MADE IN ABIA: ABIA FABRICATORS PULL THEIR WEIGHT

It is often said that “the only thing Aba cannot make is a human being”and over the years spent working in Aba, I have come to believe this saying. I would be the first to admit that some of it is mythical, but in my experience, Aba surely pulls her weight as far as production and fabrication is concerned.

At the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency (AMQMA),we are frequently inundated with enquiries about certain parts needed for the proper functioning of imported machinery which arrived Nigeria with incomplete parts or sketches and prototypes of machinery to be built from scratch. Satisfactorily addressing these enquiries and meeting the demand of those that consult us for such services has led usdeep into the world of metal fabricators in Aba.

Aba is historically lauded for her leather and garment sectors, hence one can be forgiven for terming the metal fabrication sector“the ignored sibling” in the manufacturing family that Aba is.

During one of my earliest encounters with the world of metal fabricators, I met and became good friends with Mr. Godson Nwachukwu.Mr. Godson Nwachukwuor Newman as he is fondly called by his friends and acquittances, is one of the success stories of the technological transfer that took place during the tenure of the late Chief Sam Mbakwe. As the governor of the old Imo State — which comprised of today’s Abia and Ebonyi state, Chief Sam Mbakwe’s policies led to the establishment of various industries and acceleration of infrastructural development in the region.

Newman is good-natured individual who possesses the calm mien of a man who life has treated well. At our first meeting, he was very happy to take me to, and give me a tour of, his workshop. During the tour, he regaled me with anecdotes of the time he spent in an Italian firm called ENGLEN as an apprentice honing his skills while also building the glass industry in Aba.

Following this period of apprenticeship, he struck out on his own ten years later with a modest workforce comprising 2 employees. He has since that time, employed, mentored and trained over scores of men and women in metal fabrication. He was particularly excited to show me a number of pictures, taken of him explaining his creations to dignitaries; of him with his previous employees and trainees; and of course, of his creations.

During the tour of his workshop, he showed me his latest creations which include, an automated changeover switch, a sold-out eco-friendly machine that produces ice without the use of plastic bags and a remote control for diesel generators with a travel frequency ofover 200m.

During our chat, he told me with the passion for his life’s work shining through his eyes that “I can do more if I had the necessary funds”. He made this remark in reference to the overly stringent and tedious process he had encountered in attempting to accessthe CBN loan facility for manufacturing businesses. He also remarked on what he perceived to be government’s neglect of the metal fabrication sector due to their focus and promotion of the leather and garment industry.

Despite these challenges, it would not be remiss to say that Newman has thrived. His life’s work has provided scores of young men and women with a means of livelihood that has afforded them a respectable standard of living.

While there have been observable gaps in the engagement policies of teams assigned to this sector in years gone by, the establishment of the AMQMA, and its grassroots engagement plan has provided the opportunity for the players in this sector to band together, and explore the opportunities available in other markets outside the environs of Aba.

Whatever happens from here on out, it should be noted that the men in Aba’s metal fabrication sector have provided comparable quality at reasonable rates for equipment that would otherwise require a trip to China. They have ingeniously fabricated important machinery for their teeming customers and kept the flag of Abia State flying with their dedication to technological advancements in the metal fabrication process.

Teacher, Fixer, Made in Abia Promoter.