Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Wednesday joined thousands of artisans and tradesmen at the 2012 Edition of the Tradesmen and Artisans Week celebrations, describing them as cornerstones of prosperity in the State even as he urged them never to compromise on standards as any shoddy jobs by them could have fatal consequences.
The Governor who spoke at the BlueRoof Hall in LTV 8, Agidingbi, IKeja added that all practicing artisans and tradesmen must make it a point of duty to always keep it at the back of their minds that they must not cut corners, because it does not pay.
He explained that since artisans have proved to be a cornerstone of prosperity of Lagos State and being the ones who make things happen, with their skills always in constant demand for the people’s daily survival, they must also improve and form themselves into co-operatives in order to realize their full potentials.
Governor Fashola reiterated that the State will organize more training for the different grades of artisans and also ensure that those trained impart the knowledge on those coming behind them in a train the trainers concept.
He urged them to organize themselves in terms of their working environment by ensuring that they separate their offices from their workshops, adding that for some people, untidy state of their workshop which is not separated from the office often drives away potential customers.
He noted that what is ideal for every artisan is to set aside the money that he uses for business as distinct from what he spends as personal emolument, adding that what is very desirable is for everyone to earn a salary from his earning and if possible also employ an accountant who keeps a proper record of the financial books.
The Governor also said there is strength in numbers and that the artisans as professional groups should form themselves into Co-operatives where they stand a chance of attracting loans from commercial lending institutions.
He cited the example of the Lagos State Meat Sellers Association, who successfully organized themselves into a co-operative group and got N1.2Billion as loan from Fidelity Bank at a programme yesterday to fund the procurement of refrigerated meat vans for the use of their members in the state.
The Governor who spoke at length on the vital roles that artisans play in various sectors urged them to note that each time a building collapses in the state, they might be a part of the problem for agreeing to use a substandard material either as a bricklayer or a carpenter in the course of constructing the building.
The Governor said the same applies when an automobile mechanic decides to buy a substandard brake pad to be installed in a vehicle and the vehicle ends up in a road crash that may involve fatalities.
He said he expects the association to come together as a way going forward and sign a code of conduct among the members that never again will they patronize any form of defective or fake parts or materials. He said the association should have what one can call minimum standards which the members must not go below.
He noted that the market for fake products is only thriving because people are patronizing it adding that the day every artisan and workmen decide against buying what they realize is not genuine, those dealing in it will run out of business and stop dealing in it.
The Governor who spoke on the policy thrust of the State Government said following its last Economic Summit, it was agreed that the focus should be on four areas namely Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing.
He said the focus on the four sectors does not mean the State is not working in other sectors but only a reflection of the fact that the four sector are those that can create the largest opportunity for the people.
Governor Fashola explained that in all the sectors, artisans have a pivotal role to play in ensuring the smooth running of the businesses, citing the example of the agricultural sector where tractors are used and need the attention of a technician to fix it when it breaks down.
He added that in the transportation sector, artisans also have a role to play because as the Government rolls out the BRT and LAGBUS services, the automotive technicians are daily saddled with the responsibility of repairs on them as they ply the roads.
The Governor informed that for the light rail system which is about to roll off the ground in the State, the artisans would not only be involved as the drivers of the rails but would also be trained on how to repairs the trains at a rail training school that would be similar to the one that used to exist at the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
In the provision of houses through the Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS), the Governor stated that as evident from the trips to the various sites, artisans like bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, iron benders and welders are the ones working on the buildings thus underscoring the important role being played by the artisans in the process of development in the state.
Also in an interview with newsmen after the event on how the people can gain in terms of impacts in their lives from the exhortations at the Artisans Day celebration, Governor Fashola said everyone must come to terms with the fact that the role of government is not to give cash but to be an enabler.
“The role is to enable, bring out talent, chart courses, direct the energy of citizens to opportunities, to enunciate policies that will take us there, provide the infrastructural support that will make it possible, law and order, electricity, roads, reliable transport network, education that will give skills and to continue to inspire and to show the opportunities”.
The Governor added that the State has shown the opportunities from its last Economic Summit where it focused on PATH which stands for Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing that the sectors represent the largest employers of the number of people.
Said he: “Those are the sectors that can employ the largest number of people if we explore the value chain. You saw it yesterday. In order to take meat from the market somebody has to own the cow, it is somebody who manages the abattoir where the cows will be slaughtered and creates jobs in the process”.
“From there somebody plugs in, I am a transporter, so I will stand between you and the consumer. Someone can become a truck owner, a refrigerated van owner. So the truck becomes an asset, so he has capital, he employs a driver or drives it himself to save money and by so doing he needs fuel, so somebody is a fuel provider”.
“It is a value chain that we must all understand that is based on exchanges on a daily basis. so, if you have to drive, you need some education, so government will set up schools- Drivers Institute, formal schools, will employ teachers to teach but it is for you to step on the platform that the government has provided and say I want to climb”.
The Governor said everybody must see the interconnection between the role that each person plays because everybodys’ role is vital from the person who is the State Governor to the person who sweeps the street, down to the journalist who gets the message across to the people adding that it is a new game and a new PATH.
Reiterating the need to develop the local economy, Governor Fashola noted that it should be pondered over that though people wear clothes it does not grow the economy because of its high import content. “If we wear clothes that are made from abroad, we are using our taste to prosper another economy. So, we must think”.
“We have parties every weekend, huge economy, but how much of it goes out in terms of champagne and wine and imported food. But can’t our people make the wine. Can’t we grow the rice that we eat? Rice is a major component of the food that we eat but we will go and import rice from Thailand because our taste has changed from the Ofada”.
“Let us look inwards. This country has no business with poverty. I am convinced and clear about that. Yes, there may be an argument that they may not be enough, but if you create the demand, I am sure that people will focus there and leave Okada and go to produce rice because there is a weekly demand for it”, the Governor stated.
Earlier in an address of welcome, the Special Adviser on Commerce and Industry, Mr Seye Oladejo said it is heartwarming that the informal sector development initiative of the Governor has attracted the attention of the international organizations who have offered to partner with the State on the implementation of the initiative.
He also informed that the State is being supported by ENABLE programme of DFID in this year’s celebration, adding that in the same vein, the UNDP has indicated interest in working with the State in improving the lots of operators in the informal sector.
In a goodwill message, the President of the Lagos Sate Council of Tradesmen and Artisans, Engineer Bola Sanusi appealed to all tradesmen and artisans who are yet to register with their trade associations to do so immediately to avoid embarrassment in the near future.
He also invited both the conventional and MICRO Finance banks to take advantage of the larger numbers and partner with the council by giving loans to her members through their association at reasonable interest rates.
780 Artisans under the Lagos State Tradesmen and Artisans Capacity Building Scheme were also presented with their certificates at the ceremony which also featured the presentation of awards to people and groups that have distinguished themselves in various fields.
The well attended, colourful event was witnessed by the Deputy Governor, Hon (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope- Adefulire, members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs Sola Oworu, a member of the State House of Assembly,Hon Bisi Yussuf, traditional rulers including the Akran of Badagry, Aholu Menu Toyi and several artisans and tradesmen who exhibited their wares and turned out in beautiful attires.