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'Why Ghana is now haven for Nigerian industrialists'

Posted by By PETER ANOSIKE on 2008/09/11 | Views: 2880 |

'Why Ghana is now haven for Nigerian industrialists'


The Bible prophecy that the first shall be the last and vice versa is coming to fulfillment as Nigeria, the once most sought after country by neigbouring African countries most especially Ghana has become the land of hunger and other vices. Ghana today has become the promise land for Nigerian industrialists and manufacturers.

The Bible prophecy that the first shall be the last and vice versa is coming to fulfillment as Nigeria, the once most sought after country by neigbouring African countries most especially Ghana has become the land of hunger and other vices. Ghana today has become the promise land for Nigerian industrialists and manufacturers.

This is the view of one of the foremost personalities in the hospitality business in Nigeria, Chief Felix Obi-Odunukwe, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Gossard Hotels Limited and Our House Restaurants.

Going down memory lane, Odunukwe said that in the 70s, Ghanaians were trooping to Nigeria in search of greener pastures, adding that when they came, they did menial jobs like factory work, house helps, shoe mending for survival.

However, he said that in the 80s the government of the day felt that they were constituting a nuisance in the country and drove them back to their country.

He said that today the pendulum has changed as it is now Nigerian manufacturers who are trooping to Ghana in search of more conducive environment to manufacture their products and then bring them back to Nigeria for sale.

He said that the reason is the unfavorable business climate that pervades the country.

According to him, for anybody to do business in Nigeria, he has to provide the whole infrastructure for his business.

"I spend over N700.000 every month on diesel and fuel. Last year, I spent over N400.000 to make the road that leads to my hotel and restaurant motorable so that customers could come. This money which I am spending on infrastructure would have gone into expanding my business or even improving the welfare of my staff."

In this interview, he also spoke on the challenges facing hospitality business in the country, the laudable efforts being made by the Governor of Lagos State to improve infrastructure in the state, what government should do to improve the business environment and on other issues.

Excerpts

My name is Chief Felix Obi-Odunukwe, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Gossard Hotel and Our House Restaurant. My business location is in Community Road, Satellite Town Lagos that is by Lagos-Badagry, Expressway Lagos. I am into hospitality business, which you and I know is fraught with a lot of challenges. It is a very dynamic kind of business of which if you fail to flow with the tide, you would be drowned by the torrents. I went into the business in 2002 and today to God be the glory, we have attained international standard as people from different countries in West Africa and even beyond patronize us. We have had cases of people calling us all the way from Europe and America to make reservations for them that they are coming to Nigeria and would want to stay in our hotel.

How to run a successful hospitality business

The challenges of running a hospitality business are enormous. As I said earlier, it is a very dynamic business especially if you want to be on top of the business. For instance, we in Gossard use to have both local and international guests and as such we have to make sure that the service we offer is the same thing if not more than what our international guests get in London, New York or even Dubai. In order to achieve this, I travel most of the time and when I do, I stay in the best hotels wherever I go. While in the hotel, I look at the facilities in the hotel, their services and so on and when I come back, I try to put what I observe in my own hotel and restaurant.

That is to say that hospitality is not a business you do sitting at a place. You have to go around and see what others are doing and then try to improve on it. Another challenge about hospitality business is having friendly disposition to all. For you to have done well in hospitality business, you have to put all smiles, all-apologetic even when you are right and very neat.

The reason is because once a customer comes, the first thing he or she looks at is your countenance, the second is the neatness of the environment. It is when he or she is satisfied with that that he would feel relaxed. Your countenance and the neatness of your environment is even more important than the taste of the food or drink he is going to take. Therefore, you have to have a friendly disposition; you and your business environment have to be very neat. Then the food and drink that they are going to consume must be served the way they like it. You can only thank your stars when a customer comes and come again with his friends. That is the exam in the business and once you pass it then you know that you are on the right course.

Challenges of doing business in Nigeria

I want to start by saying that it is only a man with a large heart that can do business in Nigeria. The challenges of doing business are the same thing as one trying to live in comfort in hell. I have travelled across the length and breadth of the globe and I want to confess that Nigeria is the most difficult place to do business. Whoever survives minimally in the Nigerian business environment would be a superstar in any other country in the world. Now if you listen very well, you would hear the noise of our generator. I have four of them and I run them 24 hours.

We have guests from different parts of the country and the world. It would be inhuman and bad business for somebody that comes from United States or Canada and is lodging with you and all of a sudden the power goes off. How would you expect him to come back another time? So I spend about N700.000 every month on diesel to keep my four generators running. Last year, the road that leads to our business premise was not motorable, that is Community Road; I had to spend N400.000 to make it motorable. There is no pipe borne water in this side of Satellite Town and you know I am in a business where water is needed every second of the day, so I provide the water.

With what I have told you now, what is the difference between government and me. My fate is the same with others in business in Nigeria. We provide everything for ourselves and at the end of the day, we still pay tax to government. That is why a lot of Nigerian manufacturers are trooping to Ghana. They set up their factories there, employ Ghanaians and after producing they would bring them down to Nigeria to sell. Just imagine what government is losing by this. This is Ghana, which about 20 years ago had their citizens rushing to Nigeria for survival but today the reverse has become the case. Even our traders now go to Ghana to buy the goods that they sell in Nigeria. Now tell me who is the giant and who is the dwarf of Africa.

Marketing style

Well, our good work speaks for us. There have never been any bodies that come to either our hotel or restaurant that would not want to come back. This is because we treat our customers in a way that they would be thoroughly satisfied.

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