Not a few youths are gainfully employed in two Niger communities as a result of SME boom triggered by frequent power supply. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) reports
Maria James, 21; Agnes Ishasya, 24 and Mrs Aisha Garba, 28, usually collect vital raw materials from ordinarily, what would be passed for garbage on the Kaduna-Abuja expressway in Suleja local government area of Niger State.
Their activities could easily convince a visitor that the trio may be psychosocially unbalanced. But far from that line of thought, they are women who are gainfully employed in a small factory that produces styrofoam pack, an expanded polystyrene used for packing food.
The factory also produces other plastic related products including bags, plastic containers, plates, spoons and other essential household items.
With a staff strength of about 30, the local firm where the trio of Maria, Agnes ad Aisha can call their place of work and livelihood, is only in business because of a fairly stable power supply the area has been enjoying over the years.
The company operator, who only gave his name as Douglas, told LEADERSHIP Friday that the availability of power supply has changed the narrative of his business as the cost of operation using public power has greatly impacted positively on his operations.
“Today, I operate with about 30 staff and may add some more in the near future. This is due to power supply in this area of my production. I pay electricity bill of about N40, 000 a month compared to generator running cost of about N230, 000 a month.
“Now, I run the generator with less than N50, 000 a month. Please do the math and you will see why I can keep 30 persons on the job today,” Douglas explained.
Many who race through the Abuja-Kaduna expressway on both sides of Suleja and Tafa local government areas of Niger State may be speeding and ignorant of the silent industrial revolution taking place in that strip of Niger State where thousands of youths and the old, daily irk a living through gainful employment.
The development in the area is better appreciated when most of the quasi factories close for operations at about 6pm when workers could be seen trooping out in their large numbers.
Small entrepreneurs took the opportunity of a fair availability of electricity in the area to form a cluster of factories in the making of different essential products. The direct implication is the mass employment it has created for the people.
The latest of such employers of labour who debuted barely two months ago is a group under the Stanel Group of companies with its chains of businesses including the popular fast food chain, Chicken Republic and others with many young Nigerians on their pay role.
A senior staff with the firm who preferred anonymity told LEADERSHIP Friday that the group has employed over 50 persons in the last two months alone in its chain of businesses.
The presence of the firm has further changed the permutations in the business cycle in the two LGAs giving hope to more youths that employment opportunities are bound to come their way in the near future.
Other factories, LEADERSHIP Friday observed with fairly reasonable number of staff cut across the agriculture processing mills, feed mills, machine tools’ fabrication, cold food storage, carrier bags manufacturing among several others.
Some of the employers who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday said the power condition of the area has, in no small measure, transformed their businesses into profit making ventures.
Mr Uche Orgah, who operates a polythene bag production factory, told LEADERSHIP Friday that he was forced to relocate from a neighbouring state to Niger State in order for him to stay in business.
“When I moved here three years ago, my business took a different turn because things were very much improved. I came with just 10 staff but today, I have employed additional 15 staff on about N18, 000 to N25, 000 monthly salary, thanks to the good power supply in the area,” he said.
Mr Jonah Ganaka, an employee in one of the factories in an interview, alluded to the fact that the reason he has a job is the availability of power which according to him, “has made us to have a job and can provide for our families. I have been working here for four years now and it is fulfilling that I can at least feed my family of four.”
Not only are the employed staff beneficiaries of the development, the two local governments of Suleja and Tafa, LEADERSHIP Friday learnt, are not left out in the collection of revenues including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Industrial expert, Aminu Dan Ali, told our correspondent that the federal government should under study the silent industrial growth by the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector propelled by the frequency of power supply in Niger State by creating SMEs clusters across the country.
“If the federal government can under study the development in Niger State and create SMEs’ industrial clusters across the country with infrastructures and amenities with relatively safe tax charges, the issue of unemployment can be reduced in the country,” Dan Ali opined.
Many of the beneficiaries commended the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) for their efforts at ensuring fairly stable power supply in the area even as they alluded to their responsibility of paying their bills to keep the statuesque in order for their businesses to run without hinges.