Okitipupa oil palm firm bounces back, begins production
After six years of disruptive recess, occasioned by the interference of misgovernance, the Okitipupa Oil Palm Company (OOPC) Plc, Ondo State, has finally bounced back into active operation and effective production.
This new lease of life followed withdrawal of government intervention and control under the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu-led administration, which pledged to give the firm liberty to operate, in order to key into the administration’s employment generation policy.
To demonstrate his commitment to this pledge, Akeredolu assured the Chairman, Board of Directors, Chief Mobolaji Osomo that he would not nominate politicians to represent government on the board, but a technocrat.
The governor followed his words with action and appointed agric experts and trio of Akinboye Oyewunmi, Kayode Aroloye and Jones into the board. The board also has Oyewunmi as its Vice Chairman.
Aside Osomo, her son, Wale, a lawyer and former Chairman, Ikeja Country Club, Lagos, the three experts representing the state are foremost lawyer and politician, Senator Ndoma Egba and Henry Oladunjoye, National President Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria, also brought into the new board, as part of conscious strategy to inject credible pan-Nigerians with proven business and industry experience into the decision making process of the revitalised oil palm firm.
Egba who is also the current Chairman of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), is representing general public interest on the OOPC board.
To further prove its determination to bring back the glory and fortunes of OOPC, the board also brought the renowned company reviving and financial engineer, Alhaji Lateef Bakare, whose singular effort brought back Trophy Beer to life, as a member of the board. He is representing Easterpot Farms.
The Mimiko administration forcefully took over the management of the firm by sacking the duly constituted board, despite that government has a minority 29 per cent share in the firm, as against Easterpot Farm’s 35 per cent majority and controlling share.
For six years, the firm’s two mills at Okitipupa and Ipoke packed up due to neglect by the quack management team foisted on the company. The team turned the firm to mere palm fruits sellers, harvesting and selling the bunches to local processors in the bush.
All the 10 plantations, with about 1.3 million palm trees, which used to feed the mills were utterly abandoned; no slashing of the bushes, nor pruning of the palm trees.
The lead consultant, Mr. Taiwo Adewole who is driving new efforts to resuscitate and reposition the firm recalled his sordid experience on arrival at the company last April. “I must confess that I am really saddened by the level of decay I saw on ground here. The level of degeneration of the assets-both physical and biological is so much that we can’t but weep for this company and by the time we started looking at the business documents of the company, as it relates to various management in the past. It was clear to me that the company had never had a focused management; they were building for today, rather than building for tomorrow. Everything driving their decisions and motivations were geared towards enriching themselves rather than investing in the company.
“About 90 per cent of the company’s investment and biological asset which is palm fruits did not even get to the company and the company had just been barely surviving on 10 per cent and even that 10 per cent did not get to the bank, it was not properly accounted for. The unbelievable truth is that the company was run for over six years without having even a single bank account. They were not putting any money in the bank, it was that bad.”
Adewole, who is of the view that interference by past governments contributed to the failure of the company, is however, full of praises for Akeredolu. “Though a politician but he has refused to take political decisions on the company, he is guided purely by economic and business well being of the company and the people of the state.
“Currently, we are doing massive rehabilitation work on our plantations, because that is where our primary products comes from. So, what we have done is to devise a strategy of slashing and stumping the plantations, removing the trees and bushes and several contractors are working across the plantations. The exercise is going to cost us over N200 million to execute based on the contract that we are pushing out and that will come from our resources, we are not going to borrow money, we have the capacity to generate those funds. So, we have put that strategy in place.”
One other important area where the company has recorded a stunning and tremendous achievement in the last three months is in the area of confidence and trust building among its numerous customers, bankers and host communities. “What we have done is to collectively looked at all our creditors, renegotiating with them and establishing a structured credible payment plan for them, surprisingly, there were so many depositors for products that were not given products many years after such deposits were made and that created a credibility problem for the company.”