+ Why he set up business in Umuahia
Chief Uzor Ekwuromadu is the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Masters Suites and Courts, a real estate and hospitality industry. He is one of the illustrious Igbo sons who believe that charity should begin at home in the practical sense of the word. He is of the view that Igbo entrepreneurs should begin to think home in making their investment decisions to help develop the eastern region economically. In this interview with NewsCritic Editors, Chief Ekwuromadu said that ethnic and religious politics is the bane of Nigeria’s economic advancement. He also maintained that with the return of Golden Guinea Breweries Limited, the Umuahia economy will begin to experience boom and in turn attract business tourists to the state. Excerpts:
Q: Let us start by meeting you?
My name is Chief Uzor Ekwuromadu, the CEO of Masters Suites and Courts. Masters Suites and Courts is actually a real estate’s company, we are into the development and sales of houses and we have diversified into hotel business. The reason for going into hotels is to be able to cushion our facilities from the banks. Due to the poor state of the economy things are not really moving on well business wise and sometimes when we build houses, it is difficult to sale. So, we need a second business that will cushion our bank facilities to keep us stable until the inflow comes from our buyers.
Ans: Hospitality business is a very good business depending on the area and location. I started in Umuahia, the Abia state capital, and for now the business is slow because Umuahia is not a business or tourist destination. We have a situation where visitors rarely come into Umuahia to do business, so it makes the hotel business slow, but that will not discourage us because this is our city and home and we all have to join hands to help to develop the state.
Q: Are you saying that there are no business activities going on in Umuahia that will attract visitors and lodgers?
Ans: Umuahia is not a tourist and business destination, they don’t really do any business here that will attract a lot of people to come into the city. Not only that, it is not also a tourist destination and the government don’t really do businesses that will attract investors or business men to the city. They do the business themselves, so outsiders rarely come into town in search of business opportunities. It is visitors that lodge in hotels and there are no major symposiums, seminars or activities going on here that will attract a lot of people who will lodge in hotels.
There are activities going on in other states like Enugu, Owerri, Anambra etc, and these activities are accommodation based. World organisations like WHO, UNICEF etc hold seminars every time and they go to areas that have the facilities to accommodate the large number of participants. Though, recently Abia has built an ultra-modern International Conference Centre, I think it is the first of its kind in Umuahia that can at least take more than 2000 people, it was not available in the past. So when agencies are considering places to host their activities, Umuahia does not rank as one.
We are praying and believing that with this facility and more to come Umuahia will become a choice destination and investors will begin to consider investing in the state. the truth is that if people are not seeing the prospects they will not come to invest and experience the serenity and beauty of our atmosphere. Most of the people participating in seminars in other places, they have negative perception about Abia that nothing in moving here, so the kind of information they spread out there is also affecting the influx of visitors and investors.
Q: Will you not recommend anyone to invest in hotel business in Umuahia?
Ans: I won’t do that even if I speak they will not listen to me. My own reason of investing here is totally different because this is my home and I need to have business presence in my town. I don’t have the capacity to discourage anybody from doing business of his choice.
Q: Are there anything that could be done to stimulate sales and patronage in the sector presently?
Ans: It is about industrialization because business tourism remains the best form of patronage. So, no hotels will flourish without corporate clients. There are no functional businesses and industries that will bring patronage to hotels in Umuahia. What we have here is working guests, and working guests don’t really give money because it comes in trickles. But when you have corporate guests you can be sure of putting all the facilities into use.
Q: Now we have Golden Guinea Breweries Umuahia back on stream, how is it going to impact on the Abia economy?
Ans: GGBL will impact positively because with its resuscitation outsiders will come to seek for business deals: So, visitors will be trooping into the city and they will also be participating in seminars, marketing etc so I’m certain that it is going to boost the economy of the state. Before Umuahia became a capital the economy of the city depended on GGBL and Modern Ceramics industries Umuahia, and all the families that I knew then that were doing well it was either their parents were working there or they were distributors of the products. So with the return of GGBL I believe the economy of the state will improve once again.
Q: You said earlier that your main business is real estates, how is that particular sector doing now?
Ans: It is not doing well because the whole economy is stifled and people don’t really have the purchasing power to buy. Many of the economic activities are grounded because of lack of purchasing power. I don’t think the banks are helping matters, I don’t think we are doing great banking in Nigeria. The banks in Nigeria are simply collection centres, they are not doing banking in the right sense of it.
Q: Is it that accessing bank facilities is difficult or is it about the high interest rate?
Ans: The thing there is that like our business if you borrow money from the banks and by the time you are selling to pay back with interest, you might end up not having anything left in terms of profit. The bank will take all that is the problem. Banking in Nigeria is a different game altogether with little or no consideration for the survival your business.
Q: Do you think the federal government is doing enough to create the enabling environment that will allow business to thrive in view of the state of power supply in the country?
Ans: First of all, the major issue we have in Nigeria is electricity. Instead of concentrating on policies that will better the lot of Nigerians, we spend much time and energy promoting ethnic and religious divides. This is a form of distraction that is hindering our progress as a nation. We know what to do but politics takes precedence before attention is given to the main issue which is the economy. In Nigeria, there is no reward for excellence, everything is about tribalism and it is affecting the country seriously. If we can eschew ethnicity and work as one Nigeria, I can assure you that the economy will be up its feet within a short time. That’s my take because most of these things are politicise that is why we are not making progress as a nation despite our potentials.
Q: What do you have to say about the clamour for Igbo presidency come 2023?
Ans: I am in support of Igbos being given a chance to produce the president in 2023, but in a secular state like Nigeria the issue of zoning should not have even arisen in the first place. We should embrace excellence; we should look for an Igbo who has the capacity to turn around things. I can say that it is only in Igbo that you can find true democrats, true Nigerians because they can dwell in any part of the country and make it their home. So we should be given a chance, and also be allowed to choose who we want. I will not support the idea of a group or section imposing a candidate on the south east, reviving the Nigerian economy should be of importance.
Q: Do you support the Abia Charter of Equity and the agitation that power should return to Abia North in 2023?
Ans: This Abia charter of equity has been there, I’m not against it but then whoever that is coming from any of the zones should be somebody that is competent and capable of leadership. We can’t because of equity and bring jokers to rule us. I don’t have any problem but in a normal setting what we need is excellence, someone who will be able to turn around the economic fortunes of the state. Other states are doing well, I believe that as God’s Own State God will intervene and get us the right leader who will take us to the next level.