By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
It is cheering once again for Abians to hear that their darling breweries ,Golden Guinea, is bouncing back to life. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the projection is that in few days ahead, the brands from the stable of the breweries: Golden Guinea beer, Malt, Eagle Stout or Bergedoff Beer will grace beer parlours and other drinking joints across the state and beyond.
This feat marks Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu out as a man of his words. Part of his campaign promises was that “with the extent of work already done at the industrial facility, he expected Abians to drink Golden Guinea beer before May 29, 2019”.
Unarguably, the governor has demonstrated strong resolve to fix ailing industries or those that have gone under in state. It will be recalled that when Gov. Ikpeazu met with the Umuahia Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers early in this administration, he said that his administration has already taken an inventory of ailing industries in the state with a view to revive them.
While the governor described as unfortunate the fact that some Resident Engineers of industries just sit back and watch obsolete equipment being ordered into such firms, he explained that this has been the bane of moribund industries in the country, including the Ajaokuta Steel Industry and the Modern Ceramics, Umuahia.
Reviving Golden Guinea attracts numerous benefits. The new production line of the breweries would be doubled when productions resume in few swing. This is a far cry from the old production line which capacity was 24,000. The capacity of the breweries has been doubled both in production and equipment. Its equipment is of the latest technology in Nigeria and doubles the capacity of both Ama Breweries in Enugu and SAB Miller in Onitsha.
At the peak of its operations before it closed shop over a decade ago, the firm had about 5000 workers in its employ and when it commences operations this time around, the staff strength is expected to double.
The management of the breweries had given strong assurances of sourcing bulk percentage of the staff locally. With this, the unemployment situation in Abia will soon witness a turn around. When the breweries comes on stream everything will be affected from the distribution networks to support services and the ancillary services of the food vendors,plumbers, among others.
Golden Guinea, established by the Premier of the defunct Eastern Region,Dr. Michael Okpara was shut down in 2003 following fire outbreak that engulfed during the administration of Orji Uzor Kalu. Efforts were on top gear to revive the facility during the administration of the immediate past governor now Senator representing Abia Central, Sen. Theodore Orji.
The former governor gave strong promises of reviving the breweries and the administration set up a committee after it was discovered that the company which was earlier said to have been sold to a private company was not actually sold to anybody. The committee was saddled with responsibility of finding a lasting solution to the problems of the company.
According to Orji,‘’ What happened was that when the company had financial problem, it was bailed out by the people now occupying the place because the management of the brewery was unable to repay the loan, warranting the new management to take over the place although they could not move the company forward”.
Golden Guinea was engaged in the brewing,bottling and marketing of Golden Guinea lager beer and Eagle Stout, as well as producing and marketing Bergedorf premium Lager beer and Bergedorf Malta under a franchise from Holsten Brauerei AG of Hamburg.
On this note, as Abians are waiting earnestly for the various brands of Golden Guinea to hit their beer parlours and drinking joints soon, there is a passionate appeal to our dynamic governor. Just like the Chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Umuahia Branch, Victor Ihediwa decried the dwindling fortunes of modern ceramics industries and the Golden Guinea Breweries and appealed for a radical turnaround of the outfits to beef up revenue earnings of the state and create employment opportunities for the youths, we are also appealing that actions be expedite on the revival of Modern Ceramics.
The factory was distressed during the civil war, reactivated in 1972 but collapsed and shut down in 1996 due to the problems of obsolete technology, vandalisation and destruction of the major components of the production lines during the successive military era.
The firm was handed over by the Abia State government to UCLResources and Investments Ltd (UCL), Umuahia on 9 May 2003 and was called UCL-Modern Ceramics Industries Ltd (UCL-MOCERAM).
Under that arrangement, UCL owns 80%, Abia State government 5%, with the remaining 15% reserved for undisclosed investors.It was then projected that the firm, when fully operational, will employ about 1,000 people directly while providing thousands of jobs indirectly.
While we hail the people’s governor for going this far, we will always ask for more like Oliver Twist did.