The Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists has called on the Federal Government to intervene in the ownership dispute between HealthPlus, a pharmaceutical retail concern and its equity investment partner, United Kingdom’s Alta Semper Capital.
NASSI made the call in a statement signed by its Director-General, Ifeanyi C. Oputa.
According to the association, there is a need for the Federal Government to promote and protect businesses founded by Nigerians who, in spite of the country’s notoriously difficult business environment, have created thriving concerns.
A core part of NASSI’s mandate is to encourage and facilitate the growth and expansion of its MSME member businesses.
The thinking is that Micro businesses can graduate to the medium cadre and so on with the right mix of information, training, funding and quality mentoring.
Oputa in his statement said: “The most difficult task we have had thus far is enlisting credible entrepreneurs who have grown micro businesses into medium or even large firms as role models and mentors.
“This has been made difficult because our criteria for these entrepreneurs exclude politically exposed persons, those with questionable sources of income/wealth and beneficiaries of extraordinary Government patronage.
“In other words, we have sought ordinary folks who have done extraordinary things in their respective enterprises.
“It will amaze the Nigerian public to know how difficult it is to find these credible role models in our country despite the obscene display of wealth across the land.
“Delving deeper into this misnomer will be a topic for another day.
“Today’s topic is centred on the story which hit the airwaves a week ago about the purported sacking of HealthPlus CEO, Mrs Bukky George, a bonafide NASSI Ambassador and mentor; by the very people her firm invited to support its growth plans.”
While admitting that it is yet to have full details of the events leading to the announcement of the sack of George, NASSI said the Federal Government urgently needs to intervene in the HealthPlus matter and other controversial equity transactions involving Nigerian-owned businesses.
It said: “We are not fully appraised of the facts and would thus not be drawn into aspects of this case, which Mrs George is fully capable of defending.
“NASSI is, however, calling upon the Federal Government to wade into this matter and indeed other questionable PE (private equity) transactions across Nigeria as a matter of urgency.”
It noted that governments around the world have always identified key business players on the local scene and provide appropriate support for them to grow into multinational corporations.
It said: “Some countries have sent out gunboats and gone to war to protect the interests of its key business players because of what they represent to the people and the nation-state.
“The Royal Niger Company (later day UAC) and Lever brothers (Unilever) received tremendous state support from our colonial masters.
“In more recent times, Google, Apple Amazon, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Coca Cola and a host of others have been supported by the American Government to the point where the respective US embassies and agencies wade in to resolve commercial disputes in favour of their nationals.”
It noted that while such firms do not exactly have unblemished track records, they get support because the government of their countries believe that supporting them is in the overriding interest of the nation.
NASSI noted that HealthPlus has played a unique role in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry and has the potential to become a leader on the continent, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The Association recalled that the swift growth of Transcorp and the Dangote Group, among other Nigerian-founded businesses, is attributable to government support.
It added that such companies are the pride of the country and can inspire young Nigerians into making something of their lives.