The Chief Executive Officer and founder of IO Furniture Limited, Mrs Muni Shonibare on Monday received the senate committee on Industry led by its chairman Senator Sam Egwu at its administrative and production office in Ilupeju, Lagos.
The Senate committee members that visited comprised of Senator Buhari Abdulfatai (Oyo North), Senator Baru Jibrin (Kano North), Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East), Senator Sam Egwu (Ebonyi North).
They came on oversight of the mandate of the Bank of Industry ( BOI ) in funding and supporting indigenous industries. They also came to ascertain and ensure that the organization’s processes and products meet international standards.
According to Senator Sam Egwu, “the visit was imperative in order to determine how our industries are faring and to see how they can better be supported through government interventions.
“Nigeria loses a huge amount of her foreign exchange to importation; this we can reduce by encouraging our local industries to grow by patronizing them.”
According to Mrs. Shonibare, that intervention funds (loans) from BOI has been of immense help in setting and scaling up the business. Their loan which is pegged at a single digit of 7% is very encouraging.
With respect to scaling up the business, the CEO reiterated their plans to set up a technical/training programme to bridge the skills gap that currently exist in the industry.
“We constantly have to bring in expatriates to run the machines because we cannot find Nigerians that are qualified to run them,” she said.
“Aside from the generic issues of infrastructure, lack of regular supply of electricity, transportation, not getting raw materials for production etc., the greatest challenge is in getting the skilled labour.
“We recognize that there is a major gap in getting really skilled and qualified personnel for manufacturing. We have to sustain our economy with our own people.
“Another burning issue is in the area of policies that will protect the industry. We find that unlike other sectors such as architecture, law, banking, insurance etc., where foreign organization cannot just break into the sector without partnering with existing firms, the furniture space do not have such policies to protect it.
“We need policies to protect the furniture sector so that we can grow in the correct manner. We currently cannot compete with the Chinese market because of their prices which is largely due to the availability of skilled labour.
“China for instance has over a thousand technical schools, and enroll at least eleven million people with the support of their government to ensure they set up programs that will support the local industry.”
She further added that patronage is very key. She stressed the need for the government and the Nigerian people to increase their patronage of products by Nigerians.
Responding to the issues, Sen. Sam Egwu said a bill has been sponsored to encourage, support and protect local industries in the country. He said the “Made In Nigeria” bill which has reached the last stage of conclusion, will ensure that whatever purchases the government intends to embark on (including furnitures), it will first look inwards.
According to him, it is only when they can’t find what they want within the country that they are permitted to look outside. Agencies or parastaltals of government that flouts this law will be blacklisted.
“We are sure that when the law comes to effect, it will support your industry and you might find it difficult to meet the demands from government parastatals,” he said.
The representatives of the senate committee on industry were given a quick tour of the organization’s facilities and show rooms.
They could not hold back their excitement and how impressed they were with the production capacity and quality of products made by IO furniture limited.
The organization which has a staff strength of over a hundred and thirty people was established in 1987, and prides itself as being the Nigerian furniture market leader for locally made furniture.
Every product is made by Nigerians with the technical expertise of their Italian partners who ensure that products meet global standards in terms of production process and the training of staff.
Source: The Nation NewsPaper