Fibre-Glass Technician Shekarau Challenges Minister

Fibre-Glass Technician Shekarau Challenges Minister

Several decades before the birth of Christ, Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and forced the people of Israel into exile in Babylon. He selected a number of able-bodied Jewish young men to serve in his court; they were Daniel, Shedrach, Meshach and Abednego, who kept God’s commandment and distinguished themselves from the other young men of the court. They proposed to the eunuch in charge of their grooming to give them ten days to feed on vegetables and water rather than wine and meat, after which he can compare their health to that of the others.
Their request was granted at great risk. At the end of the required time, their health was better than the others, so they were given free rein to feast on the food of their choice Similarly, Naffy Shekarau, Fibre-glass and fibre products (car bumpers, garden and school chairs) manufacturer has propositioned the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu to invest in her company for a period of one year.,
By turning her land into a vocational school that will assimilate federal government approved trainees for the duration of that year, she will train youths and build an industry that will export fibre-glass products across West Africa. Shekarau has been involved in fibre-glass manufacturing for 27 years.
Credit to her skills is visible in the number of successfully trained apprentices who operate in different parts of the country; in Nnewi, Kaduna, Port-Harcourt and Plateau State. She is the only fibre-glass technician in Jos, and all other 15 dealers of the product in Jos are directly linked to her.
As a young girl, Shekerau played with the boys. She snubbed the jobs and role reserved for women in the society and preferred more challenging activities. Unwillingly to acquire catering or hotel management skills like most young ladies at the time; Shekerau secured a scholarship to study in the UK to become a broadcaster. Her dream was cut short when upon arrival to the UK, her certificate proved inadequate to get her into a broadcasting college. Moreover, the three year period covered by the scholarship could not be extended to cover another certificate before attending a broadcast college. She finally settled for a beauty course. However, a chance meeting with a secretary at the beauty school during registration and a trip to a fibre-glass college laboratory sealed her fate.
She recalled admiring the chairs at the secretary’s office. “I stood, felt and turned the chairs about. I knew they weren’t made of rubber or metal, but I loved the look and feel of the chairs. I asked the secretary what they were made of and she said, ‘Fibre-glass. Don’t you know what that is?’ I shook my head.
She asked where I came from and I replied, ‘Nigeria’. Anyway, we became friends and she promised to take me to see where they were made. I was all set to begin my beauty course when she called and took me down to a college laboratory, where I saw women dressed in overalls and manning different stages of fibre-glass production. That was it.”
Although widowed, Shekarau puts her sons through school with her business, and taught them her skills too.
Her dreams to impact multiple lives are yet to be fulfilled owing to disappointments, communal clashes and capital.
After seven years of her education in the UK, she returned to work at the incubation Centre of the first Federal Ministry of Science of Technology in Kano in 1998.
She had to relocate a year later to Plateau State, owing to religious clashes.
Partnering with the Plateau State Chamber of Commerce, she featured at annual trade fairs. Further plans with the government and the chamber to industrialize fibre-glass making was affected by see-sawing policies.
Shekarau admits she has been unable to draw willing investors, owing to the capital-intensive nature of the business.
Fibre-glass production is a good business that can
Yield lots of profit,” she explains. “However, many people are unfamiliar with the product and its durability.”
Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Ibadan are rich in fibre resources. Shekarau’s research also uncovered local resources that aide in fibre production, which she says are cheaper and of higher quality than the imported fibre.
From all indications, she isn’t sorry for the path she chose to walk despite her unfulfilled dreams. “I have helped youths who are doing well today,” she informed. “If not doing so well, they do not starve.”
She is absolutely positive that with investors’ capital from the government in particular, she will build a West African fibre exporting company.
Not a bad innovation for a country whose mono-economy has crippled the GDP and flung average Nigerians into hunger and poverty.

