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Dr. Tunde Lawal: Committed to the enhancement of animal health and nutrition

By Nnamdi Nwokolo
23 December 2016   |   4:02 am
We started the year 2016 on a very optimistic note because we thought there’s a government of change in place. We believed that all the seeming problems we had in 2015 would’ve been taken care of by the new budget....
 Dr. Tunde Lawal

Dr. Tunde Lawal

Turner Wright Limited started operations about seventeen years ago with several years of experience in handling veterinary pharmaceuticals and biologicals as well as providing technical support, supplying vaccines and veterinary medicines to livestock farmers in Nigeria and parts of West Africa. Dr. Tunde Lawal, the Managing Director of the firm is a passionate and seasoned professional who has been the repository of the expertise of Merial Group in Animal Health. He spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.

What are your expectations in the business environment in the coming year?
We started the year 2016 on a very optimistic note because we thought there’s a government of change in place. We believed that all the seeming problems we had in 2015 would’ve been taken care of by the new budget appropriation bill but unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case. I expect that whatever the government needs to do to impact on the economy, in terms of availability of Foreign exchange for business has to be done. I don’t know how they intend to do it as all I see is emphasis on infrastructural development which in itself can be good. But, infrastructure without trade and commerce cannot go too far.

All the talk about diversification of the economy cannot happen overnight. If agriculture must continue to retain its pride of place in the economy,the tempo has to be maintained. I don’t see us seeing any meaningful result in the next couple of years because being a marathon, before any visible result will be seen, it has to be in the next five to ten years. Of course,if they are emphasizing on infrastructure and manufacturing like they promised, then a new lease of life could be expected. But without any concrete effort to do that, things may not change. We are however hopeful that things will get better in the coming year.

What can government do differently to stimulate agricultural export?
Yes, they are talking but I don’t know if they are walking the talk. They are talking about encouraging more people to go into agriculture as well as reviving the moribund textile industry and investing heavily in Cash and Food Crop production etc. They are working on all of that but the measureable effect on the economy is yet to be seen. Agriculture is a long term subject but talking specifically about animal agriculture, I can confidently say that the poultry industry is growing as we are ranked number three in Africa and considering our population, we should actually be number one in poultry production in the continent. If the trend of investment continues with the relative peace currently being enjoyed in the North East, there’s some hope, but I don’t see it coming in the next year. Ordinarily, one would expect that with the emphasis on agriculture and solid minerals plus whatever we continue to get from the petroleum industry, bouncing back will not be a problem for us especially if the widespread corruption is considerably contained.

You said we are ranked number three in Africa, how come we depend on foreign poultry products for our needs?
I’ll tell you that a lot has changed radically and it’s important that you understand that there’s a ban on importation of frozen chicken and for a very long time it was a tongue in cheek kind of policy. But at the twilight of Jonathan’s administration and the present administration, a lot of frustrations have been met by the smugglers and importers of frozen chicken. Nigeria has increased its production of broilers and it has discouraged smugglers from importing the products into the country. If not for the current recession that has led to the reduction of the disposable income of the average Nigerian family, I’ll tell you that we have made significant progress in poultry production in the country.

Innovative products in the coming year for Turner Wright Limited:
In the coming year, life will be easier for the poultry farmer in Nigeria as Turner Wright Limited will be introducing into the market, effervescent tablet vaccines. This tablet vaccine will be dissolved in water and used to vaccinate chicken. It saves time, it’s less tedious to prepare and the amount of waste generated will be reduced. With the ease of disposal of used packs, everything will be improved and we are bringing this tablet vaccine for diseases of economic importance in poultry.

With our collaboration with Merial Group (Merial SAS and Coophavet, France), and Trouw Nutrition/ Selko (Netherlands) as well as our local manufacturing endeavours, Turner Wright Limited is in the vanguard of the improvement of livestock health and nutrition by supplying veterinary medicine and vaccines of proven quality into the market in the West African sub region.We are also collaborating with a number of international Non-Governmental Organisations whose aim is to assist and empower rural livestock farmers. Their template is designed in such a manner that we must engage people in the areas who will mobilize rural folks to embrace animal husbandry as an economic activity. We are designing training manuals and training people at the rural level to take up this challenge.

On the possibility of sourcing raw materials locally:
The reason why the Asian tigers are doing very well is because they started quite early and they are not giving up. We used to be in the same league with India in the Commonwealth of Nations, as we gained independence almost at the same period, but their tenacity of purpose has seen them leaving us several miles behind. India has a viable steel industry and we don’t have, so they’re able to produce all sorts of equipment locally. Most of the raw materials we use in the pharmaceutical industry are petrochemicals, so we need to develop our petrochemical industry to be able to make any meaningful progress. If we do that, a lot things we are currently importing will be sourced locally and if we develop Ajaokuta steel, we’ll be able to fabricate one or two machines here and life will be generally easier for all.

Principles that helped you overcome the daunting challenges:
God is first and foremost. Without the grace of God, we wouldn’t have been where we are as some of the challenges are so daunting that sometimes I sit down and wonder how we were able to weather the storm. Having said that, we enjoy a lot of staff dedication, loyalty and resourcefulness in this organisation and we have what I’d like to call a defining essence which has really helped our growth. By the grace of God, I have a lot of good people around me including my human resource and my network. We equally enjoy a lot of credibility both in and out of the country and all these really helped us build Turner Wright to the enviable position it occupies in the industry.The moment you define what you want to achieve and remain focused to a particular goal, success is guaranteed.

In five years:
I am confident that Nigeria shall not go under and if Nigeria does not go under, Turner Wright Limited will not go under. In the next five years, I am very confident that we will be twice as big as we are today because all the positive pointers are there for all to see. With a population of over 180 million people in Nigeria that must feed, and consume animal protein, our growth will be phenomenal and I see us outgrowing where we are now, moving into a new corporate headquarters with enhanced capacity for manufacturing as well as moving to other aspects of animal agriculture. We are hopeful of a remarkable growth.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I work very hard and I play hard as well. I try to maintain a healthy balance as I belong to a number of recreational clubs in the country. But recently, for security considerations, I restrict my social networking activities around my office and home. I try to exercise regularly to keep body and soul together.