Institutionalising culture of maintenance in Nigeria

(By Chinedum Emeana)

However, the concept of maintenance has become big deal in Nigeria because almost, if not all, of government owned companies that were planned to be catalysts for economic and industrial growth for the country went comatose or were performing below installed capacity, leading to job losses and arrested development. Lack of maintenance is one of the major factors that have been blamed for this sorry situation. This is a challenge for both federal and state governments.

RECENTLY, Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited (IEPL) concluded another Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of its plants, according to the latest edition of the company’s in-house magazine Indorama-Nigeria Impact. Dangote and Stallion have also turned Benue Cement Company (BCC) and Volkswagen of Nigeria (VON) around through TAM.

   TAM is the planned periodic shutdown (total or partial) of a process plant to perform maintenance, overhaul and repair operations of the plant. It involves inspection and testing, revamping and regenerating and debottlenecking among other allied activities. This is a very essential activity in the process industry, according to experts. This is in order to renew plants that, out of necessity, have to run non-stop around the clock to ensure continuous and sustainable maximal output. IEPL has undertaken this activity three times now in seven years.

   TAM rejuvenates a plant that would have gone into decline into a new one. Thus, production and other activities continue and jobs are secured while new ones are created. Following the completion of the turnaround maintenance work, the company’s technical experts declared “what we have is like a brand new plant,” according to the magazine referenced above. This is one of the main significance of maintenance. This is also another reason to once again take another look at the need to institute a culture of maintenance in our country.

   This is not a new concept to us because for a long time the issue of lack of a culture of maintenance has been the concern of everyone. The campaign to ingrain the habit of maintenance in Nigerians has never been lacking. Maintaining a property of value to continue to remain valuable and deliver value should ordinarily not be a big deal or news.

   However, the concept of maintenance has become big deal in Nigeria because almost, if not all, of government owned companies that were planned to be catalysts for economic and industrial growth for the country went comatose or were performing below installed capacity, leading to job losses and arrested development. Lack of maintenance is one of the major factors that have been blamed for this sorry situation. This is a challenge for both federal and state governments.

   In 2005, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) put up about 28 companies for privatisation because they had ceased to add optimum value to society as they had gone into decline. They ranged from operators in the oil and gas sector to manufacturing, iron and steel, paper milling, automotive industry, mining and river basin development, among others.

   Some of the national assets put up for privatisation then were Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company Limited, Delta Steel Company, Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Nigerian Coal Corporation, Oshogbo Steel Rolling Mill Company, Federal Super Phosphate Fertilizer Co Limited, Nigerian Machine Tools Limited, and Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing.

  Others were Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited, Kaduna Refining & Petrochemical Company Limited, Nigeria Gas Company Limited, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited, Stallion Property and Development Company Limited, Warri Refining and Petrochemicals Company Limited among others.

  Unfortunately, the Federal Government succeeded in handing over only a few of these companies to credible partners who have made a success of the companies once again through proper management and appropriate maintenance of the facilities and equipment. These companies have once again become agents of economic development for the country.

   Some of the others that were not fortunate enough to be transferred to better equipped private sector managers have remained unproductive, draining the commonwealth, while those that are still running are producing below installed capacity, virtually crawling, while their contemporaries elsewhere are growing in leaps and bounds.

  The malaise of poor maintenance culture plagues many big production industries in several sectors of the economy where Nigeria should have been producing and sustaining employment. Instead the country spends foreign exchange importing things she should be producing here while creating and sustaining jobs in other countries. So sad!

  With all these companies working and the fresh investments coming into the country, imagine where our economy will be in five/ten years’ time when another GDP rebasing is carried out by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that has suddenly become very energised and passionately contributing to national planning and development.

  Therefore, we must continue to insist on proper maintenance of our national assets because our shortcomings in that area have become an albatross to our national development. We must ingrain maintenance culture into our national life. But how can this be practically achieved seeing that the need to develop a maintenance culture has become a national singsong for so long without achieving the desired behavioural change?

  I humbly and sincerely recommend that the federal and state governments continue to pursue the privatisation option with zeal following due process and adopting the IEPL equity sharing formula where the private sector managers obtain controlling shares, while the rest is shared among the federal and state governments, host communities and employees. I urge organised labour and other patriotic Nigerians to support this option for the benefit of the country, now and in the future.

  I recommend privatisation because it appears that this malaise of lack of maintenance bedevils largely government-owned enterprises and properties. They are presumably owned by all, and you know what the Igbos say of a dog owned by more than one person – it dies of neglect and hunger.  Maybe that is the reason why our government-owned companies are dying or not contributing to the national economy as they should.

  Is maintenance culture possible in Nigeria? Yes, we can, under the right management for our national assets. Just look at what Indorama is doing with Eleme Petrochemicals, see what Dangote is doing with Benue Cement Company, and see what Stallion is doing with Volkswagen of Nigeria. There are other success stories like those…let them help us to make up our minds quickly and support due- processed privatization.

 • Emeana is former head, Port Harcourt operations, Financial Standard Newspaper. He now practices Public Relations in Port Harcourt.

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