Rev. Sister Lillian Chibiko Combining Industry And The Frock

Rev. Sister Lillian Chibiko Combining Industry And The Frock

By Offiong Ita
There is more to Reverend Sister Lillian Chibiko than meets the eye and in a chat with SI Magazine, she opened up on why she opted to venture into exploring the possibilities in solar power generation and biogas, Hardly does anyone today remember if there was ever a time when there was constant power supply in this country, but with the turn of the century came the call on the Federal Government by many to, as a matter of urgency, look inward to end the incessant power outages, which have, without question, crippled the nation’s industrial sector. But then, though the gas turbines have refused to work, the sun will never refuse to shine. Dependence on solar power by most of the modern world has shown that we can tap into it as well, just by getting the unbridled sunshine of tropical Africa to work for us. Why this source of energy, available to us all year round, has been left untapped could be due to the factor we wail about and blame for everything – corruption.
Rev. Sis Chibiko is a woman who moved to back up her words with action and today; she is into fabricating solar panels locally. How did she get here? “While I was in a convent in Uganda, one of my colleagues, a Ugandan, saw an opportunity
Where we could learn the production of solar panels and utilise biogas. I was interested and she got me involved. “In no time, we mastered the art. When I was ready to return home, I decided to teach the people more than the Word [of God]; I decided to teach them how to make solar panels. “On my return, I sent some youths to Uganda to learn the production, marketing and installation of solar panels. When they got back, we got into partnership with the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic in Afikpo, Ebonyi State and in no time, the art of making these panels became a part of the school’s curriculum. We got a Centre in the school’s Entrepreneurship Faculty, equipped it with our tools and started production. We teach production, marketing and installation of solar panels, utilization of biogas and also, water heaters.”
Many may consider it a man’s profession, but Sister Chibiko gets a kick out of her second love. “There is no specific job for any sex or class of people. During our last admission exercise, two ladies opted for solar panel production, because they saw me as an inspiration. They said, ‘If a Reverend Sister can do it, then we can.”
It does not even remotely mean that things have been all rosy, at least, not where financing, there is no specific job for any sex or class of people. During our last admission exercise, two ladies opted for solar panel production, because they saw me as an inspiration, project has been concerned. “The solar cell we used to buy with less than $3 is now $6.
To build the capacity of the smallest generating set, you need about 36 cells, which is $6 by 36. How many families can afford that? We are hoping for the naira dollar exchange rate to stabilize, so that we can build the capacity of the smallest generating set and help small households’ boast of a basic need.” Despite the challenges, Sister Chibiko is doing all she can to see that her business model is
There is no specific job for any sex or class of people. During our last admission exercise, two ladies opted for solar panel production, because they saw me as an inspiration
Commercialized. “Plans are underway to set up a factory, but I need partners, seeing as I don’t have the financial muscle to run it alone.
If I get people to join me, we can set up a big factory where we will train and produce [the panels] for commercial purposes.”

Hanging Out With Joyce Aremu – The ‘Motor Doctor’

Hanging Out With Joyce Aremu – The ‘Motor Doctor’

I was expecting to see a hulking and less beautiful lady, the day I met Joyce Longtang Aremu. That is the stereotypical image of mechanics, much more a female mechanic. But reality proved the opposite. She was feminine, soft-spoken and had good looks.

She gracefully walked into the auto-mechanics shop obviously prepared for the day’s job, wearing a beautiful smile. Then she approached two waiting female customers, whom she had few words with before sitting behind her computer system. After tapping few buttons, she turned to me and said, “I’m ready.”

“How did you get into cars?” I asked. Joyce’s father, a retired police officer owned a car. When he wasn’t on duty, he fiddled with the car. Joyce always sat upfront with him, so her father drilled into her what each part of the car did, and how it worked.

When Joyce got into the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, she opted for mechanical engineering, within the vast field, she focused on auto mechanics. She worked at Daneland Automobile Company from 2011 to 2012, during her National Youth Service. Joyce never worked a full time employment with any company, because a year after, she applied and won a YouWin grant to start up her own company AutoLady Synergy Company Limited.

“Starting up a new business, is not easy,” Joy confessed. “Nevertheless, you mustn’t wait for the full capital to start your business.”

When Joyce received her first instalment of the grant – N1.4m – she kept that aside, and waited for the second one – N5.8m. With that, she rented a space behind NIPCO Petrol Station, Garki-Abuja, and got other requisites for the business.

“To purchase a land in Abuja is hellish,” she stated. “We pay N2.5m annually for this space.”

When asked if the company recoups that amount at the year end, her smile said it. The company after expenses and settlements makes about N3m. Since its inception last year, she has 11 staff members –10 males and one female.

Being a new business outfit, she had to put in her all, working from 9am to 9pm each day. She sees little of her two children during the week, except on Sundays.

The shrewd entrepreneur explained she’s never had problems with her male staff members, though they occasionally do things their way.

As her popularity grows, space to park cars for repairs has become an issue. She had to park some of them in her home. “Some customers prefer to leave their cars behind, until the parts arrive and they are fixed,” she said. “This could take a while, sometimes. We (her company and its partner – Auto Medics (AM)) contracted with NIPCO on the space we use. When we go beyond that space to take more, we pay for the additional space.”

With an annual profit scale of N3m for a new business, it speaks volume of what the future holds for her. Little wonder when asked about her strategies to success she answered, “Knowing your business.”

