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FORGOTTEN BRIDES: Companies That Colonialisation Built In Nigeria

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
20 December 2015   |   2:14 am
FRIDAY afternoon. A host of people streamed in as the gate to the massive Nigeria Railway compound was opened. Hundreds of people pass through the different gates and footpaths of the massive staff quarters on a daily basis.


• How They Came, Survived
• What Made Them Strong
• Why Nigerian Companies Don’t Outlive Their Owners

FRIDAY afternoon. A host of people streamed in as the gate to the massive Nigeria Railway compound was opened. Hundreds of people pass through the different gates and footpaths of the massive staff quarters on a daily basis.

As he walked the small gate leading to Alagomeji, Onyemaechi Eyeh wore expressions of irritation and anger. The University of Calabar-trained political scientist knew what the place was when he was growing up: the well-mown lawn, the golf course, the tarred road wearing bitumen smiles and houses covered with trees.

“Each time I passed by Railway Compound, I feel pains. I grew up in Ebute Metta, so, I know what it was then, when Indians and a couple of whitemen were living here,” he said.

Once a proud and bustling staff quarters, the place has been reduced to pock marked carcass of economic dislocation, with new occupants ‘dishonouring’ the memory of the place with incongruent buildings sprouting left and right.

During colonial days, British and other foreign legionnaires dominated the economy. Then, European capital and goods moved freely across the borders of the country. The Nigerian Railway Corporation was a major player. But today, like very many establishment that colonisation built, including the Post and Telecommunication, has become a forgotten bride, who, after marriage, is consigned to the boys quarters.

The weather was hot, but not scorching when The Guardian visited Lokoja. The winds were soulful in their rhythms, settling in the air, seductively. Everybody went about his or her business, seriously. Kamikaze drivers or motorbike riders were unusually disciplined: going about their day’s activities gently, without unnecessary hooting of horns, overtaking or being involved in neck-breaking speed.

At the bank of Niger River, on Beach Road, there is a thriving local market called Pata. Across the road, a row of buildings with pale colour is visible. The buildings are abandoned warehouses of colonial merchants, the Royal Niger Company, where products from the hinterland were kept before onward movement to Britain.

Amid the wind-stirred coolness of Niger, a careful observer could glean the caking of the warehouses. Though, economic activities are still going on in these warehouses, they, exemplify vestiges of deserted heritage.

A petty trader, Evelyn, who spoke with The Guardian, said, “at a time, the warehouses were abandoned, but now, they have been rehabilitated. You can see that people are trading here. Whenever it is time for our nine day market, you will notice how this place will come alive.”

The annexation of Lagos by colonial resource hunters presented opportunity for foreign merchants to invest in retail and merchandise outlets for their imports. However, the traditional open market system and fairs, like those in Mexico, proved to be a major competitor for the shops.

Therefore, a type of modern shop that later emerged was the departmental store — a large shop with sales upwards of £100,000. The first of such venture in Nigeria was Kingsway Stores, established in 1948. It was incorporated with an equity capital of about £4m.

Owned by the United African Company (UAC), Kingsway was one of the largest departmental stores in the country during its time. The store brought in a mixture of general consumer goods and fabrics that were mostly common to western consumers. The company also created coffee outlet, which evolved into quick service restaurants ala McDonalds.

In 1973, this coffee outlet was rebranded Kingsway Rendezvous. However, as a result of economic downturn of the 1980s, Kingsway stores wound up, but the Kingsway Rendezvous was retained and renamed Mr. Bigg’s.

FROM commercial activities, many of these British firms grew into manufacturing concern, and became the major industrial entities. The companies that colonisation built still remain indispensable in the economy, dominating some of commercial endeavours. Though, their share of the country’s economy has fallen, they remain economic super powers, whose capacity to influence the economy is very high. The companies were so attractive that a lot of Nigerian graduates were recruited as management trainees.

Some of the firms include, United African Company (UAC), United Trading Company (UTC), Standard Bank (First Bank), Barclays Bank (Union Bank), Lever Brothers (Unilever Plc), Patterson and Zochonis (PZ), Beecham, John Holts, CFAO and Leventis.

UAC headquarters in Lagos

UAC headquarters in Lagos

The long-term success of these companies stem from the colonial authorities’ approach to the ‘management’ of Nigeria’s economy. Colonisation, the locomotives to which many of them hinged, was guided by two motives: provision of basic infrastructure and services required to enhance the sourcing and shipment of raw materials to Britain, and stimulation of demand for British manufactured goods in the country.

