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By Elvis Iruh

Total Exploration and Production (E&P) Upstream Limited has said it is pleased with the contribution of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, PHCCIMA, the SME-Development Network and other key stakeholders that have so far been involved in the planning and organization of what will be the very first annual Egi City Trade and Investment Fair.

Mr. Nicolas Brunet, Deputy Managing Director of the company made this declaration during a colourful ceremony to mark the official unveiling of the first Egi City Trade and Investment Fair held at the Council hall of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce on Friday 5th April, 2013.

Ably represented by, Mr Peter Igbinovia, Executive General Manager Total E&P Port Harcourt district, he said Total will continue to support the Egi City Trade and Investment Fair as part of its Small Business Initiative (SBI) in its attempt to support RSSDAs effort to establish the Rivers North Growth Pole; a strategy aimed at transforming Egi into an economic hub with the intention of spreading its economic prosperity to other neighbouring communities in ONELGA, Ahoada East, Ahoada West and Abua Odual LGAs.

According to him, the Egi City SME Trade and Investment Fair is the first of its kind in the whole of ONELGA and the objective of the Fair is not only to provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase and sell their goods and services but also to provide a platform where entrepreneurs, would-be entrepreneurs, investors and customers can exchange business ideas, establish business partnerships and relationship, begin new supply chains and link up to new market opportunities to draw more investment into Egi.

He explained that the fair will help build the entrepreneurial spirit of unemployed Egi youths, many of whom are very interested in starting their own businesses even as the SME-DN Centre will provide periodic orientation workshops during the Fair for Egi youths that are interested in identifying their business niche whether it is in agriculture, manufacturing, services and trading, adding that SME-DN will also provide guidance on how those that are interested in starting a business can plan, establish, manage and grow such businesses.

In his remark the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, President, Engr. Emeka Unachukwu underscored the importance of organizing Trade Fairs and asserted that such events are quite fundamental to development be it in the local, state or national level, even as he offered that as reason for the involvement of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce in seriously supporting the SME-Development Centre to organize this fair.

'I want to assure you that the advent of this very first Egi City Trade and Investment Fair will signal the beginning of great innovations, wonderful breakthroughs and above all stimulation of the local economy. He maintained that hotels, local businesses, social life and more will experience a huge boom in the period of the fair and beyond, commending Total, Egi People's Assembly (EPA) among a whole lot of others who has been instrumental to seeing this dream project come to reality.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Hon Samuel Enyiba in his remark said government will continue to support such initiatives aimed at uplifting local lives and communities at the grassroot. He commended Total, PHCCIMA, SME-DN and others and gave assurances that government will come in fully to contribute its own quota in moving such initiatives forward. Similarly, In his own speech, Hon. Gift Wokocha, who represents Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government in the State House of Assembly, expressed pleasure at the commitment of PHCCIMA and Total to the project, which he said is unprecedented in the history of the community. He said he is particularly happy about the synergy between the company and the people of the community adding that he is overwhelmed by the inventiveness on ground.

Meanwhile, the Deputy General Manager, Total E&P and Chairman Board of Directors SME-DN Centre, Mr. Cyprian Ojum earlier stated that the Fair is collaboration between diverse organisations and Total. According to him, the 8-day Trade and Investment Fair is the result of five years effort by TEPNG SD Division and other development partners to stimulate local economic development in the host communities of TEPNG. Total he said is interested in boosting SME's and entrepreneurship and this was why it set up the Board to pursue this objective. “The Board in collaboration with the different organizations has worked tirelessly and the unveiling today is a proof of our effort”. We want to thank PHCCIMA, Egi People's Assembly (EPA), Egi Women Welfare Association (EWWA), Egi City Development Foundation (ECDF), UNITAR, RSSDA ONELGA Council and all others who have contributed to this project” he was quoted as saying, assuring that the event will go international.

Chief Oris Onyiri, President General of Egi People's Assembly (EPA) said Egi had a dream and what the people wanted was enterprising technocrats to interpret those dreams and visions. According to him, the unveiling which is a prelude to the main event is part of the interpretation of those dreams and visions and Egi people are quite grateful.. “On behalf of the good people of Egi ethnic nationality, I want to gracefully express our gratitude and to say we are proud to be associated with everyone that has contributed to the success of this reality”.

The 1st Egi City Trade and Investment Fair was held from the 11th through to the 18th of April 2013; at KM 24, Ahoada-Omoku Road, Obite, ONELGA, with the opening ceremony done on Saturday 13th April, 2013; at the Obite Civic Center.