Revival of cocoa industry in Osun

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 THE Osun State government deserves commendation for the resuscitation of the Cocoa Products Industry, Ede. The commissioning of the company on October 17, 1982, held a lot of promise for the people. The late Chief Bola Ige, who was then the Oyo State governor, was in attendance.

However, from the outset, one squabble or the other reared its ugly head at the organization. The first expa­triate Managing Director of the company, Mr. K.W. Sheldon, tried his best to put it on a sound footing, but he lost out in dirty boardroom politics. The state gov­ernment, owner of the company thereafter felt con­cerned about happenings in the company, and decided in 1990 to lease it out. This brought about a ‘marriage of strange bed partners’. And the effect, saw rounds of muscleflexing. The two principal leasees of the factory at the time, Worldwide Industrial Ventures Limited and Dalami (Nig.) Limited, got involved in allegations and counter-allegations, which resulted in a fierce legal battle, that saw two legal luminaries – Late Chief Fred­rick Rotimi Alade Williams and Afe Babalola (SAN) slugging it out at an Osogbo High Court.

This went on for long, before sanity prevailed, as the administration of Senator Isiaka Adeleke, the first Governor of Osun State, took the bull by the horns, by giving the final nod to Worldwide Industrial Ventures Limited, to effectively run the affairs of the company. Dalami (Nig.) Limited again went to court to contest its termination and again, this went on for years, be­fore it was resolved by Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s government.

At the time Worldwide Ventures Limited took over, production capacity was at five percent. But within a short period, it raised the production capacity to 60 percent, by injecting substantial funds into importation of spare parts as well as locally sourced ones from the Nigeria Machine Tools Limited, Osogbo and Nigeria Sugar Company Foundries, Bacita. The FFA contents of cocoa, cake and butter, under Worldwide Ventures Limited hovered between 1.40 and 1.55 as against 2.24 before it took over. Globally acceptable FFA content for cocoa butter is 1.50.

Unfortunately, the unexpected again happened in 1995, when the leasehold agreement of Worldwide Ventures Limited with Osun State Government, was ter­minated by some over-zealous officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, acting on the instruction of a Commissioner, who had his own ulterior motive of bringing in his friend to take over the leasehold of the company. Worldwide Ventures Limited was “thrown” out of Cocoa Product Industry premises in a jungle man­ner. It was like scaring away foreign investors. What fol­lowed could be better imagined than described.

Thereafter, began the protracted problem of the indus­try for a long time. Osun State Government’s only indus­try, which In act, is a goldmine if properly managed, is the Cocoa Product Industry, Ede. It is a veritable source of foreign exchange earnings for the state, capable of gen­erating the much needed internal revenue for the state at this crucial moment of its socio-economic development.

Much as I am not holding brief for anybody, it is only fair to let the Chinese investors now in control, to oper­ate without let or hindrance. Neither should any encum­brances be placed on their way. There should be no bad blood, as regards who brought them onto the scene. What we need in Osun State is accelerated industrial develop­ment. The present lease is determined to put the company on the right footing. The factory is now beautiful.

The Cocoa Products Industry’s erstwhile managers and workers, who have been on forced holidays for more than eleven years, are people of proven integrity, who should be given the right of a recall if they so wish, to take the company to greater heights. Cocoa Product industry, Ede, is a viable company for the people of Osun State. It is posterity-bound and prosperity-inclined.

The administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola has now taken the bull by the horns in giving a new lease of life to the hitherto moribund industry. Governor Aregbes­ola was able to put in place, a dynamic board of directors, under the leadership of a leading light in the entrepreneur­ial world, Sir Adewale Adeeyo (OON).

The Adewale Adeeyo-led board, in cooperation with officials of the Osun State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, were able to identify the core problems of Osun Cocoa Products industry, major among which was that over the years of its abandonment, some unscrupulous people had vandalized very important cables and other electrical materials. This, in effect, had affected the in­dustry badly. Governor Aregbesola was ready to give executive approval to the urgent needs of the company, whenever they made. The Governor trusted absolutely in Sir Adewale Adeeyo’s role in the effect to re-invigorate the industry.

The new investor also came up with a master plan for the resuscitation of the factory. Brand new and state-of-the art equipment were brought in to replace the obsolete ones put in place since 1982. Sir Adewale Adeeyo did not leave anything to chance. He visited China to confirm the efficiency of the new investor as far as its activities in China are concerned.

He was able to ascertain and ensure that the new in­vestors would not jettison the operation of Osun Cocoa Products Industry.

It is to the glory of God that the confidence reposed in GOLDEN MONKEY – the Chinese new investor was not misplaced. The dynamic company has made us proud in Osun with its multi-million naira turn-around re­juvenation and total overhauling of the industry. What we now have in place is a factory that will stand the test of the time and ensure that the Osun Cocoa Products Industry, Ede, endures.

A sparkling environment and committed workers are already in place, roaring to go into action. This new de­velopment will certainly improve the socio-economic life of Osun in general and Ede, its catchment area in particu­lar. We hope that additional production lines for beverag­es, chocolate etc. will be put in place by the management of the company.

All hands should be on deck to make Osun’s Cocoa Products Industry a lasting legacy so that generations coming behind us will say that we mastered our moment.

To cocoa farmers all over Nigeria, there is a ready market waiting for your produce at Osun Cocoa Products Industry, Ede. Governor Aregbesola should continue to bring more industries to Osun, as we have industrial sites for Kaoline, bauxite, gold and other mineral resources across the state, waiting for exploitation and production for local consumption and importation, to boost the state internally generated revenue. The assistance of the World Bank in this regard should be sought. Such new investors should also be given tax holidays and other incentives that will make their operations successful.

Lawal writes from Ede, Osun State.

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