Some workers of Erisco Foods on Wednesday in Lagos embarked on peaceful protest against the management’s plan to shut its production worth about 150 million dollars.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the workers in their hundreds were seen carrying placards and chanting songs around the factory premises in Oregun, Lagos.
Ayoola Oladayo, the Area Sales Manager, Erisco Foods, urged the Federal Government to save their jobs by intervening in the situation of the company.
“We appeal to the government to save our jobs and families.
“The unemployment rate is alarming and we do not want to be classified as jobless in this harsh economic situation of the country.
“About 2000 of us will be affected in various factories if the company shuts down.
“We urge the government to assist Erisco Foods and other indigenous manufacturers to continue to contribute to the country’s GDP,” Oladayo said.
Obinna Ezeugwa, another worker, said that the country needed active participation of the private sector to create employment for the citizens for sustainable economic development.
Reacting to the situation, Mr Eric Umeofia, the Chief Executive, Erisco Foods, confirmed the situation.
Umeofia said that the company would shut production in Nigeria due to inability to access foreign exchange from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for procurement of machinery.
“It is difficult for indigenous manufacturers to access forex despite CBN’s promise to manufacturers that they will allocate 60 per cent of foreign exchange to them.
“It is unbelievable that for over two months, no forex has been allocated to Erisco Foods whereas the same forex is allocated daily for the importation of finished goods.
“Products that can be easily produced locally like fish head, tomato paste, razor blade are on the forex bids of the various banks,” Umeofia said.
He said that the high-interest rates charged by commercial banks, importation as well as policy constraints, were disincentives to manufacturer’s production in the country.
“The prices of our products are high due to high cost of production and this is in addition that we currently generate our own power.
“We have lost over N3.5 billion in our bid to industrialise Nigerian economy and ready to move our production section to another country.”
Umeofia complained that the penchant of Nigerians for imported goods and lack of clear policy against importation of goods that could be manufactured locally were destroying manufacturers.
“We have stock of tomato paste worth over N6 billion now and not selling due to dumping and conspiracy against indigenous manufacturers.
“We have complained publicly and officially to all the relevant government agencies with loads of evidence, but regrettably nothing has changed till date.
“We will be forced against our patriotic wish to relocate our operations to a country where there is conducive and favourable environment for manufacturing.
“If within 30 days from now nothing significant is done by the government to address these issues.
“We will lay off 1500 of our staffs in the factory, replicate our 150 million dollar investment in another country and from there import tomato paste to Nigeria,” Umeofia said.
Erisco Foods has a production capacity of 450,000 metric tons of tomato paste annually for 22 brands with over 2,000 workers.
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