Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on Saturday, December 9, 2023 clocked 60 years. In this Interview with Regis Anukwuoji, the President, Jasper Nduagwuike and the Director General, Uchechkwu Mbah spoke on the contributions of the Chamber to the economy of South East geopolitical zone in particular and that of the country in general. Excerpts:
What has been the Impact of the chamber in the development of business in the south East Region of Nigeria.
Thank you very much it is a proper question. The chamber was established in 1963, the first president was Dr Nloghdilichukwu Okeke, who gathered some business men together and they started what we know today as Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture. Over the years, ECCIMA has played very, very important role in the affair of economic development in the South East and indeed, in the country because as I speak to you now ECCIMA is grade A Chamber of commerce at per with Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna. So, we have also birthed other chambers of commerce, from ECCIMA; we have been able to establish Nsukka Chamber of Commerce, 9th Mile Chamber of Commerce and Awgu Chamber of Commerce and we are looking forward to the establishment of Oraifite Chamber of Commerce and Ishi-Agu Chammer of Commerce and all these, the more you have chambers of commerce, the more your Small and Medium Scale Enterprise are keyed into the main stream of the economic system and when they come in the sectors in ECCIMA mentor them. We have sectors like the SMEs, professionals, consultants, we have sectors like that of the legal and others; so when you come you who are professionals in the business will be able to mentor others and tell them where to go and how to achieve things; who will be able to let the new ones know the best way to navigate in order to get the best for the company. We have arranged several state missions outside the country; we have arranged several seminers, we have partnered with SMEDAN.
How has the leadership system of ECCIMA affected the development of the chamber in the last 60 years?
The beauty of the chamber movement is the succession plan, it is a very ingenious thing. You see, you start off first as an ordinary member and then after two years if are lucky you can win election to become a council member; when you become a council member you start attending meetings, council meetings building on their experience, getting to know what is happening, if you are lucky you stay in the council up to 7 to 8 years and you progress to become a vice president. Now, from vice president if you are lucky you become second deputy president which you must do for two years before you become first deputy president, by the time you become first deputy president you must have spent a minimum of 15 years in chamber learning. By the time you become the first deputy president you don’t have any specific job so to say, your function is to under study the president to know what he is doing and how he is doing it. Like I told them, deputy president is boy boy to the president; he does whatever the president asks him to do and it is just to prepare him to get into position, so there are no elections he will just take over the position of president and then others come up. By the time others move up there will be one vacancy which will also be filled through the same electoral system. So, before you become president you would have been thoroughly planned to assume the position, the system plans you, makes you ready to make sure that you do not deviate from principles binding the chamber movement.
As the president of the chamber today what have you achieved or looking up to achieve before your tenure expires?
Incidentally, my tenure is almost coming to an end because I will be handing over to another president; it a two-yea term. I will be handing over to another president in February, so it is no longer a question of what I am looking forward to achieving. But what the 16th council achieved, not me as a person, but the president in council, we are grateful to God that we have been able to reposition ECCIMA for proper identification, ECCIMA today is reckoned with; the government invites us over when they want to do certain things, that is because we play a major role in a lot of things. For the first time, we were able to organise town hall meetings for governorship candidates prior to the election; we were able to bring our National body to Enugu; we were able to make ECCIMA more interactive with members; we signed MoU with Afro chamber, Brazil; MoU with Chinese company, MoU with the Chamber of commerce in Namibia; I think we have repositioned ECCIMA, no unbiased person will look at what we have done in the last two years without saying glory be to God we have done well and we have been able to do our best to continue a project that has been waiting for some time. We are able to remodel our pavilion; we will be laying foundation stone for 1500 sitting capacity exhibition hall on January. You know we can do a lot of things, but I think we have done well.
Do you think this two-year tenure is enough for a president to perform?
You see, if you have ideas ten years will even not be enough, but the beauty of it is that the president of ECCIMA when you leave you are still a part of the system, you still attend council meetings if you have the chance, and there are other things you can still do; you don’t need all the time. I think two years is enough for others with fresh ideas, at least, you set a background for them to build on it.
Why do you find it necessary to cerebrate ECCIMA at 60?
Well, even in individual life, 60 is a mile stone, to be able to get up to 60, there are chambers that started off well that are no longer there. I think it is a thing for us to thank God and cerebrate those who have piloted us to this place where we are now. Some of them are of blessed memory like Nloghadilichukwu Okeke, Jumbo Ofor, Chike Nwaizu, good number of them and also inspired the people who are here and those coming in future. When we look at what has been achieved so far, it will inspire you to even do better than what others have done; I think it is a good time to thank God and cerebrate those who have helped us to get to where we are now.
What is ECCIMA’s plan to develop Enugu International Trade Fair complex?
