Company boss shares thoughts on doing business in troubled northern Nigeria

Chibuike Enyim Wogu is the managing director and one of the founders of Carl Commodities in Nigeria, which trades in agro commodities, solid metals and minerals. Its clients range from international commodity dealers and traders to companies with manufacturing and processing capacities.

Chibuike Enyim Wogu, managing director of Carl Commodities

Chibuike Enyim Wogu, managing director of Carl Commodities

Formally incorporated in December 2012, the company has also developed a specific interest in the processing and packaging of raw peanuts into honey-seasoned products. However, the current violence in northern Nigeria has created a challenge for sourcing raw peanuts, and other commodities, from the area. Islamic militant groups such as Boko Haram have been responsible for many bombings and attacks in the region.

How we made it in Africa asks Wogu about the operational strategies Carl Commodities has adopted in northern Nigeria and why he thinks it is possible for businesses to be successful in the region.

In what way has the violence in northern Nigeria affected the supply of commodities sourced from the area?

Some of the sectarian violence and attacks in northern Nigeria – which leave business associates from the western, eastern or southern parts of Nigeria victims – have made it difficult to deploy competent employees from these regions to serve in the northern region to oversee business operations. Some companies and business persons literally conduct their business activities in the north in fear of being attacked the next moment. Some companies like ours take the precautionary measure of recruiting and deploying Northerners, who understand the terrains in the area as well as the local language, to facilitate business activities in the region. This has helped tremendously in our business processes, especially with the supply of our commodities.

Although there have been recorded instances of warehouses of some businesses being burned, supply trucks being attacked, as well as the burning of farms, we have never experienced any of those [problems] in our business.

As the violence can interrupt business, how do you ensure a steady supply of raw peanuts?

There is abundance of peanuts in Nigeria, hence high availability. However, a major challenge we face lately in sourcing raw peanuts has been the often ethnic and sectarian violence in the high peanut producing regions which sometimes makes supply difficult. We have, however, been able to overcome this by profiling as many supply partners as possible in several supply locations.

By [this] we mean that we do not source our commodities from a particular location. We have been able to secure credible and loyal supply partners in as many locations in the peanut producing regions to ensure we have consistent supply even in cases of sectarian violence, bomb attacks in some locations. By this we are able to meet our supply targets even in the face [of] these challenges.

Do you think that it is still possible for other businesses to be successful in northern Nigeria?

It is very possible for businesses to be successful in this area. Despite the violence a lot of businesses still carry out significant amount of trading in commodities in this region. Like I mentioned earlier, we ensure we develop the competencies of our northern associates and deploy them to oversee our business activities in the region and this has helped ensure there are no lapses in our business operations in the region.

I believe companies who adopt this measure for their businesses will remain successful in their business activities while the government keeps working to restore lasting calm and curb the violence in the region.