to access the Amaigbo area of the market due congestions caused by indisenurate paving of vehicles on the road.