Efi Igbo, SMEs And The Heritage Example

By Casmir Igbokwe

The existential problems in Nigeria can drive one mad. Killings, kidnappings, extreme poverty, fear and anxiety all combine to flog Nigerians every day. Writing about these issues can also make one sick, especially when one discovers that the more one writes, the worse things turn out to be.

This week, I decided to uplift my spirit by looking for something positive amid the chaos called life in Nigeria. The excitement in the South-East about breeding of Igbo cow, called Efi Igbo, came to mind.  The menace of Fulani herdsmen in different parts of Nigeria engendered this quest to breed Efi Igbo. Some social media campaigns tried to persuade Ndigbo to patronise local cows and chickens, said to be more delicious.

Certain reports also claimed that some Anambra billionaires like Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Chief Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson) and Obi Jackson have made serious plans to establish modern ranches for local cows in some localities in the state.

I smelt a rat with some of these reports. And so I called Innoson to confirm.

“I know nothing about cows. You know my type of business. It’s the handiwork of my detractors. They want to pit me against certain powerful interests. The report is absolutely false,” Innoson said.

Nevertheless, I still see something positive in all this. I see a people who are desirous to go into agriculture, especially animal husbandry. But the majority of them are handicapped by lack of funds. This is where government and financial institutions come in.

There are reports that Anambra State government is ready to assist farmers willing to breed Efi Igbo. The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Nnamdi Onukwuba, said plans were underway to expand cattle grazing across the local government areas.

On the part of financial institutions, it is good to note that a number of banks now look beyond how much money they can make from customers. They have engaged in one scheme or the other to boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and agriculture. I particularly find what Heritage Bank is doing in this regard very commendable.

Recall that the popular Golden Guinea Brewery experienced an explosion of its boiler in 2001, which forced the company, located in Abia State, to stop production. For over 16 years, the brewery, established in 1962 by the defunct Eastern Region under the premiership of the late Dr. Michael Okpara, remained moribund. But, in a delightful move, Heritage Bank, Afreximbank and Bank of Industry brought back to life the new Golden Guinea Brewery.

Recently, Heritage Bank also empowered about 35 entrepreneurs with N50 million. The bank tagged it YESGrant and it was done in partnership with Nigerian Young Professionals Forum (NYPF). It also guided the entrepreneurs to ensure the grants provided were judiciously used.

The bank’s entrepreneurial TV reality show called “Next Titan” is particularly thrilling. It aims at encouraging young men and women to succeed in other areas of business other than what they studied in school. It gives the young aspiring entrepreneurs a new opportunity to showcase their business ideas and compete for a prize of N5 million and a brand new car to start their business. It has immensely contributed to employment generation in Nigeria. The “Next Titan” is the type of reality show Nigeria needs at this point in her life, not BB Naija.

Besides, the bank recently launched another programme called HB Lab. This is a programme expected to provide technology start-ups with the resources and support required to achieve improved financial inclusion/intermediation in agriculture and other related problems affecting critical sectors of the economy. The maiden edition was a 12-week programme. The winner of the competition went home with $25,000.

Last year, Heritage Bank co-sponsored the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit Group. At the summit, the bank’s managing director and CEO, Ifie Sekibo, called on government and financial institutions to support agriculture and small and medium-scale businesses in order to move from poverty to prosperity.

In recognition of the bank’s commitment to SMEs and youth development, the Central Bank of Nigeria adopted it as the sole pilot bank for the Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP). Some young business concerns that have benefitted from Heritage Bank include Infusion Cakes, Niuma Boutique & Accessories, Heart Affairs and Africanna Accessories, and many others.

More youths need to be similarly empowered. Recall that some years back, agriculture, especially local cattle rearing, was in vogue, especially in the South-East. Hardly would you get to any family in Igboland without seeing barns of yam and herds of cattle. Efi Igbo was also available.

Unfortunately, there was the oil boom. That brought about the quest to make quick and easy money. Many youths migrated to the cities. The business of rearing cattle in Igboland gradually went into extinction.

