Monday, May 23, 2005
NAFCON, the National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria at Onne, Port Harcourt, was established in 1986 by the Federal Government. The facility was designed and built by a consortium of companies led by M W Kellogg of Houston, Texas USA. Others included Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Marubeni Corporation and Nissho-Iwai Corporation of Japan, and Jacobs Engineering also of the USA. It was built to produce Ammonia and granulated Urea. The NPK Plant was added as an extension to produce mono- and di-ammonium phosphate fertilizers to feed the local market. This here investment held great promises. In fact, NAFCON's motto was: A Nation's wise move to help herself.
NAFCON was the first large modern fertilizer complex in West Africa. Immediately after its start-up in 1987, it had established a very high reputation, becoming a benchmark for subsequent fertilizer facilities, not only in the African continent, but worldwide. NAFCON was managed by Kellogg for the first 6 years after inception, and then indigenised. The first Nigerian MD was Ombo Isokrari.
NAFCON's early years were almost too good to be true; in a country full of contrasting economic, political and social realities, the company was the darling of Port Harcourt, the oil capital of Nigeria. Staff were resigning from Shell, NNPC, the infamous Ajaokuta Steel, and similar big companies, to join NAFCON. But, could Saul also be among the prophets? Could anything good really come out of Nazareth? It wasn't long before the political and social malaise that has largely defined Nigeria's very existence crept into the affairs of this company.
The dreamer was very rudely woken before dawn! By 1995 the company was already experiencing serious financial stress. Seven years later it shut down for good. Total life span - 15 years! And the dream? The dream died, naturally; in it's wake laid a trail of thousands of families abandoned to their fate. With debts running into several billions of Naira the government calculated that the only way out was to liquidate the company and try to pay off its contractors and the staff.
Four years later this process has largely remained just that - a process. Who really cares?!
Posted by BJ Chiawa