Already, we are doing something like the Computer Village. In January, we are laying the foundation stone for the exhibition Hall of 1500 capacity sitting space, you know we have pleaded to the Federal Government over and over again to come and do it for us but somehow we have not been able to break through; so we have decided to do it ourselves, I can assure that before the end of next year, we have Exhibition Hall at the permanent site. By God’s grace, other things will be put in place.
Also the Director General, Enugu Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture has this to say as his contribution to the development of the Chamber:
As the DG, what are your contributions to the development of ECCIMA?
I joined ECCIMA a couple of years ago and I grew from stage to stage until about a year ago, I was appointed the acting DG which the council confirmed on July 20, 2023, by the special grace of God before I was appointed the DG of ECCIMA, immediately I came in I observed a number of things about the chamber that we needed to adjust and change the face of the chamber to make it acceptable to all, these are in terms of facilities, infrastructure I was able to make some recommendations and my leaders accepted and adopted them and helped us to grow, When I got to the management level I discovered that we did not have work plan as a chamber for the year and I pushed for the chamber to develop a work plan that will guide activities; so that at every point in time we will be able to say this is where we are going. We developed the annual strategic plan that will be guiding the activities of the council. We brought the chamber to accessable to the globe through the Internet, the website of the chamber were transformed with good contents. We also developed social media platform through which we reach out telling people about what we do in ECCIMA, some of them we did even before I was appointed the Director General of the Chamber. As the Director General we began to reorganise the secretariat of the Chamber, because one of the things the secretariat does is to implement the polices of the council hence, it should be well equiped to have the capacity to function effectively to deliver the polices of the council. Because of what the secretariat stands for, one thing that I did was to strengthen the secretariat, those whom I feel we need to increase their capacity we have started doing that by planning programmes that will help them to deliver. We also changed the face of the secretariat because people will address you the way they see you. We also try to create value for our members which we have been lacking over the years. Most times, people complain that they do not gain anything as members, but it is no more like that now because we have been organising programmes frequently. My president talked about the programme with have SMEDAN and others. Two days ago, we hosted Ambassador or Rwanda and it was a good interactive meeting, before then we also had another interactive meeting. We have been organising programmes that keep our members engaged. In the next two days there will be another global meeting our members will be exposed to explore, it will be an online training that will help our members build capacity and network globally, these are some of the things we are doing to provide opportunities. We have social media platform now, like WhatsApp, Twitter, etc and through these platforms we keep updating our members on daily basis about opportunities they can take advantage of. We make sure that our members are well fed. Therefore, what the secretariat is doing is to give out the necessary information that will help our members. One of our members that has been dormant said after the meeting with the Ambassador of Rwanda, he has quickly developed more interest, and many others.
In terms of our Trade Fair, you know the Chamber is not a profit-making organisation but in anything we do we try to break-even; for one to survive there must be an atom of financial implication in everything you do. One of our major programmes is the Enugu International trade fair; to be honest with you in the recent times, because of the economy and other issues we observe a little dwindling in the participation of people in the Enugu International Trade Fair. But this years own I hope it will be different because as the Director General who knows what happened in the past will take the bull by the horns. Two weeks ago, I was in Lagos to visit companies that are supposed to be in the trade fair. The situation makes the Trade Fair look like an ordinary market but we want to tweat it back so it can be a place where people will come to exhibit their products and where people will buy and sell, but where companies will come and make contacts with exhibitors, we have started, like my president said we have signed MoU with a Chinese Fair organisation which promised to mobilise companies to participate in the coming Enugu International Trade Fair.
What are the requirements for becoming a member?
First thing is the organisation is meant for companies and not individuals and for any company to become a member such company must have perfectly Registered with the Cooparate Affairs Commission; it must be a registered company with the CAC, ones you register that is the first qualification joining ECCIMA, the next step is to pick the membership form, pay certain amount for the form and return the form with the necessary requirements paying admin and processing fees. We also organise membership interview which is done three times in a year. Any company that passes through will be given membership certificate One good thing about our certificate now which is one of our innovations approved by the president and council is that today we have membership Registration Code, which will be recognised by our website so as a member of the chamber just write your code number on anything you are sending anywhere those people will key you code into ECCIMA website and all information about your company will appear. The certificate will also have security, well back up security these two will be lunched during the 60th anniversary. Once launched every member will have it.
What is involved in this 60th ECCIMA Anniversary?
ECCIMA 60th anniversary is a time to appreciate those that have helped ECCIMA to get to where it is today like my president said. It a time to appreciate God, so all we are coming to do is say Lord we are grateful for all you have done for us a number of of companies have been supportive.
We are bringing all the people that have been supporting ECCIMA and cerebrate them.
What are the benefits of being a full member of ECCIMA?
The biggest thing any member benefits is networking opportunities, it will give you the platform to network, there are business opportunities that exist across the globe which an individual may not have opportunity to access, but because you are a member of the chamber the chamber can help you get those opportunities. Also we do mentorship and business analysis, training for our members, business focasting, among others.