The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, has eulogised the dynamic ways Nigerian entrepreneurs abroad impact positively on their host countries.
The minister was speaking after meeting with Capt. Olusegun Jaji, a Nigerian owner of Sea Coach Express, a boat transport business in Sierra Leone.
“It is so heart-warming to see a Nigerian entrepreneur doing so well here in Sierra Leone and showing so much innovation in his business.
“He brought his idea to a market place and made it to grow by employing people (of different nationalities) and fostering integration between his home country Nigeria and host, Sierra Leone,” he said.
Onyeama said the business was fulfilling ECOWAS’ mechanism for integration and giving room to free movement of people, ideas and innovations.
“He is very well at home here in Sierra Leone and that is one of the aims of setting up ECOWAS.
“Above all, it shows how dynamic Nigerians can be by impacting positively on their hosts everywhere they go.”
The Minister urged Nigerians abroad to follow the lead set by the proprietor of Sea Coach Express business.
“He is a very good example. He started his business here with just one boat but now has a fleet of 42 and has made a big difference to his host country,” he said.
Onyeama recalled that many years ago, to travel from Freetown International Airport in Lungi to the seat of government, one had to go by helicopter; but now through the efforts of a Nigerian, it would now take a very comfortable ride on boat.
“We today rode in one of his boats, and it is very quick; he is adding values to the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
“This is what we want to see in Africans; to be creative, to create jobs and make lives of African a lot better.”
In a separate interview with our correspondent, Jaji said he started the transport business in 2008.
“We came here to do something else but discovered the difficulties in transporting people from Lungi to the capital in Freetown.
“We also realised that where there are difficulties, there are always opportunities, and that is how the Sea Coach Express transport business started.”
He admitted that although the business required a huge investment, his company had a very humble beginning by starting with a single boat and growing it to 42 in the fleet because there was an enabling environment and peace in the host country.
To diversify, he said he went from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to set up a subsidiary of Sea Coach Express in Lagos State.
“It’s been so good in Nigeria as well as in Sierra Leone. We have a good number of boats in Nigeria doing mass transit of people from Ikorodu to Lekki, Victoria Island, CMS and so on.
“Few Nigerians are working with us here in Sierra Leone as engineers, captains and in Nigeria we have 17 Sierra Leoneans working in our company, giving us a very successful integration between Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Ramsey Ba, one of his employees in Sierra Leone, said: “Initially, when you mention Nigeria, we were a bit scared but having worked with Mr Joji and other Nigerians in this company, my views about Nigeria and Nigerians changed from negative to positive.
“He is to all of us his workers, a father and a brother. So we have realised that Nigerians are not actually the way we were told about them.”