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Hurray as Golden Guinea Breweries rebound

By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

In Abia the philosophy of teaching the youths to fish rather than giving them fish (hand out) is assuming a strong footing. The emphasis is now on revamping moribund industries in the state or completing abandoned ones. Barring any unexpected circumstances and other things being equal (ceteris paribus), the moribund Golden Guinea Breweries Plc located at Afara Layout, Umuahia will soon bounce back to life.

Installation of modern equipment at the Breweries was nearing completion few days ago. This followed the visit of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to the Breweries. The new production line has the capacity of producing 48,000 bottles per hour. This is a far cry from the old production which capacity was 24,000.The capacity of the breweries has been doubled both in production and equipment. Its equipment is of the latest technology in Nigeria and doubles the capacity of both Ama Breweries in Enugu and SAB Miller in Onitsha.

At the peak of its operations before it closed shop over a decade ago, the firm had about 5000 workers in its employ and when it commences operations this time around, the staff strength is expected to double.

With strong assurances from the management that 70 percent of its staff will be sourced locally, the unemployment situation in Abia will soon witness a turn around .When the breweries comes on stream everything will be affected from the distribution networks to support services and the ancillary services of the food vendors,plumbers, among others.

Last year when Gov. Ikpeazu met with the Umuahia Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers he said that his administration has already taken an inventory of moribund industries in the state with a view to revive them.

While the governor described as unfortunate the fact that some Resident Engineers of industries just sit back and watch obsolete equipment being ordered into such firms, he explained that this has been the bane of moribund industries in the country, including the Ajaokuta Steel Industry and the Modern Ceramics, Umuahia.

He promised to engage the services of the group to be part of the government projects from conception to completion, adding“The government wants to find a way of indigenizing the things being done in the state. As a result of the present economic situation, the government cannot tolerate trial and error in engineering works, due to the risk on property and lives, to avoid financial wastages and the need to get it right at first".

Ikpeazu said that Nigerian Engineers are one of the best in the world, reasoning that despite the difficult circumstances they work,they still excel. He promised to pay attention to the Faculties of Engineering of the Abia State University, Uturu and the Abia Polytechnic, Aba and made public that something is being done to give impetus to technical education in secondary schools in the state.

Chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Umuahia Branch, Victor Ihediwa noted with concern the ugly state of the metallurgical complexes in Aba and Umuahia as well as the dwindling fortunes of modern ceramics industries and the Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia. He appealed for a radical turnaround of the outfits to beef up revenue earnings of the state and create employment opportunities for the youths ; and also the establishment of a befitting faculty of engineering in the Abia State University, Uturu to reduce the implication of not having enough engineering and technical manpower from the state.

Golden Guinea, established by the Premier of the defunct Eastern Region,Dr. Michael Okpara was shut down in 2003 following fire outbreak that engulfed during the administration of Orji Uzor Kalu in the state. Efforts were on top gear to revive the facility during the administration of the immediate past governor now Senator representing Abia Central, Sen. Theodore Orji.

The former governor gave strong promises of reviving the breweries and the administration set up a committee after it was discovered that the company which was earlier said to have been sold to a private company was not actually sold to anybody. The committee was saddled with responsibility of finding a lasting solution to the problems of the company .

According to Orji,‘’What happened was that when the company had financial problem, it was bailed out by the people now occupying the place because the management of the brewery was unable to repay the loan, warranting the new management to take over the place although they could not move the company forward".

Golden Guinea was engaged in the brewing,bottling and marketing of Golden Guinea lager beer and Eagle Stout, as well as producing and marketing Bergedorf premium Lager beer and Bergedorf Malta under a franchise from Holsten Brauerei AG of Hamburg.

It will be recalled that the employment situation in Abia State was jeopardized when some of the flagship industries in the state was grounded. One of such industries is Modern Ceramics Limited, Umuahia (MOCERAM). The factory was distressed during the civil war, reactivated in 1972 but collapsed and shut down in 1996 due to the problems of obsolete technology, vandalisation and destruction of the major components of the production lines during the successive military era.

The firm was handed over by the Abia State government to UCLResources and Investments Ltd (UCL), Umuahia on 9 May 2003 and was called UCL-Modern Ceramics Industries Ltd (UCL-MOCERAM).

Under that arrangement, UCL owns 80%, Abia State government 5%, with the remaining 15% reserved for undisclosed investors.It was then projected that the firm, when fully operational, will employ about 1,000 people directly while providing thousands of jobs indirectly.

In the present Abia emphasis has shifted from giving fish (hand out) to teaching how to fish,and part of the process is raising the employment in the state through revamping moribund industries. Abians, like Oliver Twist, are asking for more. They are urging their performing Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to extend his hands of fellowship to other flagship industries in the state that went moribund due to one reason or the other.

Ukegbu is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Gov. Ikpeazu on media.