Ironically, the spate of insecurity in the country, especially the herdsmen’s menace, has forced many Ndigbo to think home, to think agriculture. The founder and managing director of Eagle Food Processing Industries in Umuchu, Prince Ugochukwu Okpalaeke, recently said farmers had the intention to breed cattle but lacked the requirements to do the business in terms of facilities like land, manpower and funding.

Government and the banks should not disappoint people like Okpalaeke.

Re: New ministers and tragedy of take-a-bow government

Yes, you are quite right, Boris Johnson, the new British leader, radiates life and inspires hope like the American President Donald Trump, the global trumpeter. For one thing, that our own president did the pruning himself is ethically helpful. We give him kudos for that. I never knew that the much-esteemed Lawan could allow “take a bow” this time in his tenure. I’m not enthused with the list of the ministers. They are mainly of the analogue class, which raises doubts in the minds of many who are majorly in the digital class and had advocated a shift to modernity as a trending global system. After a careful watch at the list, still seeing the former governor of Osun State, the man who owed  many months of salary to his  state’s workers, I was in rude shock on how he made the list, probably because he looked hungry, an evidence of not having misappropriated public funds.

– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State,     08036174573

Mr. Igbokwe, I’m one of the ardent admirers of your incisive column in Daily Sun. No doubt, Nigerians are disenchanted with the take-a-bow mantra of the 9th Senate. Nevertheless, you were so livid that you did not see anything good in any of the 43 ministerial nominees! Among them are PhD holders, first class brains, medical doctors and different professionals who have excelled in their fields of human endeavour. I am not a media person but a medical practitioner. My diagnosis of your jaundiced critique is either myopia or paranoia. You should be objective in your criticism and avoid pandering to the gallery. You could have picked at least one out of the 43 nominees for commendation. A high-profile columnist of your caliber should be objective in your analysis to maintain the admiration of your fans.

– Dr Ugbonabo, keugbor@yahoo.com

Casmir, in your last column, you analysed Nigeria’s endemic position so well, as hopeless. But if I were writing your copy, I would have ended with a fitting alliteration – to wit… “The Executive is a Disaster. The Legislature is a Disgrace. The Judiciary is a Deceased waiting to happen.” What a dramatic irony, in a giant country of about 200 million people.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, +2348037254371

Despite the ministerial list coming out very late, it was a welcome one. With the delay of the list, we all thought that the people President Buhari would bring to us would be different people from the moon, not knowing that they were the same people who didn’t deliver their first assignment. This issue of bow-and-go should stop for future screening of appointees, irrespective of their personality. We pray that the ministers-designate deliver dividends of democracy to move Nigeria forward.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casy, your sermon in your column of Daily Sun on Monday was great. Buhari’s appointment of his ministers has failed because most of them didn’t perform well in their first outing and also as governors. Buhari’s agenda is to Islamise and Fulanise us. He has destroyed both the judiciary and the legislative arms of government, including the masses. Nigerians must unite and fight for their survival and rights. Continue to educate us. God bless you. You are highly and always esteemed.

– Eze Chima, Lagos, Nigeria, +2347036225495

My brother, you will not kill yourself. Nothing about APC inspires me because they are cabals. Posterity will remember Buhari as a president that flagrantly disobeyed court orders, Lawan as take-a-bow-and-go Senate president, PDP as a party that does not know how to play the role of opposition and Tanko as a technicality CJN. But I see the incidents in Hong-Kong, Egypt, Zimbabwe, etc, playing out in Nigeria.

– Mart, Abakaliki, 08160638941

I totally disagree with you in your last Monday article. Awolowo, a lawyer, Femi Okunu another lawyer, performed creditably as ministers of finance and works, respectively. There are so many others in this category. If you insist on qualification and commensurate portfolio for the minister, what then will be the qualification for the governors? Are ministers screened in Europe? And yet they do well. Boris Johnson will soon form his cabinet while ours will be undergoing screening for the next one month. As a journalist, is it only the ministry of information that you can work in?

– Anonymous, +2348033072852

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 5, 2019

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