Igboko in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, observed that artisans in the finished leather and garment sub-sectors of the economy in Aba are still operating at rudimentary stages in their present clusters, noting that a modern cluster with modern facilities, would ensure the standarsation and modernization of their products.
According to him, we are going to relocate those people in Ariaria, where they are so constrained by all sorts of militating factors, to where they would be well quartered.
He thanked the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) for approving the establishment of a leather research and development centre in Aba, stressing that it will help increase the capacity and quality of products of Aba artisans.
The industrial city was initiated by the Abia State Government to provide a more conducive environment for the finished leather goods manufacturers, comprising-shoe, belt and bag and garment makers, to boost their productivity.
Austin Morah, managing director, Amiico Construction Company Limited, one of the firms handling the project told BusinessDay in Aba, that the project would be completed in 18 months. He revealed that his firm has already mobilized to site and will deliver as planned.
He observed that the facility would boost industrial activities in the State and appealed to the Federal Government to provide a
special fund for the Aba finished leather cluster to enable them source for machinery.
The Umukalika industrial site, spanning about 35 acres, was earmarked for the project, but left undeveloped, by previous administrations in the State.
However, the present administration has set machinery in motion to realize the project and thereby boost industrial development of the State, South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria.
Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and a bulk of this number are engaged in leather works, steel fabrication and garment making, which could be attributed to the popularity of the city.
It is estimated that Aba hosts 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers.
The ingenuity of Aba artisans, especially, the garment and leather clusters-comprising of shoe, belt and bag makers, attracted the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the Federal Government, to set up a Common Facility Centre (CFC) in the city, to support the clusters to further develop their skills.
Consequently, it is the desire of the present administration in the State, led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to provide a conducive environment for artisans and other business operators and the restoration of infrastructure in the commercial city of Aba, is an integral part of the plan, says a source.
Ikpeazu in his first address to the people of the State, affirmed that regeneration of Aba, will create modern neighbourhood markets and parks, including crucial developments of business and leisure along the Aba river, and new residential and business locations.
According to him, “Our story as a people is one of entrepreneurship, resourcefulness and diligence. This is our pride. We have astounded the world with our home-grown technical skills, especially during a period of pervasive adversity, and followed it up with our trade and commercial prowess elevating one of our cities, Aba, into a prominent commercial hub within the West African region.
“This historic renown is to become our future narrative. The time is ripe to use the over 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers as a launching pad to enable Abia to truly become the undisputed SME capital of Nigeria”.
He stated that his administration was committed to providing the enabling environment and infrastructure to facilitate the growth and development of Abia and its people; positioning it as a premier residential, business and tourism destination, with the ultimate objective of uplifting the lives of the people.
He recalled that Aba was for many years a thriving hub for manufacturing and commerce until epileptic electricity supply and insecurity forced the shutdown of most indigenous and foreign owned industries.
Ikpeazu recognized and appreciated the efforts of the Geometric Power Group and the Federal Government’s NIPP project at Alaoji, towards providing a solution to the perennial challenges of electricity supply to the State.
The Governor observe d that the forthcoming operationalisation of the plants would provide a critical input towards the actualization of its blueprint and roadmap for the regeneration of Aba and theentire Abia State.