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Operation Python Dance: Aba industries stabilizing, but…—BH survey

…. losses rise to N100bn

As Nigerian Army begin to end its ongoing Exercise Egwu Eke II (Python Dance II) in the South-East states which controversially started in Aba from September 15, a tour of the city over the weekend by Business Hilights showed that normalcy is technically back. The exercise is billed to end this Saturday, October 14, 2017.

This is based on the fact that curfew has now been reduced from 6PM to 6AM to 10PM to 6AM.

Though preliminary reports of loses stood at about N10bn, latest findings showed that loses ranging from disruptions in production lines, loss of man-hours, postponement of new business deals, delivery failures, permanent relocation of key staff of some industries and industrial damages may have caused damages to jump to over N100bn,

Aba city, regarded as the hub for finished leather goods (shoe, bag and belts), garments and other products, had grown using what senior economist; Dr. Austin Nweze described as ‘Imitation Creativity’ (IM) and has sustained the growth for more than four decades.

According to him, IM is the act of picking a product, studying it and developing a better, stronger and more attractive model with a marked difference from the original. IM products are always better than the ones studied from.

A manufacturer told Business Hilights that since the first two weeks of the military exercise, companies that run shift roasters started making heavy loses to some extent, many have to shut down because their workers cannot do their jobs with ease due to restricted movements at late nights.

Ken Anyanwu, Secretary General of Association of Leather and Allied Industrialists of Nigeria (ALAIN),had after the days of clashes said Aba lost not less than N10billion within that period because the entire city was on lockdown. A day’s inactivity in the finished leather sector, he said, translates to loss of millions of naira.

Ariaria International Market in Aba has up to 60,000 shoe manufacturers, according to Francis Chukwu, managing director, Frantonia Industries Limited, makers of male and female footwear.

Each of these shoemakers produces an average of 10 pairs of shoes per day at a minimum cost of N1,500 per pair, with capacity to produce up to 50 pairs per day if there is steady and stable electricity supply. What this means is that shoemakers in Aba lose N900 million for each day of inactivity.

This is besides thousands of others into bag, belt and trunk box manufacturing as well as garment making.

Apart from customers who come from within the country, manufacturers of leather and other products in Aba enjoy patronage from Cameroun, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo DR, among others.

“A lot was lost because Aba supplies the entire nation, and once there is a problem in Aba, it affects the entire customer base. Patrons from the North and South-West regions of the country and even those from the West African sub-region stayed away from Aba within that period,” Anyanwu said.

“Aba shoemakers will not want disruption in their production, because any week they did not meet their production target, they will lose money; they make their money based on their output. They start production on Monday and end it up on Friday and customers buy on Saturday, and so any interruption for one day affects the entire week,” he said.

James Dims Ogbu, president, Garment Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, said the military operation (Python Dance II) was not good for the economy of Aba, adding also that his members and other business operators in the city did not receive the news of the curfew imposed by the state governor with a good heart.

“We lost millions of naira from this exercise. And we are into heavy production now that schools are about to resume. Most of our customers in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country are placing orders and we must produce to meet their demands,” Ogbu said.

“As the small-scale manufacturing hub of Nigeria, the military exercise and curfew affected our production and the economy negatively. We are manufacturers, we are not agitators, though we have the right to express our grievances; we must work to feed our families since government cannot employ everybody,” he said.

Johnbosco Okiche, a dealer in kitchen appliances, was not happy about the military exercise in the state and the ugly consequences it has brought upon the people. He therefore, urged the Federal Government to have a rethink and suspend the exercise to aid business, stressing that the South-East region is not at war.

“Most of our patrons (customers) who come from other parts of the country stayed away from Aba within the period because they were afraid,” said Okiche.

Although Greg Esotu, special adviser to Abia State governor on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), agreed that revenue was lost, he, however, observed that lives were also saved by reason of the curfew.

“Let me thank the governor for preventing more lives from being lost because that curfew he imposed saved Aba. Let us not calculate only in monetary terms. In monetary terms, yes, businesses lost a lot of revenue, but you cannot equate it with life,” he said.

Several artisans’ and companies chief executives who spoke to our correspondents on grounds of anonymity said although commercial activities began to pick up in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, after the first two weeks of the operation which saw pandemonium, disquiet and collapse in business activities, normalcy started returning the visits of some northern governors.

It would be recalled that the major business and industrial activities faced serious shock waves when the squabbles between men of the Nigerian Army and members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

IPOB is a group in the South-East region of the country agitating for self-determination occasioned by what they described as sustained marginalization by the Nigerian government since after the Biafra war which ended in 1970.

However, as the ‘Dance’ ends in about five days, Nigerians and Aba residents are yet to hear or see parade of arrested kidnappers, armed robbers and other urban criminals as assured by the Phyton dancers.

The Nigerian Army on Tuesday, September 26, explained that the ongoing Operation Python Dance II was aimed at fighting crime and criminalities in the South East.

According to Maj.-Gen. Adamu Abubakar, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, the exercise was not targeted at any group, but to ensure united country where everyone was safe.