Because the dominant motives of colonialism were the search for cheap raw materials and expansion of markets for products made in Europe, agriculture and trade dominated the economy. All of this made the trajectory of these companies ever more exceptional.

For decades, the dependence on agriculture as mainstay of the economy legitimised their claims to reign supreme. The principal commodities were palm oil and palm kernels, which were used in Europe to make soap and as lubricants for machinery. The authorities equally stimulated production of cocoa, cotton, groundnut and rubber. Perhaps, the most significant and conscious encouragement from the colonial administration was in the area of research.

John Holt Plc. was an important participant in many areas of the economy during the colonial era. The company built up an extensive produce trade, in which palm oil; palm kernels, rubber and cocoa were exported from Nigeria to England. Imports included, textiles from Lancashire and bicycles from Birmingham.

The Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) was equally involved in trading activities, receiving supplies from companies of different countries and establishing purchase locations for products to sell in Africa throughout Europe, for example in England, where it focused operations in Manchester.

In particular, government left production of food crops in the hands of peasant households, who, generally, worked on small plots of land, with low inefficient technologies. Thus, the emphasis on cash crops production created conditions for food insecurity, which the country later experienced. In fact, many research institutes in Nigeria today started at that time. They include, lbadan (Moor Plantation); Benin (Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research); Umudike (National Root Crops Research Institute); Badegi (National Cereals, then Rice Research Station); Vom (National Veterinary Research Institute) and Kaduna (Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research).

The economic interest of the colonialists also led them to avoid promotion of industrial activities, particularly, manufacturing, in order to protect the market for the products from their home country.

Though, British soap and cosmetics manufacturers tried to obtain land concessions for growing oil palms, these were refused. Instead, the companies had to be content with a monopoly of the export trade in these products. Thus, the private sector was entrusted with the task of establishing and running directly productive activities (DPAs), while government concentrated on provision of physical and social infrastructure.

Before 1954, the Nigerian economy was mainly agrarian, both in production for domestic consumption and export. Industrialisation in Nigeria was anchored on making Nigeria producer of primary raw materials for British industries and importer of British manufactured goods.

However, from 1954 to 1960, the Nigerian government pursued the programme of processing of raw materials for export and Import Substitution Industries (ISIs). In fact, with the 1955-60 Plan, there was a significant modification of the colonial government’s approach to development. The authorities began to participate directly in productive activities by setting up and running industrial and agricultural enterprises.

The governments (Federal and Regional) then, specifically, encouraged investments in industrial production. Fresh campaigns were mounted for European industrialists to invest in Nigeria, and there were a number of generous incentives to attract them such as the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Ordinance (1958).

The ISIs programme pursued by the Nigerian government was aimed at alleviating very specific problems within the country such as, the need to produce certain commodities at home. The establishment of few industries in urban centres characterised this programme of industrialisation.

In theory, it was a good effort, but in practice, it was just difficult to attract investors, as the ISIs and export processing programmes did not generate employment opportunities proportionally to the number of accumulated power.

Therefore, the first task indigenous administration — at the centre and in the regions — set for itself before attaining political independence was the transformation of the country into a modern economy.

Buoyed by trade growth, capital inflow and the emergence of new middle class, it was easy for these companies to transform into behemoths in the 60s and 70s.

Why They Thrived
DR. Akeem Ayofe Akinwale of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos, said, these companies promoted initiatives that built business confidence, positive attitude, pride in success, support and encouragement of new ideas, social responsibility, providing technological supports, encouraging inter-firm linkages and promotion of research and development.

Akinwale revealed, “the companies have subsidiaries in different countries of the world where they sell their product and services. They produce in large quantities send them to other countries, and this increases their profit and capital to run the firms. They have better products at cheaper prices. The multinationals also have access to global capital, loan from the World Bank, international finance institutions and so on.”

An economist, Bayo Adedokun, of the University of Lagos, noted, “most of these companies demonstrate better understanding of perspective planning in market research, product engineering and consumer preference, they produce goods that meet the needs of the society where they operate, this is in contrast with the local manufacturers, who are motivated by rent seeking rather than producing goods and services that serve the needs of the society.”

Another economist, Dr. Emmanuel Balogun, a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, retorted, “these companies succeeded at that time, because Nigeria was seen as a large market, where per capital income was growing, and therefore, every new product in the international market was first tried here.”

The academic said, “most of the companies were trading concern. They were not into manufacturing, it was the Act of 1972 that encouraged them to site their plants here.”