To her, it’s important that entrepreneurs know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of their businesses. That way, they won’t get cheated by their employees. “I know the price of every single motor parts, brand new ones and the fairly used ones.

“If my staff members override my diagnosis, and such action affects customers’ cars, the cost of repairs is deducted from their salaries.” That takes care of her second rule – Be firm with your staff.

Joyce believes that customers are always right. Therefore, when they forward their complaints, she conducts her computerised motor diagnosis, then attends to the repairs tabled by customers, first. Afterwards, she presents the physical and computerised diagnosis to her clients. “This saves our reputation such that when the diagnosed repairs pops-up, the client has been forewarned.”

Her business has proven that working with partners is smarter and cost effective, especially when starting new. Her arrangement with Auto Medics ensured a working space. At the end of the year, after expenses and percentage cuts for AM, she makes good profit.

Joyce invests her profit into her business. Her profit in addition to the N2.8m third instalment of the grant has helped her open a new branch in Kubwa, sustaining the relationship with NIPCO still.

Joyce is a fulfilled woman, doing what she loves. No wonder her father believes she is ‘a superstar.’

Lucia Joe reports for SI Magazine

A Chat With Maryjane Nwabuokei (Mama G), The Taxi Driver

A Chat With Maryjane Nwabuokei (Mama G), The Taxi Driver

Taxi-driving in the city of Abuja can be a strenuous and unsafe job; one most men would not consider taking up. But to see a woman do it; that’s something special. S.I spoke to Mrs Mary-Jane ‘Mama G’ Nwabuokei.

Good-looking and soft-spoken Nwabuokei is a graduate of marketing from the Federal Polytechnic Auchi, Edo State and a native of Aniocha South local government area of Delta State.

She made a job out of taxi-driving because of her love for driving.

“For me, in the beginning, driving was fun, but when situations turned around, I didn’t think twice about taking it up as a job, because I already knew my itinerary.

“Starting was not so easy for me, because I worked with an insurance company before I decided to do this [driving]. My boss and friends tried to discourage me, because of the nature of the job, but my mind was made up.”

It was tough on the streets and, at some point, it got to her.

“Male taxi drivers, passengers, agberos, law enforcement agents, everyone tried to intimidate me. I would cry when harassed and bad-mouthed by any of them, but not anymore. It’s been two years since then and I think that was my grooming. I am now used to all those things.”

Many would have taken off when confronted by the stark realities of the job, but not Nwabuokei.

“What kept me going then was the cash I was making from the job because I had and still have goals to achieve. Apart from the income I make, I have fun doing the job. There are no dull moments and this is how I get busy and keep my mind off negative thoughts,” she said, airily.

However, Nwabuokei, who is a mother of three – two boys (aged 17 and 15), and a girl, 9 – and in her early 40s, was quick to concede that juggling the roles of a commercial driver and that of a mother can be challenging. Her balance code: she considers it the normal, nine-to-five job.

“I go to work early and close early too. Work is from Monday to Friday, but the weekends are for the family. Also, l go on holidays when the civil servants are on holidays and resume when they resume,” said, pointing out that it is the best way to appreciate a supportive, understanding family.

“I am so lucky to have them,” she gushed.

What about gender issues?

Nwabuokei soldiers on, as long as it is a means of livelihood.

“I no dey look Uche face o. The only challenge I have in this business is that, sometimes, some people doubt me and won’t enter my car, especially the female folk, because of insecurity issues. Some are so scared, because they think women do not drive well,” she said, almost bursting into laughter.

Man’s success is not defined only by the nature of job he does, but how committed and true he is to it. Nwabuokei concedes that tax-driving in the city is profitable –she should know, because she has constructed her own house within two years – but was quick to point out that she has no plans for the job, not thanks to its poorly organized union.

“If it were in an organised society, I would make the job a big one because it is very lucrative. See what I have done in two years in this situation. Imagine what I would do if things were a bit more organised. That’s how profitable the job can be,” she said.

She has a message for the women folk, too. In her opinion, every woman, irrespective of her age, needs to wake up, stop waiting for where her certificate can take her.

“Every woman must have a sabificate, something you have passion for. Think of how to turn that passion to income and be fast about it, because time waits for no man. No woman should be a liability to any man. Once you can believe in yourself, not being bitter about what people say, you will meet up,” she added with some finally and sternness in her voice.

Nwabuokei’s main route is the Area 1-Wuse route. She can be seen going about her business by the traffic light by Zenith Bank or Green Plate Restaurant, all in Wuse Market.