Testimony and tips from a western Nigerian who has lived for 11 years in Port Harcourt and keeps growing without one single incident. In this encounter, the CEO of Primeport Logistics, Femi Adewunmi, told IGNATIUS CHUKWU the next opportunities would be in the delivered services and last mile as well as HSE tasks because of new regulations and guidelines on the way.
What I normally tell people is that Port Harcourt is suffering from perception crisis; bad perception, bad public relations. People often ask me what I am still doing in Port Harcourt, but I say, when you are looking for investment, you follow basic law of economics. This is, wherever there is problem, there are opportunities.
The militancy crisis (which has more or less evaporated) has created a perception issue whereby people have a fixed opinion of the Niger Delta and Rivers State, whether it is wrong or right. It is important to note this, to be honest. I live here I know it is actually a perception.
Most big people in Port Harcourt like to scare people. In a way, they do not want outsider-competitors to join them here. There are opportunities lying fallow, untapped, in the Niger Delta. It depends on how hungry you are or how much you want on return of investment (RoI). Do not sit somewhere and be telling me about problems in Rivers State. That means nothing else is going to motivate you. As far as I am concerned, wherever there is problem, there is huge opportunity. That is why I am still in Port Harcourt to this day.
I have been here for 11 years, and none of these things they talk about has affected me. You are out there shouting there is kidnapping in Port Harcourt, and I am a Yoruba guy here; and I am growing. It means you are not looking at opportunities and the way they present themselves. Where everything is working well, there is no money to make. You make money where there is problem.
All those who are faraway saying there is problem; we tell you, that is fine for us. We will be making it here. When you come here, do not allow perception to overtake your experience.
I talk from my own personal experience. People say I talk about Port Harcourt, but I moved in here 11 years ago. Every single indicator is better from when I first came: light is better, water is better, roads are better. People are not seeing this. People have a culture of complaining and not seeing anything better.
The strategy is; look at perception versus reality; then see business opportunities. I will say to potential investors; if you want to come to do any business in Port Harcourt, you would probably be number two or three. If you go to Lagos or Abuja, you will be far behind on the list. In Port Harcourt, you will be first to market. There are many untapped opportunities in the Niger Delta. Most people want to sit there and make money. They only go for low-hanging fruits, things at arm’s length, contracts, etc. they do not see the real opportunities, in the structural gaps in the market.
People say there is skills-gap, but it is because you do not want to pay people well. If you pay the right price, you attract the right workers. You can’t treat people the way you do in Lagos and think they will work for you in Port Harcourt. We are more localised in this region. Lagos and Abuja are more cosmopolitan. What they will accept there will not fly here.
Here, the people still have their roots. The people around here still go back to the villages every weekend and culture still influences how they handle things. This is not Lagos. So, don’t be telling me about skills gap. I have good people in my company.
Do not dwell on what government has not done. Government is doing what governments do. People that use government as an excuse will use anything such as militancy, rains, insecurity, etc, as an excuse. You cannot change government overnight. Government focuses on population. The business people need to take their face away from barriers and be looking at opportunities and solution. Look for what you can add after government had done the much it can do.
In my stay here, I have never seen two persons fighting, let alone abduction taking place or happening to me. You might say government is not giving enough security, but there is something you can do yourself. For instance, I still live in same house since I came, people around here know me. But if you move up and down, nobody knows you. Stop going out at night to look for what you are not supposed be looking for, they will kidnap you. The way you treat people around you is important. You do not care about anybody but you want people to care for you. Treat people with respect anywhere you go. Spread whatever you have as much as you can. Do not be chasing contracts, avoid government work, look for your own work, do not look for quick wins, and do not do partnership. These are simple things.
Even if government provides mobile police (Mopol) on every street, if you do not do those things, you are still at risk. People will say I have Mopols but they are only for opportunistic risks, not for somebody planning for me. If they do, they know when I am not with my Mopol, they know my details. It is what you do that they look for.
If you sweat for your money, they will not look for your money. That’s a rule. If you got money one way or the other, they will come for you, but nothing will happen to you if you work for your money.
Government is here already doing some of the things they ought to do. They are looking into fake tax collectors who disturb on the roads. The government needs to incentivise some of us that are here. If you look locally, there must be somewhere they can support those doing their best here. For instance, when they award contracts, they would insist that you must route supplies and imports through the closest sea or airport. You do not need to name the port. If a contract is for Rivers State, then let the items to be imported be routed through the nearest seaport or airport in that city. It is not right to be using faraway airports.
Government must insist that you must not import from Lagos. You must use our sea and airports. For me, there is ample opportunity especially in the non-oil and gas sector.
It is in the service sector. It is going to be opportunities in the delivered service sector. The new business must look at how you deliver services. You must ask where are the opportunities, where is that service being needed or consumed? There are opportunities in logistics; last mile service which means taking service to the doorsteps.
Others logistics can bring it to the last mile, then you now deliver to the last mile delivery. There is going to be a lot of opportunities. Consider fumigation, sanitisation, and decontamination. Health and Safety laws are going to change soon. Companies are going to be mandated to do decontamination every other week. COVID-19 has changed humanity.
It is same way Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) for companies will change companies. The same way they say you have to do eye test, etc. There are statutory things in HSE. There is no way contamination, fumigation, sanitisation, etc, will become the new way. For you to do anything for government, there will be certification and HSE. It’s not about chemicals but how you delivered or fumigated houses, shops, stadium, etc.
It is how you delivered these services that will position you. Everything now is service.
Many opportunities abound but people come here (PH) thinking only about oil and gas. We are a logistics company but we do a lot of work for non-oil companies. There is brewery in Aba, Enugu-Ama, Onitsha, Awomamma, PH, Benin, Warri, everywhere. They are producing ad manufacturing. There are many opportunities not oil and gas and people are not looking at them. People are not hungry for action. They are complaining.
We living around here discourage people. Friends outside do contact us before coming. When they come, we carry Mopol, siren, and drive and swerve and say, be careful oh. Unconsciously, you are sending the impression that when you are here, you must be scared. But, we are still here. We see people from here going to look for work in Lagos and Abuja when there is work to be created in the Niger Delta. If people can use initiative, they will create more jobs here.
Government is doing roads, Governor Nyesom Wike is doing many roads, Amaechi did at his time. We are seeing their handwork every day. Things are better than before. The Niger Delta is full of investment opportunities for those who know the key.