Engineer Abiodun Kehinde Ahmadu, the Chairman of Ahmad Group, a multifaceted company that introduced the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to the Oyo State government during the administration of late Lam Adesina and the developer of the Ibadan Central abattoir speaks with Nigerian Tribune on the vision of the project, causes of butcher’s resistance and other issues.
How do you think the Ibadan Central Abattoir project will impact Oyo State?
That place is more or less an economic hub and the advantage of the hub is the centrality because it produces volume which now gives big scale for spin offs. Let me take the issue of waste; if you have an abattoir that is slaughtering 50 herds of cattle, the waste you get there is not of economic value because it is not big enough for you to invest on, what you will do is just dispose the waste. If you know the volume of waste from 500 to 600 and above herds of cattle, it is a business on its own where you can make millions of naira. And you can transfer that to the bones, hides and skin and even the blood, it is a waste that is of high economic value. A slaughtered cattle gives an average of four gallons of blood, that is 16 litres. Multiply that by 500 to 600 cattle; you can imagine the volume of blood and the money you can make out of blood alone. Blood is food for fish and is used for so many things, even by pharmaceutical companies. Then consider hides and skin; if you are in that business, imagine you having a daily volume of 500 hides and skin, in a month, you can imagine what you have, that’s a factory on its own. The solid waste can be converted to manure, there are plans for biogas from that waste.
Also, it provides a source of livelihood for petty traders; you can see traders selling water, food and others to the population in that place which is in thousands. It is humongous and this is what we saw when we conceptualized the project. It is going to be a major economic hub.
Is it true this is the biggest in Nigeria?
In terms of layout and facility, without any doubt, it is the biggest in West Africa, combined with the market; it is a 15 hectares development. So it is the biggest easily but in terms of volume, Lagos does about nearly 2000 herds of cattle daily from what I’m told while Ibadan does between 500 and 600 daily. I want to believe that Lagos is taking advantage but in this place with all the facilities, all the spin off advantages will be felt by the whole state, not Ibadan alone. We had visitors who came when they heard about this place, they came from Ghana and they were impressed, it is the biggest by far but not in volume. Ibadan is biggest in size and facilities. In fact, it is second to none but Lagos is bigger in volume and output.
Some have stated that Governor Abiola Ajimobi is interested in the abattoir because he has shares in it. Is this true?
It is not true at all. And for anybody to say that, it is uncharitable. As far as we are concerned, the governor has not approached us in any way. As a matter of fact, he alluded to the fact that people will have that thought but he doesn’t in any form whatsoever.
Will transition in government not affect the present understanding?
Look, the understanding we have now was made by all stakeholders. As a matter of fact, the butchers are co owners of this place. We are just investors and we are to manage that place for 35 years and it will revert to the local government who effectively owns it. The 11 local governments and local council development areas in Ibadan land, even as of today, we are just managing this place on their behalf as developers and so we can recoup our investment. It is their asset, it is valued at four billion naira as of today; that is a huge asset for local government. They were not able to collect revenue from those scattered abattoirs but due to centrality, it will be captured and each will get its due. As of right, they have dues they charge all abattoirs and they put this together for equity and they are the ones coordinating, so at the end, it is reverting fully to the local governments. No government will tamper with the arrangement because it is beyond reproach and this government has been fair to all parties.
You have spent billions on this project, are you likely to recoup your investment in the 35 years you will manage the place?
I will tell you No. No, we cannot recoup all our investment. There is no way we can recoup our investment. I have told you that given the restructuring by the present government, as investors, you will sit down and ask yourself, do I move on? Do I cut my losses? Do I litigate? And yes, we sat as a company and decided to go on. We may not be able to enjoy as much as possible the fruits of our labour. However, we will make the best of it, that’s business.
What do you think is responsible for butcher’s initial resistance?
The butchers have been cooperative. For selfish interests, some are reluctant because they are kingpins in the environment, make money that should go to government and corner revenues. It’s human nature to resist change but let me say government has tried beyond measure to educate them, interact with them, interface and even give them incentives but among thousands of people, you cannot but have a few. The resistance is mainly due to selfish interests at the expense of the progress of the state. There are just few that are causing trouble but as you can see, they are happy and many attested that they would have moved to the central abattoir a long time ago if they knew.
How much have you lost since this project was on hold for years?
Well, look I won’t want to dwell on loses. As a group, we equally have benefitted from Oyo state over the years, in business you don’t look at one side of the equation. Yes, we have lost some years, it happens like that, this thing was conceded by the last government, this government came in, rightly so, they looked into it and remodeled it and the initial resistance from the butchers did not help matters, this government I can tell you was quite robust in their approach to this project and at the end of the day, all is well that ends well.
What inspires you to spend your money on government projects?
It’s not altruistic. It is a win- win situation, it is not completely altruistic; if you are a developer and you make your money when you render service. It is two way traffic; it is not as if you are doing charity. The vogue then was to get contract but we thought the future was PPP and that is where we carved our niche.
How do you see this place in the next five years?
We are in this initiative not just for the money, a company that can invest billions certainly is not a hungry company and we have alternative investments, our vision is that anything we touch will touch lives and our vision is to make this place a reference place, we have thought it out and feel free to come back in the next six months, there will have been a lot of upgrades and we will go on as we have a five year plan that is to make this place world class. That’s our vision and we intend to keep to it.