Between the late 19th century and mid 20th century, the companies had a lot going for them, however, a fault line opened between their economic clout and commercial muscle in the 70s. Everything changed and their influences began to wane. The high point was the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Act of 1972 and 1977, which reordered the economy’s architecture that caused some of them to sell off their shares and leave the country. The ones that remained depended on their parent company for survival. The nationalisation of British assets such as, British Petroleum (BP), Standard Bank or Bank of British West Africa (First Bank) and Barclays Bank (Union Bank) also compounded the fortune of some of these companies.

Most companies that were leading our industrial /manufacturing emancipation before the indigenisation policy of 1972 may no more be popular in Nigeria, but they still remain multinational corporation existing and operating profitably in many countries of the world.

A.G. Leventis headquarters in Iddo, Lagos

A.G. Leventis headquarters in Iddo, Lagos

The Rise Of Nigerian CEOs
THE 1972 Act, which required that foreign interests in companies operating in Nigeria be of a minority nature, that is, 40 per cent of share capital, and an additional 20 per cent of share capital was publicly offered following the provisions of the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Act (1977), thus, increasing Nigerians equity participation to 60 per cent in the companies. This act threw open the economy for more private investment and indigenous undertakings, which tackled private monopolies.

The two acts were the soundtracks to a meltdown in European domination of the boardrooms. The acts aided the rise of the Nigerian chief executives.

The era of Nigerian CEOs lasted for less than two decades, as many of the companies began to face challenge and crises that made them fall back to their parent companies.

Looking at the scenario, the revered boardroom guru, Dr. Michael Omolayole, in a piece titled, Corporate Management: More Questions than Answers, recalled how during the early 70s, expatriate personnel managed conglomerates and multinationals in Nigeria, especially, at the top.

To him, “so helpful was the Act that where there was only one Nigerian CEO of a multinational company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1973, by 1980, the picture had changed. The country had four or five Nigerians, who were CEOs of multinational companies quoted on the Stock Exchange. By 1990, the country probably reached the highest number and quality in terms of progress made.”

Between 1990 and 2000, some large multinationals, somehow, did not seem to find it easy to sustain an indigenous management succession or decided outright to turn back the hand of the clock.

This veteran of the boardroom and corporate management wondered what had gone wrong. Did the majority owners of multinationals lose confidence in Nigerians? Were all Nigerian top managers non-performing or adjudged to lack integrity?”

Big Loss Of A Thriving
Corporate Tradition
HOWEVER, experts have insisted that Nigeria bungled the gains, which it would have made with the indigenisation act.

Balogun quipped, “the immediate outcome of that strategy is that it penalised Nigeria’s initiative and anything indigenous, that is why Nigeria, which used to be the second largest producers of cocoa, today, doesn’t have any cocoa product that is franchised, locally. Even in the goods produced, they see us as the suppliers of raw materials for the production, which they have franchise and we consume. They use all kinds of innovative marketing strategy to prevent local consumers from consuming indigenous products.”

To Balogun, what Nigeria did with the Act was to dilute the share capital base of these companies, and Nigerians were invited to be a part and parcel of it, so that, for most of the companies at that time, it was 60 per cent Nigerian and 40 per cent foreign. As time went on, it was reversed, with foreign nationals now allowed to have dominating shares in those companies.

Balogun explained that the Nigeria firms were unable to compete with the multi national firms, because they did not have the economy of large-scale production, like their foreign counterparts. “They take advantage of the environment that are not developed, where they can enjoy tax waivers. They first have agreement with government before even thinking of what they want to do or come into the country.”

Experts have argued that there are lots of abuses and number juggling and sharp practices in Nigerian companies, which make a lot of investors lose confidence in the management team. They point out that the average Nigerian executive considers funds of his or her company as bank set up to meet his or her personal expenses.

Cadbury Nigeria sacked its managing director, Mr. Bunmi Oni, and Mr. Ayo Akadiri, the company’s finance director, as a result of the financial book padding scandal and corruption that rocked the company.

The Board had commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to review and investigate the company’s financial statement. The outcome of the investigation “confirmed a deliberate overstatement of the company’s financial position over a number of years to the tune of between N13 and N15 billion.”

Lever Brothers Nigeria suffered a similar setback a few years earlier, when it suddenly removed the late Chief Rufus Giwa, after a review of its finances showed abuses and irreconcilable figures.

