Saturday, January 13, 2007

Closure of handset manufacture in Abuja

I had my usual e-newsletter from Balancing Act last week (just reading it now). It contained this syndicated gem from This Day (pasted below). The comparisons and contrasts I've been making between India and Nigeria during our travels in the past few weeks take on tragicomic proportions with this story. If Nigeria can be in 10-15 years time where India is right now, that would be a realistic and achievable vision (given a focused, energetic and committed new administration). But it doesn't look likely that Nigeria can actually catch up with India anytime in the next few decades. Why? Because in 10-15 years time, India will be far far ahead of where it is now.

"The only handset factory in Nigeria is now gathering dust as the Chinese
equipment vendor, ZTE has stopped production for more than eight months.
According to reports, the company had closed shop for the second time in
two years as it was closed for two months in 2005 over administrative

When news men visited the handset factory in Abuja recently, they
observed that the administrative office and customer centre were covered
with dust. The waiting room of the factory was also littered with pieces
of paper and dirt while a handful of security men kept vigil at the

An impeccable source, who had worked with the company, explained that
the factory had not assembled any handset since it was inaugurated by
the former Minister of Communication, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, in May,
last year. The source said that the company had been trying to sell the
handsets it had assembled before the visit.

The source said that most of the workers in the factory who were neatly
clad in ZTE factory overalls during the ministers visit were only hired
and trained for the event.

The source said that the 20 workers who worked at the factory during the
visit were trained a day before the visit and after the inauguration
they were each paid N2,000 for two days service. "My brother worked
there for two days and he collected his N2,000 after the minister's
visit and left for school, " another source at the factory said. The
minister of communications had commended the Chinese company for
providing jobs to so many Nigerians during his visit.

Adebayo had asked the Chinese company why they were assembling handsets
instead of manufacturing as was stipulated in their proposals and
agreement with the ministry.
The ZTE Nig. officials said the assembling of the sets would precede
manufacturing, which, they added, would begin after the staff had been
trained and facilities were set up.

Investigations at the ZTE Nig. headquarters in Maitama revealed that the
Chinese company had hired two sets of workers since it started
operations in 2004 and only one out of the 50 staff employed was still
with the company. "All the others were disengaged on the excuse that the
phone market was not bringing in profit as expected," a source at the
headquarters said .

The source further revealed that none of the workers at the factory was
given an employment letter based on the excuse that they would only get
their letters after some months of probation. Asked if they were paid
any disengagement package, the sources said: "All the workers only got
their salary for the months they worked."
The source said that customers had been complaining over the "exorbitant
rates" of the handsets and frequent faults.

ZTE staff member Lin Wen, who had hired some workers at the weekend to
clean up the factory refused to comment on the closure. He said that
only the top officials at the ZTE Nig. headquarters in Maitama had
authority to speak on the situation. When reporters visited the
headquarters of the company in Maitama for the second time some
officials of the company said the top officials had travelled out of the
country and they would be away for some time."


Anonymous,  1:33 pm  

Welcome back! Nothing in Nigeria surprises me, nothing.

Anonymous,  8:03 pm  

Why should Nigeria want to catch up with India?

Why should Nigeria want to be where India is in 15 years time?

The impression that you give by talking about 'catching up' is that there's some sort of race of nations, when really the most important thing is that each nation should be striving to make life better for its citizens, irrespective of what other nations may be doing.

India right now may be better than Nigeria in many respects, but it still has its own peculiar problems. I believe that Nigeria shouldn't be 'tracking' another country in its attempts to progress, but it should be looking to solve its own problems.

Jeremy 8:25 pm  

India is a great model for Nigeria. Both countries have faced a similar set of problems - post-colonial legacies, ethnic/religious tensions, embedded corruption etc.

The difference is that India has been following a reform plan for the past 15 years or so which is now reaping extraordinary results, whereas Nigeria has only just started - hence Nigeria being 10-15 years behind.

The idea that each developing country has a unique set of problems is completely false. Nigeria has loads to learn from the Indian example - far more from India (and other SE Asian countries) than from the West.

Atala Wala Wala 5:07 pm  

"The idea that each developing country has a unique set of problems is completely false."


I'm afraid that I don't agree with this statement.

It's true that India and Nigeria are similar in some respects - they are large developing nations with a mixture of many ethnic and religious groups. So there are some general lessons that can be learnt about how India has gone about handling ethnic and religious tensions in its history.

But the cultures of these groups are very different - so the problem of how to implement specific political and economic reform programmes in such a way that it will be accepted by these groups will be different. An implementation program that might be acceptable to a Kashmiri or a Gujarati person might not necessarily be acceptable to a Kanuri or an Ishan person.

Anonymous,  5:54 pm  

I agree with atala wala wala (by the way does your "title" mean anything?)

I read the account of the ZTE closure with disbelief, even for Nigeria and wondered whether the Minister colluded to have that set up arranged, because he should ahve followed up and the situation and demanded regular asessment/compliance and feedback. I remembered reading that news about ZTE with optimism. What a disaster!

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