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Nigeria’s business environment too harsh for manufacturers to survive –Umeofia, Erisco boss

THE Chief Executive Officer, Erisco
Foods Ltd, Eric Umeofia has lamented
the harsh business environment which
manufacturers are wading through.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Umeofia decried the rate in which com-panies were relocating to other coun-tries due to poor business environment

and opened up on the issue of the recent
controversy which stemmed from the
arrest of a female customer, Chioma
Egodi, after giving a negative review of
one of the company’s products, Nagiko

Tomato Mix , via a post on her social me-dia platform.

Excerpts:
The controversial post
On September 17, the company got
wind of the news on social media of one
Chioma Egodi, who posted on her has
some sugar content. Having looked at

the weight of the allegation and the at-
tacks, we decided to tag her on the page,

telling her that our company was ready
to extend our invitation since she has
refused to acknowledge anything good
in the product by others who reacted
positively to the product. We told her we
will defend our product and reputation.
Still, she failed to pull down the negative
review. She claimed to be a customer or
consumer, but she is not, we discovered
she was not after the investigation. We
found out she was out to destroy the
company.
She did not go through the right
process. She was suppose to have gone
to NAFDAC, SON, FCCPC or call the
customer care line of the company and
table her complaints, but she did not.
Police involvement, arrest

She made so many allegations and at-
tempts to get her to share more details

about the product failed. Some people in
her comment section asked her to share
these details: production date, among
other details, were requested, but she
refused to provide them.
We released a statement and tagged
her in it saying these allegations were
grave and we will take further steps to
get to the root of things.

I had to write to the Inspector Gen-
eral of Police to help us bring her to

prove that our product was really killing
people like she claimed in her post.

Because if the product is killing peo-
ple, then I should be killed.

That was why we wrote to the IGP.
So, the police came in, fished her out.
The company was invited to the police
headquarter to give our own version and

I did. If the police found criminal defa-
mation against Egodi and then arrested

her, is it a crime that we sought the law?

Further engagement under that re-
view she made showed that it wasn’t an

honest review. It showed that there was
an attempt to bring down the product.
Someone in her comment section
asked her why she did the review and

she responded by saying that the per-
son should go talk to her brother (Erisco

Food) to stop killing people.
At the police headquarters, Egodi

confessed and tendered an apology. El-
ders from Nnewi prevailed on me to

please temper justice with mercy.
She agreed to post the apology online,
that was why the police said okay, it is
a criminal offence, that they were not
part of the settlement but were out to do
their job. The police gave 7 days to make
up the damage done. But after the 7
days, she was yet to do so. I was shocked
that she now said it was under compulsion that she signed the letter she wrote.
People should go and read what she

posted to show you that she is deter-
mined to destroy the company. So why

must I leave her?
She signed the apology letter and she

has a copy. If she does not post the apol-
ogy on her Facebook page where she

made the review, we are going to sue her
for N5 billion. Since she failed to meet
up with agreement, the law will take its
full course.
My grouse
Chioma never purchased from Erisco
Foods. If it is a product review, as you
people assumed, she would have posted
it and allowed people to review it. But
where she said our product is killing
people. we now began to suspect. We
will not allow our efforts of 40 years to

be destroyed by a syndicate of import-
ers that have been fighting our products

since the beginning.
The consumer has right. None of you
will love your customers more than me.

I love my customers, if I had no custom-
ers, I would not be what I am today. So,

no one will advise me on how to han-
dle my customers, I know they’re my

strength. So, when customers come to

destroy you, No, I will defend my prod-
uct and quality.

FCCPC
I am dissatisfied the way the Federal

Competition and Consumer Protec-
tion Commission (FCCPC) handled the

matter. I met the director of legal de-
partment with my documents at Abuja,

because the commission sent a letter to

us to come over to Abuja with our docu-
ments within 7 days, which I did. The

director asked why I arrested the con-
sumer and I said she is not a customer or

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a consumer but a criminal.
NAFDAC, SON: The National Agency

for Food & Drug Administration & Con-
trol (NAFDAC) and the Standards Or-
ganisation of Nigeria (SON) sent in their

teams to the factory to inspect the sys-
tem. They took samples and confirmed

the products certified. (The mix with
sugar and the paste without sugar). They
released their report that the products
were approved and met the standard.
The product
I will submit myself to be killed

should it be confirmed that Erisco Nag-
iko tomato mix, is a killer product.

The product is manufactured in
strict compliance with the guidelines of
NAFDAC, which, among other things,
directs that products of that sort must
contain sugar.
If you see tomato paste and tomato
mix products worldwide, tomato mix

has sugar content. We are being trans-
parent in Erisco Foods. If you check our

tomato mix product, you will see we de-
clared it has sugar. If you don’t want to

eat sugar, then you can buy other Erisco
products that have no sugar.
Erisco Foods has built a reputation as a credible organisation committed to

due process and for the good of human-
ity.

“In light of the above, we wish to reit-
erate that Erisco Foods is solely commit-
ted to the production of healthy tomato

products, including other products that

have the full regulatory stamp and ap-
proval of the NAFDAC and SON.

Erisco is customer friendly and best
tomato product.
Our loss

The post has cost me so much, includ-
ing the company’s credit line of $15 mil-
lion into two pending in China and $30

million from two other companies.
We are still calculating the losses and
damages incurred.
I will sue her for N5 billion if she does
not comply with the agreement.
Business environment
How can you support fake consumer
against genuine manufacturer. I have
paid my dues in this country.

Erisco Foods is proud to invest in Ni-
geria. I brought in my foreign capital to

support local production.
I have gone through much challenges

operating in Nigeria, especially in get-
ting foreign exchange (FX) from the

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Manufacturing in Nigeria is difficult.

It is easier from hell than here. I’m man-
aging to operate here. When govern-
ment brings a programme, the pseudo

and pocket manufacturers will take the
money, loans and forex from banks to
sell to us. I refuse to compromise.
Erisco sells in Nigeria, we sell our
products. I’ve done so much for my

country and keep saying buy made-in-
Nigeria. They need to say sorry for cas-
tigating us.

Why must I be killed or the brand
of product for nothing. The country

is screaming no investors and the in-
digenous investors are not protected.

Some companies are closing everyday
and some leaving the country due to the
harsh environment, the ones that are

still pushing to survive are not encour-
aged. No forex, no loan. You cannot kill

your own and let the foreigner come in
and kill everybody, it’s bad.
Cybercrime
Cyber crime should be checked and
defaulters punished. So that they don’t
continue to destroy local manufacturers
that are sustaining the economy. People
are using the social media to destroy

people’s hard earned reputation, govern-
ment should check that. Government

should as a matter of urgency make sure
that cyber bullying should be arrested
immediately. If government does not
stop this in time, more damages will be
done. Unemployment could lead to this
kind of thing.
Local manufacturers
Erisco Foods has been advocating
made-in-Nigeria goods. The company’s

investment in Nigeria is not profit-ori-
ented, rather, it is a drive to create job

opportunities for the teeming Nigerian
population. Erisco foods has been long
in manufacturing in this country and in

the forefront of made in Nigeria cam-
paign. Beyond this country, we have

been campaigning for people to patron-
ise made in Nigeria products. Our prod-
uct is the best for now in the country by

the grace of God. We are doing well.
Indigenous manufacturers should be
protected. Without manufacturing, no

country can survive. If the present gov-
ernment moves to industrialise the na-
tion, the economy will be better off. I’ve

seen government’s moves to attract For-
eign Direct Investment but what about

the local manufacturers and investors,
they need support and protection. That
is what we have.

SourceSUN

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