Umeofia… Amichi born manufacturer extraordinaire, dogged advocate of made-in-Nigeria

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ERIC Umeofia, President and Chief Executive of Erisco Foods Limited, personifies the ‘Buy made-in-Nigeria goods’ philosophy the Nigerian Government advocates. He stands tall among industrialists, who are changing the landscape of manufacturing in Nigeria. Beyond that dream is the drive to produce goods from this clime for global markets.
The industrialist extraordinaire is a champion of leveraging on the federal government’s backward integration policy to end the regime of import dependency. He believes that Nigerian product is of optimum quality, using his products as a case study. Embittered by the monumental waste of foreign exchange expended on importation of processed food items that can be manufactured in Nigeria, he vowed that he would single handedly end the regime of import dependency in Nigeria.
The Amichi born industrialist’s passion to play a leadership role in the transformation and industrialization of the Nigerian state to become an economic super power at least in Sub-Sahara Africa began as an apprentice three decades ago. His journey towards significance began in the early 1980s, when he came to Lagos for an apprenticeship with Messrs De G Sonsco, Textile Company. He later moved to Kano for more apprenticeship training in motor spare parts business.
After his tutelage, armed with passion and determination, Umeofia, registered C.O Erisco Limited and ventured into his own business in motor spare parts business in Sokoto in 1983. His drive for hard work paid off as he was appointed as one of the World Bank-approved agents for Sokoto Development Programme, from where he returned to Lagos to start a general import business.
Umeofia, who beyond manufacturing, wants to lifts Nigerians out of poverty, was not convinced that his modest achievement in import business would lift Nigerians out of poverty, founded the Tropical Fire Prevention Services Limited with Erisco Bonpet Automatic Fire Extinguisher as main product in 1994, with hope of setting up a manufacturing plant for fire extinguishers later, but the dream did not materialize.
But it was in food processing and agro allied business that would establish Ericso as a household name in the country. His investment particularly in Erisco Foods Investment is already impacting the nation’s culinary culture and is already saving the country the foreign exchange used in importing processed tomato paste into the country, besides, empowering farmers across the country and employing thousands of Nigeria.
Erisco Foods Limited is the first and largest indigenous producer of tomato paste in Nigeria and Africa and the fourth largest in the world with its production capacity at 450,000 MT per annum. Umeofia, who said he would never renege on his decision to import or market any single product, which can be produced locally in Nigeria for a foreign firm despite the huge profit temptations in importation business, has over 1,500 workers in his direct employment, with target for 10,000 people.
He wants Nigeria to stop borrowing economic programmes from abroad, if the country expects things to change, “in Nigeria, we look too much offshore for foreign theories, relying much on theorists to formulate economic policies and it is the same practice with banks. When we wanted to go to tomato business, one of the biggest banks in the country told us to forget it, that we would go nowhere.”
Umeofia’s Erisco Foods Limited with over 15 products in its range has facilities in Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kastina states. With government incentives it is expected to generate over 25,000 jobs in two years. Despite the challenges facing the manufacturing industry, Umeofia has continued to invest in business process expansion, arguing that Nigeria is unarguably Africa’s largest economy with its huge arable land and other natural endowments, it has therefore, no reason to being a net importer of food items. He believes that Nigeria has all it takes to be a great nation. He has grown his business from a humble beginning to thriving business empire with concerns in many countries of the world.
Umeofia, besides his business entrepreneurship wears philanthropic toga that many people don’t see. In his native Amichi, he has continued to champion several developmental projects. He has a scholarship scheme that has produced hundreds of graduates. The scheme was particularly instituted to give indigent but brilliant students in his community the opportunity of higher institutions. In efforts to alleviate poverty, his philanthropic gesture led to building of houses in his community in Amichi, donations of buses, tricycles, and motorbikes to people in his community and across the nation.

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