12 Noteworthy Facts About The AKEES Toothpick & Pencil Factory - By Uduak Umo

Today, as the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Charles Udoh and the Governor’s SSA on Technical Matters and Due Process, Elder Ufot Ebong led the media and other researchers out on the Open Governance Tour - day 3, it was clear that Governor Udom Emmanuel has conquered Industrialisation.

By the time he was 100 days in office, an abandoned Peacock Paints industry was revived. Before he would clock 20 months in office, the State is producing Pencils and Toothpicks. And more are in the pipeline, as can be independently verified. In Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State in particular, the subject of industries was a promise easy to doubt, but now it is a visible world of Economic opportunities.

Here are facts and truths that will interest capitalists and the general population, about this very factory;

1.   Environmentally Responsible

The pencils are made with paper, not wood. Do you have paper in your waste baskets, don't throw them away and don't burn them. Go sell them to the factory. According to Bassey Friday Moses, the general manager of the facility, “our product is environment friendly.” Surely this will be music in the ear of the UN.

2..  First of its kind in Nigeria

This is the first pencil factory in Nigeria where the raw material is paper, not wood. Of 5 pencil factories in Nigeria, this is the only one utilizing this resource.

3..  Employment

Journalists interviewed staff who saw the job advert on the internet, and others who saw it on TV, applied and were interviewed; who now work there. This assuages fears of complicity in employment that is common in government owned work centers.

4.   Not a Foreigner in sight

99.5 percent of all staff from management level to the lowest rung, are Akwa Ibomites. For a first time factory of this nature, it is common to find one or more whites, supervising, administering or representing foreign partners. The General manager, who provides the technical knowledge in both factories, himself is from Akwa Ibom state.

5.  Staff welfare

A key consideration to take into account when embarking on industrialisation, is the subtle possibility of slave labour. But it has become policy for the Udom led administration that industries operating in Akwa Ibom adhere strictly to global labour welfare standards.

As a manufacturing company, the staff are demanded to work even at weekends, but they are guaranteed their overtime.

     6. Demand higher than supply

The pencil factory has received orders from Exxon Mobil, Shell Petroleum, Living Faith Ministries schools nationwide and other standby off-takers for their products.

There're 67 staff working in the factory, and getting trained to be able to supervise future employees.

   7. Handsome Wages

Akwa Ibom has been popular for being a civil service and ‘alalok’ state. Yet, according to the findings today, staff of the industry are paid higher than their grade level mates in the civil service. The Admin and utility manager, Nsisong Eyoh hinted that, within weeks, staff wages will be doubled and the workforce tripled, to help them meet demand.

    8. Opportunities for Smart Business

The pencil factory uses paper, imported graphite, erasers and their metal soil for casing as raw materials. That is an array of opportunities. Another opportunity would be in marketing the finished product. Being products with enhanced relative quality, it becomes much easier to sell them than their imported counterparts.

Another smart opportunity would be the supply of bamboo. The factory buys 3m of bamboo at N200 ($0.6) each. At the inner communities, each bamboo stem of 7m length sells at N100. A smart business man would simply start a trade on reading this.

The factory also brands finished products in the name of special order clients. How about ordering specially, branding in your business name and delivering to high end consumers?

    9. Higher quality materials

for the pencils, the bamboos used are treated by boiling in Hydrogen Peroxide, to eliminate the possibility of microorganisms. To enhance the colour, which is optional, it is chlorinated.

Over at the pencil area, the graphite (commonly called lead) rods are of much larger diameters than the imported pencils. This gives the end user an enhanced experience.

    10. Capacity

The three lines installed for pencil making can produce 20,000 pencils in 8 hours. As demand is high, there are plans for expansion.

“There's so much pressure of demand for these products that we will run 24 hours non stop, from about next week”, the Manager stressed.

Over at the Toothpick section, 3 lines output a minimum of 5000 kg. More specifically, each line produces up to 8000 toothpicks per hour.

    11. Opportunity for Machine Tooling Factory

Machining is one major profession in Nigeria that is in grave scarcity. If you will go into manufacturing, you will need a machinist to keep your tools in sharp shape. To find one machinist, the General manager of this factory says; “we had to send someone to Kano. We need about 10 blades to be sharpened, but for about 2 weeks now, they've been able to finish just one, and another to be finished tomorrow”.

If a machine tooling factory is set up among the cottage industries that the Governor has given land for nearby, all machine maintenance in South East and South South Nigeria will automatically be routed through Akwa Ibom. How much in revenue accruing to the state hospitality industry and other associated industries would this amount to?

     12.  Ten Acres more Of land for Industries

As Mr Ebong showed the visitors round the facility, he pointed to a large area of bush land behind the facility and announced that Governor Udom Emmanuel has instructed relevant departments to work out the establishment of many more cottage industries.

Why is a tooth pick and pencil factory big news? Because in the nearest past, it seemed Nigeria was spiraling down a black hole of never-industries beyond Oil and Gas. It was cliche at every political campaign, but ditched in a hurry after elections. Some blame our plight on lack of leadership will, others on corruption in high places, others on lack of expertise, others on the lot of the black man. Nobody blamed it on lack of finance, however.

In Obasanjo’s time, the federal government lamented our ridiculous dependence on imports. “We import fried plantain, we import toothpicks, we import everything”; the President then complained bitterly.

In fact, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnanya Onu recently was quoted estimating that it will take till 2018 for Nigeria to produce toothpicks. AKEES just flipped over his assertion.

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Uduak Umo is  PR professional and public interest researcher. Find him on twitter @UdyUmo, on Facebook.com/uduak.umo and linkedin.com/in/linkuduakumo