In the words of Dr. Bright Eregha, a lecturer in Department of Economics, University of Lagos, “Nigeria is synonymous with corruption and this starts from the mindset, that is, our value system. It is such that makes everyone look outside what is earned. Corruption affects us as Nigerians, because most people spend more than they earn. We tend to look at instant gratification, and whatever it will cost, does not matter, let it just be done.

For Eregha, 90 per cent of Nigerians are not ready to pay the price of integrity, but the truth is that if you wait for your turn and do what is right, when you get there, you will be more celebrated.

Christopher Kolade, Festus Ohiwerei, the late Gamaliel Onosode, Michael Omolayole and head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, are celebrated today, as men of integrity, because they upheld values and shunned avarice. If a man gets to that top and is still being found corrupt then he is a foolish person, which is based on the value system we have.

Eregha also said Nigerians are not good businessmen. The structure of these multinational companies is institutionalised. “The founders set up structures that with or without them, the business thrives; for us, we see business as a way of ensuring that our family members are brought in to take over even without being knowledgeable in the field.”

He added: “In the principle of micro economics, there is what is called short and long run of business, while the short run is where you have some variables fixed that cannot be expanded, the long run allows you to expand a business. The investors or promoters of the multinational companies plan for the future, while Nigerians have this labour mindset and so the man that is coming onboard wants to eat where he has not sown, even when he does not have entrepreneurship mindedness. He sees income as a source not a resource. A resource in the sense that he doesn’t see it as making money for the future, but to spend and to move out money from the system, which is the mindset of a labourer.”

For Adedokun, the first question to ask is, why have indigenized companies lost their relevance? “The answer is not far fetched, they can’t compete with avalanche of manufactured goods that flood the market with price advantage. For instance, imported toothpaste brand will sell faster and more in Nigeria than the local brand whose cost function is inflated by high cost of energy.”

Adedokun said, “we cannot compare the administrative acumen of the West with that of Africa. What sent them out of Nigeria is not the administrative prowess of our indigenous CEOs, but rather poor investment climate, massive corruption, inadequate energy, particularly, electricity, poor sanctity of contract, compromised judicial system, indiscriminate openness of the economy to trade, which make made in Nigeria products uncompetitive in the global market.”

Actually, the operating environment in Nigeria is such that many businesses are barely surviving: Borrowing is expensive, because of high interest rates, poor electricity supply, so, people have to buy generators, which need constant servicing, maintenance and fueling all of which don’t come cheap, traffic congestion on the roads, as well as multiple taxation that reduces profit margins.

The industrialist also faces corrupt practices of government officials. Domestic production suffers under these conditions.

Adedokun asked, “how sophisticated can we say of the Nigerian CEOs are when compared with some MNCs’ CEOs? What determines your level of sophistication is the value you add to the organisation. What level of productivity and ranking will our organisations be in global ranking? Firm’s sophistication depends primarily on the value of the firm, technology, innovation and relevance in providing solutions to existing problems in the society.”

FROM when UAC emerged in the country’s political landscape, the company has evolved through a series of mergers and acquisitions and restructurings. The merger of four companies trading up River Niger — Alexander Miller Brother & Company, Central African Trading Company Limited; West African Company Limited and James Pinnock — led to the formation of UAC in 1879.

Following the intense rivalry among European nations in the 1880s, the National African Company Limited was floated to take over the assets of UAC. In 1886, the British government issued the National African Company Limited charter after the Berlin Conference. In 1892, The Royal Niger Company brought in Captain Lugard (later to be known as Lord Lugard) to help protect its interest in Nigeria. Lord Lugard later became the first Governor-General of Nigeria.

The Royal Niger Company changed its name to Niger Company Limited in 1900 after the revocation of its charter in 1899 by the British Government for the sum of £865,000. Lever Brothers Limited bought the Niger Company Limited in 1919. And on March 3, 1929, UAC was formed by the joint agreements of The African & Eastern Trade Corporation and the Niger Company (Owned by Lever Brothers Limited).

In compliance with the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Act (1972), 40 per cent of its share capital was acquired in 1974, by Nigerian citizens and associations. An additional 20 per cent of UAC’s share capital was publicly offered in 1977, increasing Nigerians equity participation to 60 per cent.

The transformation of UAC from a trading company into a leading manufacturing concern, though started in the 1980s, was given serious impetus in 1990s, when the company exited from its trading businesses.

In early 2000, UAC further embarked on a series of business restructuring, with a thorough portfolio review and switch of focus to value-adding operations. This has led to an era of focused growth on the foods, real estate, logistics and automobile sectors.

