Two years ago, GB Foods ( makers of Gino Curry, Gino Tomato Paste and Bama) deployed 20 billion naira of their working capital to build one of the biggest tomato processing plants in Africa.
The factory was located in Kebbi state.
The factory is the second largest in Nigeria and the only fully backward integrated plant in ECOWAS.
The factory is so big that it has the largest single tomato farm in Nigeria.
When all phases of the project are finished, the factory will be the largest fresh tomato processing factory in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The investment in the world-class factory and adjoining farm includes a drip irrigation and fertigation infrastructure, greenhouses, seed planting robots, an incubation chamber, and a plethora of agricultural machinery.
The farm will serve a dual purpose; it will produce industrial tomatoes in the dry season and soya beans in the rainy season.
The tomato factory will convert fresh tomatoes into tomato concentrate used for producing Gino Tomatoes Paste and Gino Tomato Pepper Onion Paste, while the soya bean will be used to process soya-bean oil, which is a critical ingredient for GBfoods’ Bama and Jago Mayonnaise.
The project created over 1,000 jobs, including 500 farming jobs, 150 factory jobs, and 150 construction jobs.
The factory was the biggest food factory in the north and the second largest in Nigeria.
Everything was going on fine and the factory was delivering the KPI until March this year when bandits struck.
Bandits numbering over 500 arrived on motorcycles from the Niger State forest and struck at the factory one fine morning like that.
The plan was to kidnap the foreign expatriates from Spain working in the factory, but the gallant policemen attached to the factory did not allow them. In the gunfire that ensued, four of the policemen lost their lives before the bandits were repelled.
The European expatriates working at the factory, who could not believe the Armageddon they just witnessed, booked the next flight out of Nigeria as they ran for their dear lives.
Because of this development, the parent company of GB Foods in Spain was forced to shut the factory down and the Nigerian workers working in the factory were laid off.
A few months ago, Buhari travelled to Spain on a working visit.
One of his itineraries while he was in Spain was to meet the President of GB Foods Worldwide in Spain, and during the meeting, our president begged the man to re-open the closed GB foods factory in Kebbi state with the assurance that enough security would be provided to guard the workers and the expatriates who live within the factory complex.
After hearing our president’s appeal, the president of the GB group, who was still shaken and traumatized by what his staff went through before they fled, told our president that he would look into his appeal and revert back to him.
As I type this, the 20 billion naira factory is still under lock and key.
I’m not sure that the GB foods guys are interested in going back to Kebbi state any time soon till this government leaves power next year.
An example of how insecurity cost us foreign direct investment and robs us the opportunity to create decent jobs for our young people.
It is just unfortunate!
By Chukwudi Iwuchukwu.