THE foundation, on which Mandilas Group was built in the 1940s, was the provision for a wide range of internationally renowned products and services, used in all spheres of life.

The company later became synonymous with Volkswagen vehicles, which it introduced into the country in 1953, as the sole importer and distributor. Having popularised Volkswagen vehicles through the nationwide network of sales and service facilities of its Motors Division, Mandilas made a vital contribution to Nigeria’s industrialisation, by initiating the ‘Volkswagen of Nigeria’ assembly plant in Ojo, Lagos.

JOHN Holt Plc. was equally an important participant in many areas of the economy during the colonial era. The company traces its origins to 1862, when John Holt, 20 years old at the time, with £27 in his pocket, sailed from Liverpool to take up appointment as a shop assistant in a grocery store in Fernando Po (now Equatorial Guinea).

Five years later, he bought out his employer, and his brother, Jonathan, joined him. In 1868, Jonathan bought a schooner, which enabled the brothers to open more trading posts in West Africa. By 1874, the brothers opened an office in Liverpool, and in 1881, John entered the palm oil trade. In 1884, the brothers formed a partnership, John Holt and Company, to consolidate their business interests. Subsequently, John Holt entered into new partnerships, including a venture in Lagos, in 1887.

In 1897, the partnerships were absorbed into a new limited liability company, John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. The company built up an extensive produce trade, in which palm oil; palm kernels, rubber and cocoa were exported from Nigeria to England. Imports included, textiles from Lancashire and bicycles from Birmingham. A fleet of ships operated a fortnightly service from Liverpool to West Africa and the company also had its own fleet of river craft.

The company’s businesses in Nigeria now include, assembling and distribution of power generators, leasing, distribution of fire-fighting equipment, logistics, boat building and fabrication of industrial and agricultural equipment.

INCORPORATED in 1932 as a subsidiary of Union Trading Company (UTC), Basel, Switzerland, UTC, was one of the prominent trading companies during colonial era. Like Kingsway Stores, it had UTC Stores, where a wide range of products including, confectioneries and wrapped sausages were sold.

FRÉDÉRIC Bohn founded the Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) in 1887. It was created from the shipping company owned by his father in law, Charles-Auguste Verminck.

Initially, Bohn continued with business operations that were carried out by Verminck; trading in groundnut, leather, soap, rubber and other products.

CFAO expanded into Senegal, then into Sierra Leone to exploit its rich production of palm kernels and obtain oil. Its main rival at the time was another French company, the Société Commerciale de l’Ouest Africain (SCOA), founded in 1905, by dissident managers of CFAO.

However, the main goal soon became to compete for the market share of the powerful British colonial companies, taking advantage of the 1898 free trade agreement, which included, the Niger River and its basin. CFAO entered slowly in the Gulf of Guinea, gaining ground in Nigeria and Ghana and clashing with the English and Dutch operations.

The company followed an open strategy, receiving supplies from companies of different countries and establishing purchase locations for products to sell in Africa throughout Europe, for example in England, where it focused operations in Manchester.

THE history of A.G. Leventis (Nigeria) Plc started when Chief Anastasios G. Leventis formed a trading company known as A.G. Leventis & Company Limited in Ghana, in 1937, to originally engage in agricultural produce buying, and importation and sale of textile goods.

The company later expanded into properties and general trading, especially, the sales and service of motor vehicles.

The company, in fact, restructured later devolved into Leventis Motors Limited (established in 1958), Leventis Stores Limited (1965), Leventis Technical Limited (1972), whilst it retained ownership of valuable freehold and leasehold property throughout the country.

Through mergers and acquisition schemes, the afore-mentioned companies merged with A. G. Leventis (Nigeria) Plc. to become A.G. Leventis (AGL) Group.

The group is a leading manufacturing and distribution corporation in West Africa. It provides a variety of products and services, in power and gas products, consumer food pastry and bakery products, real estate, hotelling, auto sales and after sales services and stationery supplies.

MAY & Baker Nigeria Plc was founded on September 4, 1944 as Nigeria’s first pharmaceutical company. It has its origin in England, in 1834, when three chemists founded Grimwade, May & Pickett, a firm for manufacturing chemicals for pharmaceutical products.

In 1839, Grimwade, May & Pickett transformed into May & Baker United Kingdom Limited following some changes in the ownership. The new company transformed into a mega European conglomerate through a web of mergers and acquisitions.

In Nigeria, the company started in 1944 on Tinubu Street, Lagos, as a trading outpost to serve the West Coast.

The company relocated to its present site in Ikeja, Lagos State during the Nigerian civil war. In 1976, it built its factory in Ikeja to commence local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.  That same year, it changed from May & Baker (West Africa) Limited to May & Baker Nigeria Limited.

In 1979, May & Baker (United Kingdom) relinquished 60 per cent of its equity holding in May & Baker Nigeria to Nigerians, while retaining 40 per cent in compliance with the 1977 indigenisation decree.

RT Briscoe is one of the foremost companies in automobile in Nigeria. It was incorporated on March 9, 1957 as a private limited liability company.

The company started its business activities in Nigeria with the importation of building materials and some English trucks under an agency arrangement brokered by its parent company.

Briscoe has since 1957 under the trade name “Briscoe Motors”, been a dealer of Toyota vehicles in Nigeria. Briscoe became a dealer of Volvo cars in 1970 through a Concessionaire Agreement dated June 18 and July 9, 1970.

Briscoe’s shares were listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1974, as public limited liability company. In August 2002, EAC divested its shareholding in Briscoe to Nigerian investors.

Between 1970 and August 1992, Briscoe served as the exclusive dealer of Volvo vehicles in Nigeria with sales and service outlets in various parts of the country until both parties mutually terminated the agreement.

ANOTHER name that rings a bell is Chellarams, which started operations in 1923 and was incorporated on August 13, 1947 as a private limited liability company. It was admitted to the Nigerian Stock Exchange on November 29, 1974, but officially listed in 1978.

PATERSON Zochonis, PZ, is the largest and most diverse single market, operating in personal care, home care, food and nutrition and electrical products.

In 1884, George Paterson and George Zochonis set up a trading post in Sierra Leone, to move goods between West Africa and the UK. In 1899, Paterson and Zochonis opened their first branch office in Nigeria, which would become the biggest market for goods and labour. PZ’s first soap factory was opened in 1948.

In 1973, PZ entered the detergent and refrigerator markets, simultaneously in Nigeria. And in 2003, PZ Cussons Plc. entered into a joint venture (Nutricima) with Glanbia Plc. to supply evaporated milk and milk powder in Nigeria, two years later the Nutricima JV commenced manufacturing in Nigeria.

The group’s main brands, include, Elephant Blue Detergent, Zip, Jet, Tempo, Rex, and Morning Fresh. Others are soaps; pharmaceuticals, balms, skin and baby care products. The company also stock perfumes, household appliances and dairy products, namely: Dan Duala, Venus Gold, Joy Cologne, Coast milk, Nunu, Olympic, Power Fist, Haier Thermocool and a range of other electronics.

UNILEVER Nigeria Plc. was incorporated as Lever Brothers (West Africa) Ltd on April 11, 1923 by Lord Leverhulme,

The company has since its entry into Nigeria metamorphosed from a trading entity to a manufacturing and marketing giant of food ingredients, home and personal care products. Unilever, which was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in September 1973, stands out as one of the few multinationals that have created wealth for Nigerians through the capital market.

Today, Nigerian owns 49 per cent shares of the company, while Unilever Plc. London holds the balance. Unilever Nigeria Plc. thrives on the exclusive rights to the know-how, manufacture, distribution and marketing of its brands, granted it by Unilever Plc. London. For this, a royalty of three per cent of net sales value is paid by Unilever Nigeria to Unilever London. It also has a management service agreement with Unilever Plc. London in consideration for which a fee of two per cent of Profit before Tax (PBT) is paid.

WHILE foreign companies in the country have thrived and continued to exist, sad stories have coloured the Nigerian business narrative. A lot of Nigerian business empires don’t outlive their founders. Only very few have lasted over 50 years — Tribune Newspapers, Flour Mills and Aero Contractor standout. The list of once thriving, but now dead business is long. If you are between 40 and above, you are sure to remember one failed enterprise: Okada Airline, Igbinedion Motors and Crown Merchant Bank.

The number of airlines that have gone under include Okada, Triax, Oriental, Sosoliso, Nigeria Airways, Aviation Development Company (ADC), Afrijet, Bellview, Capital, Harco, Harka, Al Barka, Spaceworld, Dasab, Chrome, Flash, Hamza Air, Slok, EAS, Wings Aviation and a number of charter operators.

In May 2013, following the inability of Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF) to address the problems of the moribund Ne